Her fingers are dressed in weathered rings. Moving in on her own, welcoming neighbors attempt to carefully circumvent the suspected sorrow. But they can’t help admiring the patinated bands, envious of her overzealous dedication. Abashedly downplaying their fascination, she’s scared they’ll see her verdigrised soul corroding underneath.
When I came to, I didn’t hear the 60,000 onlookers or the vulturine medical flock hovering over me. My father’s voice preluded the recoloring of my world, telling me that this was nothing — just clearing the spider webs, knocking the rust off — as I stirred out from a pitch black abyss hidden within the byline of the pitch.
He was the reason I ever got into the game. He drilled it into me, from field to film, replicating and reviewing his own techniques. He’d laugh off the footage of him stumbling after errant headers — while he could, anyway. As I advanced, he precipitously regressed; from forgetfulness to belligerence to the irrevocable distortion of himself and his world.
I woke with my face bordering chalked and verdant grass. Echoes of my father cascaded from the stands. These were the memories he couldn’t keep. I let the doctors lead me away.
Written for Ad Hoc Fiction Issue 154, centered on the mandatory use of the prompt word ‘Rust.’
His robe is stained a rich eminence that cloaks its blemishes. Blotches that might dominate lesser colors hide within its royal polyester landscape: mudded fields of chaw, puddles of scuffed up gum, and dry riverbeds of alcohol and urine that flow with their lingering scents, but don’t distract the eye. Leaning under the low hum of a lamppost in his regal purple embroidery, he is the back edge of dusk, the swell between the sun and burning constellations lost in light pollution — what we see, but overlook. He is the king of the street, the embodiment of his domain.
Square after two-ply square curl around gartered socks, press against khaki creases, bind my belted belly button. My daughter chides her children when they look to begin a second roll and pin my hands across my chest, but I will a final motion with my wrist dismissing her displeasure. They pass the full spool back and forth as I rediscover the difficulty of coaxing my back to let it uncoil with ease and my daughter returns to some electronic distraction. Layering my chin, the kids permit a deeper memory when our eyes lock before mine are wrapped with funerary contentment.
We planted a stratified samara after he had taken root. We didn’t know which was bigger then, but when we were finally able to bring him home from the hospital, he had an early lead.
His advantage was short-lived, however. The staked sapling that sprung from the seed grew into its own stability quickly. His growth seemed typical, but became inconstant with the fickleness of his heart. By their third year, the ash was firmly vertical, while he was crooked and coiled into himself in discomfort. We pried him upright every month thereafter so we could trim the tree to his size, partnered victims of our desperate, fleeting control.
The tree now looms with its own clusters of keys — rich, green winged fruits unfurling toward the earth. Despite its wondrous sprawl, the ash won’t reach his heights. And neither will we, beneath them both, committed to the shadows we’ve borne.
A cotton candy web hangs between dusk-touched branches. The pink and purple threads aren’t disguised in the lowering light, their allure only heightened by the pastel sky.
Flinches flexing through the web show I’m not the only one engrossed by it, the flap of wings too frail to sound. A clutch of legs nimbly tightrope the strands with reverence for the patronage. The legs and wings tangle in creative differences as the wings are worked into another masterpiece of the gallery. And as I marvel at the cruel truth behind art, I fail to notice mosquitoes artlessly siphoning my blood.
The cruelty of assigned seating cornered me against a wing. At her boarding, I feigned a nod of greeting, but acted astonished by the majesty not yet below while ignoring her struggle to store her luggage. She ultimately managed as I marveled at the baggage handlers’ utter ennui beneath us and how the window’s reflection divided the task and tedium between us in Row 23.
She took her seat with a smile and I attempted to reciprocate, lifting at least my ears. To my relief, she declined the unintended invitation to talk. Instead, she wordlessly proffered a piece of gum. I meant to dismiss the stick, but the sincerity in her eyes stalled my cynicism. Though I was heading in search of warmth, I knew no climate would match the kindness expressed in her almandine irises, so I cherished our conjoining by the margins of our armrests in Row 23.