“I hope you pathetic little boys are proud of yourselves!” she cried. “I honestly do!”
Dan Colen, Fuck Authority, 2006. Oil on canvas, 18 x 22 in. © Dan Colen.
He had a dull pressure in his arm. He blinked. The pressure increased. He blinked again and saw the patch of snow, remembered the patch of snow, and the skeletal trees, and the road winding through the canyon. But the pressure wouldn’t stop. And then he remembered Burney McCarthy, the doobie, getting stoned. Burney McCarthy was poking his arm. Burney McCarthy was talking.
“Hey, man,” Burney McCarthy said. “Hey, dude, hey, come on, man, are you going to toke on that or what?”
He looked into Burney McCarthy’s face and smiled. He sensed his arm rising, sensed his hand moving to his face, his fingers to his mouth, the doobie to his lips. He was already high from the last doobie, all along he’d been totally majorly stoned, majorly fantastic, but now he was really majorly fantastic, probably more stoned and more fantastic than his father had ever been—way, way more.
Never again did he want to leave this place, where nothing mattered because everything mattered, where nothing was fantastic any more or less than anything else was fantastic.
Never again did he want to leave this place, where nothing mattered because everything mattered, where nothing was fantastic any more or less than anything else was fantastic. Love didn’t matter anymore, nor did sadness. Nor did disappointment, nor boredom, nor hatred, nor hatred of hatred, nor rage. All that mattered purred in his head, round and round in the kingdom of fantastic.
Burney McCarthy’s fingers pressed into his fingers, Burney McCarthy’s face turned toward his hand. Burney McCarthy was trying to take the doobie from him, he realized, as he squeezed the doobie between his own fingers and brought it to his lips.
“Hold on a second,” he said. “Hold on.”
“It’s my turn, now, man,” Burney McCarthy said.
He toked on the doobie again, long and hard, much longer and harder than any toke before.
“Ah, man, that’s what bogarts do, man,” Burney McCarthy said.
“What?” he said.
“My uncle told his girlfriend she was a bogart because she kept toking on his doobie,” Burney McCarthy said. “She was bogueing the doobie, he said. You know, like you are now.”
In his mind he snorted and said, Bite me, Burney. He may also have said Bite me, Burney with his actual mouth, but didn’t know for sure.
His lungs rebelled. They wouldn’t obey him, they wouldn’t hold the smoke. Then a velveteen roar mounted in his head, a hundred thousand sirens singing in the belly of a dreaming cave. And with every particle of smoke that slipped from his lungs, the song grew more and more delicious, more and more enchanting, the unlimited happiness of a hundred thousand sirens, the roar of the sirens of happiness swooning in the belly of a dreaming cave.
Burney McCarthy’s face wavered before him, but now it began to recede until—vooooosh!—it dropped away. His neck turned rubbery. His head lolled one way and the other, and when his body collapsed, his arm swiped out at Burney McCarthy’s face. A swath of heavy cotton brushed his fingers, the treetops spun across his eyes. Then the roar of the sirens vanished, and his vision folded straight to black.
He sat on his butt in the patch of snow with an arm in Burney McCarthy’s hand. Burney McCarthy stood beside him holding his arm and laughing the way an actor laughs. Burney McCarthy laughed so hard, with such goofy affection and razzle-dazzle glee, that he himself began to laugh, as well. He laughed at himself, at Burney McCarthy, at the totally awesome kingdom of fantastic.
They’d smoked just half the doobie, but already he and Burney McCarthy had roared into outer space.
“Give me that,” he said.
“You are so stoned,” Burney McCarthy said, still laughing.
They’d smoked just half the doobie, but already he and Burney McCarthy had roared into outer space, or, rather, into a world like outer space, where the rules of the world, the rules of the old world, no longer pertained. He knew he’d roared into a world like outer space because only in a world like outer space could he have wrested free of the gravity that had always made him see the way he’d seen.
Now, all of that had changed. Everything around him—the trees, the skeletal shrubs, the few remaining leaves on the trees, the blanket of leaves on the earth and the earth beneath the blanket of leaves, Burney McCarthy’s house across the road, even Burney McCarthy, like an actor gone mad—it had all assumed a faint translucency through which he could see into the heart of things, into the truth itself.
Objects weren’t objects, nor things things. Objects and things were a vast, complicated lie, a daisy chain of illusory sense. The whole of his life he’d been listening to the huckster that forged this chain of lies. But now he saw the huckster. The huckster was an invalid, desperate to sustain the crazy retarded vision with which it had chained the world.
Burney McCarthy had said reality was “gnarly,” and Burney McCarthy had been right. Reality was a shadowy block of ice, a thinking feeling block of ice that spoke one word in a thousand tongues. Did the branches sway in the breeze, the branches asked, or did your mind? Why, the dirt said, was dirt “dirt,” and why, asked the leaves, were leaves “leaves”? On what are you standing if your feet have never touched the ground? asked not his feet but the ground. And how could you have got “here” when there was no “there” from which to leave nor here to be got to once you left?
Question after question flowed through him, none in the normal sense. They were questions asked by questions asked with a word that was a thousand words and none. Nor were the answers to these questions answers in any normal sense, either, because all the answers were merely questions in disguise.
The patch of snow… The snow… Snowballs…
He scooped up a handful of snow and put out the doobie. Then he took the baggie from his pocket and placed the doobie in the baggie and the baggie in his pocket.
“You know what we should do?”
Burney McCarthy had started up with the riff from that song “Iron Man” again. He was shaking his head and playing air guitar and fuzzing on and on.
“—Nrr-nrr nrr-nrr nrr-nrr nrr-nrr nrr-nrr—huh?”
“Dude, we should make up like a huge pile of snowballs and plaster some cars when they drive by.”
“Ah, man, that’ll be so boss. We can totally plaster them.”
“Yeah, huh. But what if they stop?”
“They can’t catch us. We’ll just book it up the hill. They can just go bite themselves.”
His hands had gone numb by the time he realized he and Burney McCarthy couldn’t use up all the snow making snowballs. That might take days. And besides, probably the snow would melt by then. But he and Burney McCarthy had made a lot of snowballs, anyhow, maybe twenty-five or thirty, enough anyway to plaster as many cars as would drive up and down the canyon before it got too dark to see, by which time, he remembered dismally, he’d have to go back home.
He had three snowballs to go when they heard a car in the distance, driving up the canyon, by the sound of it.
Burney McCarthy stepped out of the snow patch and stacked the snowballs in a pile as he tossed them over one at a time. He had three snowballs to go when they heard a car in the distance, driving up the canyon, by the sound of it. He tossed one of the snowballs to Burney McCarthy then hopped out of the snow to the nearest tree.
The car was seconds away. Burney McCarthy’s face shone with the biggest dopiest grin he could imagine, bigger and dopier than any dopey grin his brothers had ever grinned. And then he saw it, a cream-colored Gremlin tootling up the road, so slow he and Burney McCarthy would have to hang themselves if they missed it. He had thrown enough footballs and baseballs and rocks and kicked enough soccer balls and shot enough slingshots to know you had to lead a moving target to hit it. The little car seemed by now to have slowed down even more, if he could believe it. The car couldn’t have been going more than ten miles an hour. Some total doofus must have sat behind the wheel, some old blue hair or guy with no legs or maybe some lame-o that just got his license.
“Now!” he shouted.
Burney McCarthy threw his snowball at the same time he threw his own. He watched the snowballs hurtle toward the little car as though each were tied to a line strung between them and the car. Both snowballs would strike the car dead on, he could tell, right on its windshield, probably. And then, sure enough—palappp! palappp!—his snowball blew apart across the hood a foot in front of the windshield while Burney McCarthy’s snowball exploded smack in the middle of the windshield.
“Whoa!” Burney McCarthy said when the car’s tires gave out a screech and puffs of smoke.
He expected the car to take off once the driver had recovered from their fright and seen the car had only been hit with a couple of snowballs. But then a reedy woman, with hair like Peter Pan’s and rainbow suspenders with buttons and pins, scrambled from the car to glare up the hill. Over a song on the radio, a song he didn’t know, made for pussies, it sounded like, whatever, a baby had begun to scream.
“You could have killed us,” the woman shouted, “do you know that?”
He couldn’t say for sure whether the woman had seen them, though he sensed she hadn’t. So long as he and Burney McCarthy remained quiet, the woman would just be yelling into bushes and trees.
“That was terrible,” the woman shouted. “Just awful! You should be ashamed of yourself, whoever you are. You could have killed us!”
From the moment the woman opened her door, the radio had blared and the baby had screamed and cried. He couldn’t see the baby. The baby must’ve been strapped into the passenger seat. Now the woman leaned into the car and cut the song. The baby’s strangled cries, and the woman’s effort to soothe the baby, seemed to echo through the canyon louder than ever. The woman pleaded with the baby, telling the baby it was all okay, but the baby wouldn’t be soothed.
In her preposterous outfit, her face contorted with dismay, the woman looked like a scrawny forlorn clown.
Then, the moment the woman turned back to the road to holler, Burney McCarthy stuck his tongue out and blew as hard as he could. The sound of a giant fart rang out: “Pthbthbthbthbthbthbthbthbthb!!!”
In her preposterous outfit, her face contorted with dismay, the woman looked like a scrawny forlorn clown.
“How dare you!” she shouted. “That is not funny! That is not funny at all! You come down here right now!”
“You come down here right now!” Burney McCarthy said from his shrub.
He couldn’t control himself another instant. The laughter that rushed out of him didn’t come from him but from the entity into whose body he’d once more been set.
“Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!” he roared. “Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!”
“Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!” Burney McCarthy roared. “Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!”
He’d never laughed like this before, he’d never in his life experienced anything so funny. This moment was so funny, he felt he might actually die with laughing. He’d seen a skit on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The English army had made a joke so funny that anyone who heard it died with laughing. To win the war, the English troops told the joke to the German troops, every one of whom keeled over dead with laughter. He might not actually die from laughing, and yet he couldn’t think of what might stop his laughter. He could barely stay on his feet. On and on the laughter seemed to go—“Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!”
Through his tears he could see the woman pacing the length of her car as she hollered.
“That is not funny!” she said, over and over. “That is not funny! That is not funny! That is not funny!”
Somehow he’d known what Burney McCarthy would do. Given the chance to crush the woman finally and completely, Burney McCarthy couldn’t resist.
“That is not funny!” Burney McCarthy said in a near-perfect imitation of the woman. “That is not funny at all!”
The woman seemed to implode, then, like a building bombed within. She’d been destroyed, just as Burney McCarthy had intended, and she knew it. The knowledge had struck her mid-sentence, cutting the word funny in two, so that even the words before it were transformed, turned at once into a vicious summary of and desperate plea for her life itself: “This,” she unwittingly said, “is not fun.”
The canyon echoed with the cries of the woman’s invisible baby and his and Burney McCarthy’s laughter. The woman threw herself into the car and rolled down the window and stepped on the gas.
“I hope you pathetic little boys are proud of yourselves!” she cried. “I honestly do!”
“I honestly do! I honestly do!” Burney McCarthy squealed one last time and fell back into his laughter. “Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!”
He watched Burney McCarthy convulsed with his terrible glee, unable, someway, to grasp how such glee could take a person so. Something had changed in him. The woman had been right. He couldn’t say why or how, but none of this was fun. Evidently Burney McCarthy didn’t see it that way. Burney McCarthy had got on his knees to mock the woman one last time only to crumple with his laughter.
“Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!” Burney McCarthy roared. “Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!”
Burney McCarthy wouldn’t stop laughing. Burney McCarthy had laughed so long and hard it occurred to him that by now Burney McCarthy might’ve lost the power to stop, that by now Burney McCarthy might, as he’d heard it said, be stuck that way forever, like some mortal in a myth condemned to his only joy.
Burney McCarthy’s peals of laughter had turned to shrieks of terror and pain.
And now he was gripped with terror. He hadn’t noticed it, but already dusk had fallen and passed toward night. At some point between the woman’s arrival and departure, the world had turned and the light dimmed, and what a moment before had been funny and rare was grown inexplicably scary and sad. Plus he still had to ride up the canyon on his bike. And plus for sure he’d be late, if he wasn’t already. He was going to get it. He was going to get it for sure. To what extent he’d get it, of course, depended on his mother.
Plus now too he realized that Burney McCarthy’s peals of laughter had turned to shrieks of terror and pain, that Burney McCarthy was being torn to shreds by the ghost of some monster like the monster from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. With his whole strength, he hurled a snowball down on the ghost of the monster attacking Burney McCarthy, then another snowball, and another, scooping up one and the next.
“Dude, dude, dude!” Burney McCarthy shouted, and grabbed his arms.
He blinked. He blinked again, and then again. Burney McCarthy’s face floated before him, less than a foot away, mottled with bits of twigs and snow.
“Are you totally gonzo, or what!”
“You wouldn’t stop laughing,” he said.
He looked about. Usually when he got still he could hear at least a sparrow in the woods, scratching in the dirt, or maybe the skree of a jay, or, in the evening, like now, some lonesome crow squawking through the dark.
He strained to hear even the rustle of leaves or wind through a bush, but stillness had settled everywhere. The world had gone utterly quiet, utterly still. Together with the gloom, nearly opaque, in which he could discern nothing so much as a fly or worm, the world felt menacing and mournful both, the mood of the Edgar Allan Poe story he’d read last month, “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
“Listen,” he said.
“What?” Burney McCarthy said. “I don’t hear anything.”
“That’s what I mean.”
Burney McCarthy cocked his head like a listening dog. “Whoa, huh,” Burney McCarthy said. “Is that sort of creepy, or what?”
“And now I’m late,” he said. “Now I’m going to get it.”
“Dude, you don’t even know.”
His mother had a migraine. Almost every time his mother had a migraine, or even just a headache, it hardly mattered what he did. Whatever he did would be wrong enough to get it. And freak it now, too, if he didn’t have to ride his bike up the canyon in the dark.
“Maybe we should toke on the rest of that doobie,” Burney McCarthy said.
Burney McCarthy’s face glistened with bits of leaves and melted snow and dirt. Burney McCarthy’s hair hung in his eyes, their whites gone yellowy-pink. Burney McCarthy, in fact, all of Burney McCarthy, was filthy with mud and leaves.
Last summer over in Y he’d heard some college dude complain how the pigs had harshed his mellow bad. Now he knew what the dude must’ve meant. The dude must’ve meant this. This whole situation was a bummer. He’d been handed the key to the kingdom of fantastic, then seen it snatched away. That was what the dude had meant. His mellow had been totally harshed.
And now he had to go home, back to the crappy house with his crappy mother and father. He’d do just about anything not to have to go back to that crappy house. He considered asking Burney McCarthy if he could sleep over at his house but remembered how creepy and smelly Burney McCarthy’s house was, and how sad. At least the house he lived in didn’t smell like Burney McCarthy’s house, like a fat old man who smoked four packs a day and lived in the basement with a fart machine and gang of drooling ghosts.
“Here,” he said, and handed Burney McCarthy the baggie with the doobie.
“You don’t want any more?”
“I have to book it, dude, or I’m really going to get it.”
“Well, I’ll save this then. We can toke on it tomorrow.”
He started down the hill, slipping as he went along the roots and stones. He recalled with bitterness that he’d pushed his bike up Burney McCarthy’s driveway. He had to walk all the way up Burney McCarthy’s long-ass driveway to get his bike then peddle his bike all the way up the long-ass canyon, which with his luck would be pitch-black way before he made it to the crappy house, where, now that he thought about it, what with his filthy clothes and being late and all, he was definitely going to get it.
In the stretches without houses and the lights from houses, he couldn’t see past his tire.
“Dude, that was rad,” Burney McCarthy said to him as he was about to leave.
“Right?” he said.
“High five, man!”
He high-fived Burney McCarthy and pushed off down the drive. “Later,” he said.
The road up the canyon was bad. In the stretches without houses and the lights from houses, he couldn’t see past his tire. Beneath the canopy of trees above the road, he couldn’t tell whether a moon had risen, either, much less the stars, though if a moon had risen he couldn’t see it. The road itself, the shoulder on one side and creek on the other—the whole of the canyon, actually—had ceased to exist. He moved within a bubble of sight three feet at most, and all around the bubble stretched a limbo of black.
And then a car overtook him, some giant boat of a thing, a Caddy or Buick from the dark, he didn’t know, blaring its horn as it roared by inches away. He felt the car’s backdraft, then watched with terror as it melted into night.
Loud as the car had been, he hadn’t heard it coming. The car could just as well have materialized from the night itself. Had he swerved in that instant but a foot to his left, had he drifted even inches, he’d have been splattered on the road like some dippy raccoon. He wouldn’t’ve been merely killed had the car struck him. He’d have exploded—boom!—splattered to hell like a moron coon.
If doom stunk, it must stink of burning hair.
That old feeling of dread surged through him now. He wondered sometimes at the speed with which this sense of doom worked, how much power it had to steal through his last, most worthless fiber and cripple him at will. The car’s taillights had dissolved in the dark, but not the sound of its engine, nor the smell of exhaust, what he’d always thought must be the smell of burning hair.
If doom stunk, it must stink of burning hair. And if that were so, then doom with its stench of burning hair was near, doom was imminent, yes, he could’ve sworn it, and the world had no idea, the world knew nothing of what he knew, nor would it or any creature on it know what he knew, since once doom arrived, once the world had blown up like some moron coon whacked by a car on a country road, neither the world nor anything on it could know anything, much less what he knew. All would be black. That was all.
His legs were burning. He didn’t like to think of walking his bike through the dark, but if he wanted relief he’d have to walk his bike. But the greater his delay, the worse his pain when he got home. Already he was late. The question wasn’t whether he was going to get it but how much. It didn’t matter. His legs were burning. He’d have to walk. Then he felt the road slacken and knew he’d entered a dip. If he pedaled hard for that extra bump when the road picked up, he could coast a little before he had to walk. But just as he put down his head, the bike dissolved beneath him, and he was flying.
He’d been right. Doom had been near. He’d hit a stone with his front tire and got thrown into the night. He was, as he always heard his father say about this or that poor sap, fucked.
Darkness surrounded him, he was blind. Then the palm of his hand felt as though it had been whacked with a bat. Then the palm of his hand felt as though it had been sheared with a grater. Then the same bat whacked him on the shoulder, the same grater ran across his chin, and then the bat once again, accompanied now by the sound of clattering on the road, whacked him on the hip.
When he opened his eyes, he was looking at stars through trees, and, yes, at the moon now, too, at the depths of his vision, just above the ridge through a hole in the trees. He thought, how funny, it was like cartoons, the stars were reeling away. For a moment, it seemed he’d been knocked out, but he hadn’t. He’d been almost-knocked-out, the way he had last month when his father punched him in the face with a full-on fist. He lay gazing at the massing stars. That was the heavens he saw up there, he thought, that was infinity. He could look out into the black night sky shimmering with its countless stars and know for certain he’d never see its end.
His face burned, his chin. His mouth was full of dirty salt. He ran two fingers over his chin and held them to the moonlight, then sat up and spit into his hand. No way was this the kingdom of fantastic. He didn’t know the name of this kingdom, if kingdom you could call it. You could call it anything you liked, just not the kingdom of fantastic. Crap was better. This was the kingdom of crap. Or no, not even a kingdom, but more like a village, or even less than a village, just a place, more like it, the crappy place of crap.
The stink of burning hair lingered in his head. He wondered whether he smelled the real stink of burning hair, of the giant car’s crappy exhaust, or whether he only imagined or remembered the stink of burning hair. It didn’t matter. He could smell it. Together with the stink in his nose, the blood in his mouth and doubt in his mind made up the crappy place of crap.
His bike in the road looked like a pile of rotten sticks some jerk had painted silver. If another crappy car came along, especially a giant boat of a crappy car, it would run right over his bike and never know the bike would crumble like rotten sticks. He knew he couldn’t just leave the bike. And yet he didn’t want to get the bike, either. He didn’t want to do anything, much less get up. And if he did get up, and if he did get his bike, he didn’t want to ride it home. Besides, that wasn’t home. That was a lie. That was another broken link in that huckster’s chain of crappy rickety lies.
He spit in his hand to see his blood. He’d cut his lip good, and his chin, too, his mouth was still all dirty salt. From his ear to his chin, he knew, his face was road-rashed good. Wherever he touched, his jawline burned like a road rash burned. Tomorrow his face would look like a dog’s pussy in heat. His face would look like a big dirty butt crack. Everyone would call him a dirty butt crack, a city slicker with an ass packed full of city-slicker zits and a face like a pussy in heat.
He thought of Ken Maeng. Except for that guy Roberto who’d driven him home that night after he tried to run away with his hobo stick, who was Mexican or Chilean or Columbian he guessed, Ken Maeng, the Korean kid in his class whose real name was Byeoung-keun Maeng, was the only kid he’d ever known who wasn’t white.
Everyone at school said Ken Maeng was a freak. One kid, not Randy Bartlett or Bruce Ledbetter or Brad Hansen or any of the other idiot jerks, they were too stupid, had said Ken Maeng was freaky as a spider from Mars, which, stupid as he felt thinking it, was why he figured when he saw Ken Maeng that sometimes he thought of spiders, and not just any old spiders, but big-ass gnarly spiders like banana spiders and tarantulas.
Ken Maeng had pretty long hair, longer than his but not longer than Burney McCarthy’s, but instead of pushing it behind his ears, or just letting it hang down like he and Burney McCarthy let their long hair hang, Ken Maeng kept his hair plastered to the side with about twenty cans of Aqua Net. Ken Maeng’s hair had grown so brittle from the Aqua Net that when Randy Bartlett took hold of Ken Maeng’s hair that day last winter it was super cold and dry, Ken Maeng’s hair snapped in two. Randy Bartlett massively tripped out—everybody tripped out massively—then ran off waving a chunk of Ken Maeng’s hair, cackling and hollering about how he, Randy Bartlett, had faced the chink.
After lunch, he found Ken Maeng in front of the aquarium full of mosquitoes the students kept for science, wearing Mr Spring’s tam o’shanter. Ken Maeng must have heard him enter the room. He’d knocked a wastebasket over plus a couple of umbrellas, but Ken Maeng didn’t look up. He said hello to Ken Maeng, but still Ken Maeng didn’t look. Nor did Ken Maeng answer. Ken Maeng didn’t say anything. Ken Maeng was crying.
When he tried to think when Ken Maeng spoke after that, even to Mr Spring, he couldn’t a single time. After Randy Bartlett had broken off a chunk of Ken Maeng’s hair, and everyone had massively tripped out, Ken Maeng never spoke again.
He thought of never speaking to his mother and father again the way Ken Maeng had never spoken again, but knew that would be useless. If he said nothing to his mother’s questions, his mother would slap him for saying nothing. His mother would slap him for saying something, and his mother would slap him for saying nothing. And then his father would arrive, and the trouble would start again. Not to mention now, too, he could never say for sure when his father might knock him out by punching him in the face with a full-on fist. He wished with all his heart he could be like Ken Maeng, strong enough never to speak again.
The last thing he wanted was to die on the road, killed like a dippy raccoon.
He heard a car in the distance. He couldn’t see the lights through the trees yet but thought it best to move his bike. The last thing he wanted was to get hit in the dark on a lonely road by a stupid giant car. The last thing he wanted was to die on the road, killed like a dippy raccoon. He saw the lights through the trees and heard the pitter-patter of the engine and for an instant felt his throat tighten at the thought the car might be his father’s. Then the car rattled round the bend, a crappy little Bug, honking away till it vanished in the night.
“Jerk!” he shouted, and gave the car the finger. “Fucker,” he muttered. “Asshole fucking bastard,” he muttered.
How lame was he anyhow. He couldn’t stay silent for even a minute. No one could hear him. His words meant nothing, yet still he’d had to speak his words. And then he thought, no, it wasn’t absurd, he had had to speak his words. Nobody else was going to speak his words. Nobody else could speak his words because nobody else knew the words to speak. That sort of silence was bad silence. Sometimes silence spoke, other times silence said nothing. Silence without knowing spoke without meaning. But knowing silence spoke with meaning that silenced meaninglessness. But sometimes speaking silenced meaninglessness, also.
A wind swept through the trees. The moon had risen. He could see it now glimmering through the trees, nearly full but not. Beneath him, just off the road, the creek murmured round its stones. All along, the creek had been running by the road down the canyon, but till now he hadn’t heard it. There it ran, the creek full of crayfish and minnows and moss. He could see the creek, now, too. The moon’s light was shining through the trees.
He wondered which of the moons was real, the moon in the sky or the moon on the water of the creek. And then it seemed maybe both were fake, and both real. And one was a flower in the sky, and one a flower on the creek. As for the moons in his eyes, they were flowers, too, flowers in his eyes, and everything he knew, and everything he heard, was silence.
D. Foy’s work has appeared in Salon, BOMB, Post Road, Electric Literature, The Literary Review, Frequencies, The Collagist, and The Georgia Review, among others, and has been included in the books Laundromat and Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial. He is also the author of the novel Made to Break. You can find his website at dfoyble.com. Image by James Bennett.