Pacing Son

The first paragraph is not mine. I was given a selection of "story starters" and jostled over to a keyboard. This is what came out:

Sensing that he must belong to the small western city he walks, they will sometimes ask him for directions, which he is always pleased to give. A former salesman who once traveled widely, and yet a loner all his life, he asks for nothing more of his remaining years than peace and quiet; but even when both elude him, he finds he can still take heart in the smallest gestures of goodwill and civility.

His face is lined, worked soft like a catcher’s lucky mitt and lines spider out from eyes that shine deep in a reflective core. He shades his eyes as he walks into the sun. Children squawk, shrieking as they wave arcs of water from duct-taped hoses; they rattle past him on steel-boned bicycles and peer back from sun blind eyes. He waves; he always waves and smiles as the children giggle at his dark face.

Cool parks provide a refuge for his swollen feet and he stretches under the breathing canopy. He watches the light spots filtering into the grass and gives them forms: a horse, bucking and shaking; a ballerina swirling in golden light; and he chuckles. The sound is dusty and the air drags in his tacky lungs.

"What’re you doin’ here, huh?"

Russet eyes blink and roll in the direction of the sound.

"I said, what’re you doin’ here." The figure’s shadow cuts a black swath in the light; she looks like a witch.

"I’m takin’ a breather, miss." He tries a smile, "Been on ma feet for a coupla hours, now."

As his eyes acclimate to the light, the woman folds her arms: switch blades crossing her chest, and rumbles, "Yeah, you come around ev’ry year. You got a reason? Some perticular thing drawin’ you back ev’ry time?"

"Not here perticyalarly, no," he answers, honestly. "Just followin’ the sun round and back again." He winks at her, "It’s the return trips that’ll getcha – hotter’en anything with the sun on yer back."

"I don’t like it. I don’t like it. It’s disturbin’ people, what it is." She grumbles and switches the weight of her feet, hip knocking out like a pendulum. "People think yer some kinda stalker or somethin’, come to snatch their kids up, ya know. Can’t blame ‘em. Lookit you. Frizzy ole head, wild eyes, pacin’ around town ev’ry summer."

He chuckles and the sound makes the woman squirm. It’s a sound of heat and brittleness, of fragility and lost pieces. He says, "I’m not that kinda person, don’t you worry. I’m just a old man, runnin’ out the sun. Runnin’ it out like ev’rygoodbodyelse. A son pacin’ out the sun."

Her mouth opens. Shuts. She spins and marches off.

The sun presses itself into the air, buckling its knees over the streets. He sighs and his mind drifts with the spinning light forms across the grass. The light pressure of a hand wakes him. He turns his shoulder out of the tree’s side and blinks at the dangling sandwich bag.

"I’m not helpin’ you," the lady asserts, "I’m just movin’ you along, got it?" She swings the bag against his shoulder and he takes it in bewildered hands. "You just keep movin’ and there won’t be any trouble. You keep goin’, 'kay?"

He eyes her as she moves away again through the trees. He unzips the package and gnaws the sandwich.

He smiles.

The End

100 comments about this poem Feed