I Saw This (for Phil)

He’s 5, Chuck Taylor’s on his feet, before they were hip, when they were still just white shoes on a white boy, walking through the hood. He is kicking the can when that was still the name for ‘tag’. He is running his hand along the slats in a white fence, feels the thud thud thud as his fingertips knock the next slat. Time is slowing, the light is becoming slanted, funny, clearer, not in a good way. He can tell before the fence ends, two feet before or three that the gap to the next fence, the alley, holds a disaster. He doesn’t really know it, but now, looking back, he knows he knew. Things wasn’t right around that corner. Right hand on the slats in the fence, Chuck Taylor’s under jeans, his head slowly, on a pivot, turns right, into the alley’s maw, to see the body of a dead man.

It is lying there unnatural, violent. His fingers, the boy’s, slowing now, are just brushing the last white slats silently. He makes a half turn in to the alley and stops. He’s 5. His arms are at his side now and, now today 50 years later, he remembers that his foot, like on automatic, slips forward and kicks a stone that stops between the second and third fingers of the man, and as he remembers it now, that stone is still, in this moment, skidding along the blanched sidewalk–it is alway this moment between the kick and the silent knock of stone on knuckle… Then nothing. Neither of them move and then the boy is turning away, walking, and not feeling and creating an elaborate system to hide that moment and still meet the next line of white slats and his fingers running through them, thudding…all that has to make sense again before the width of the alley is over and he is still walking…home

…and every time he dreams of this moment he is standing in center field (remembering the alley and the man and the white and the fence and the stone), glove under his left arm and he is adjusting his hat to shield his eyes from the sun and he is looking up to the stands, sun breaking through the bleachers like through white slats and in the dream he drops his glove, turns his back to the game and holds his arms out and waits for his father to meet his gaze from the stands and his father was not there.

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3 Responses to I Saw This (for Phil)

  1. Sue Kay says:

    Reading this story, I thought about the elaborate story we tell ourselves to stay safe and then the reminders along the way that continue the lie that we are are not – we are still back there – at age 5. Whether it is age 5 or 12 or 17 or 18 or 22 or beyond – the story is rehearsed – “it is because of this or that – that I am the way I am…”

    As I am confronted about the truth – I have an opportunity to believe it or go back to the lie. I like to believe that I am heading down the street of the truth more these days and not diverting into the dark alleys of the lies.

  2. Kathleen says:

    From what I know about Phil you have elaborated and beautifully too. It is very nice to get to know more of him, even if it is, in a way, haunting.

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