Chapter One: The Royals, Game One
We were being careful with me. No loud noises, no extraneous stimulation, no horror movies, no rich food, no major decisions, no nothing. But the effect was that my world became a hushed, eerie place. Washed out. I was never that into pastels. I did not play well with others; while they swung and kicked and tossed I took up small items from the forest floor and imagined them into ships, castles, gods.
They said I couldn’t live in those worlds anymore. That I had to be here.
Our walls have eyes. And by that I mean, eyes in the wood. If you were from a lumber town, you would know that to be true. Because you would know the eyes are the weakest part. A two-by with too many eyes won’t hold up. The way to see if a two-by is straight is to hold it up to your eyes and look down it like you would the barrel of a gun. That job I had? At Mr. Lumber? I was good at it. And fast, too.
Now I am holding onto the Royals like a new lover.
“I said don’t you know that boy,” my dad says.
I hate it when my dad’s eyes turn to black holes.
This is the first I’ve seen of Joel, since his beard scraped my chin raw there beneath the leaves and above the ferns at the city park that we called Cathedral. There, sunburned and naked in his dad’s old truck, where the dead mouse smell rose out of the heat vents but only added to the animal push of us.
“Well, yeah. Knew.”
There is Joel, famous already, holding a World Series ball in the palm of his right hand and grinning. Like he knows he has it made. All sorts of women already surround him and I can see their breasts from here, soft and sweater-ed and waiting to be petted by the famous white hands of this Midwestern man-boy, named Joel, that I once knew. Really knew.
But amazing things like that happen, and then it’s back to the game.
The Royals won’t let up. That’s how they play now: Relentless. That’s what my dad says. But I think about that word later, and how funny it is that a word can come out so strong, and then finish like a pansy. ‘Less.’ Less of relent. I say Relentful. And that way I know I mean it.
Chapter Two: These are Things to Do
When I wake up in the morning, first thing is to check the chore sheet on the back of the bathroom door. I sink into the toilet seat, the kind that receives you like a pillow then pinches your bum as you rise. The crucial tasks are in red, moderate in yellow, green is easy come, easy go. The catch is, those are the low- point ones and I always do those first. Stop wasting time, I say to myself, but I can’t help it. Easy come, easy go.
We have a dog named Sugar, and one easy task is to pick up her poop. She has three legs and a mark on her side like a lightning bolt. She has brown eyes the color of Joel’s, but softer, and more forgiving. I will finish this, and then I will vacuum. Our vacuum broke so we use the long neck for everything, even for Vast Spaces. Sugar stays behind me when I vacuum. She stands on her tiny bed like that’s the island and the rest of the floor is lava. I get it.
Third thing is watering. The aloe plant cuts you then heals you. I say that’s OK. If you’re going to stab, at least bring the medicine. That’s where Joel went wrong. He pressed the ferns along my bum and left me with circular rashes. Those were not ferns. They were definitely not aloe. They were plants I don’t know, and will never know, and I am supposed to be fine with that.
Chapter Three: The Funeral
“Okay, Trooper,” my dad wakes me up on Monday and it’s still so early the birds haven’t started screaming yet.
Bill’s service is today, up in Vernonia. Bill was my dad’s friend from grade school on, but he drank himself right up to the edge of death, and then sealed the deal with a gunshot. Sometimes I would see Bill outside of the bar, and he looked out of place then. It’s clichéd but true: he was a fish out of water.
The best way to remember Bill is to remember him on the edge of a stool, under the TV’s blue light, and the way his lips would hold the beginning of a story for a long time. For a long time he would hold it there, and then finally, when you almost couldn’t take it anymore, he would let it fly.
Chapter Four: McDonald’s
We go to McDonald’s on Tuesdays. Dad gets into the truck first and lets me in because the passenger side door won’t open. He has a girlfriend who works there, who is 45, and has braces. She is the woman who my dad left my mom for. I guess she’s pretty, if you like that obvious blonde kind of beauty- but I don’t. I like my women French and mysterious. The first time I came was to a picture of a woman with hair on her lip and a glare in her eyes. I’m not supposed to like both, but that’s the way it is. Dad says that’s fine; just don’t go around telling nobody. I told Sugar, though. I tell Sugar every little thing.
McDonald’s is busy and we sit in the truck with the radio turned way low. Klarice comes to the window and she and Dad make eyes at each other. He holds her hand as she gives him extra ketchup.
Chapter Five: The Royals, Game Two
Sometimes it rains and briefly you are very grateful for the roof. The roof that would taste like rust if you licked it. So the rain comes and Dad and I stay inside, cozy-like, watching the Royals Kick Ass. His eyes are not stones. He is good tonight.
Right away, bottom of the first, when the game feels clean at 0-0, we hit the ball off the third base, and it boomerangs back into the crowd. A liner. Our guy runs to first, stops, adjusts. Wipes his face. The camera wildly scans the crowd, which is silent with many people holding their hands over their mouths. (Why do people do that when they see something they are afraid of? It’s as if they think they can stop the narrative of the world by not telling it). The ball has hit somebody’s Very Important Temple.
“Christ,” my dad says, “Death by single.”
I think they’ll stop the game, but they don’t. They keep on going, with everyone looking haunted; the bright blue sky and the terrible day-glo green of the Astroturf sandwiching everything together.
Becca Yenser is the author of several chapbooks of short fiction, including All Because of Saturday Night and Small, Bright Things. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Swimmers Club, CHEAP POP, Hobart, 1001 Editors, The Nervous Breakdown, HOOT, Paper Darts, Metazen, and Eclectica Magazine. Her newest poems can be found on Ink Node.