by F.X. James
The day is crisp as an opened beer. Trees conjugate
with a sultry breeze. A silver plane comes in for a landing,
the bodies inside, overly complex and heavy with issues.
Not much is simple for our kind, though perhaps some
of it, a little of it, should be. Harley-Davidsons rumble by.
Denim clad dreams of teenage boys perch like raptors on the
backseats. Their admirable mores have almost faded. Life is
cruel that way. There is no wine here, only beer, and the cool
empty hours curling naked at my feet. But I cannot leave this
moment, the ideal air, the clouds thickening with life, recalcitrant
shadows undulating against city streets. Fruit flies hover with hope,
though I’ve not had fruit here for days. A slender woman carrying
a yoke of hard years, pushes a small child in a plastic wagon.
What will he recall of her in twenty years or more? A green car
runs a red light. Bellicose sirens swell. The air is cheap. The beer
is cheap. The minutes continue to unfurl themselves. Young
people stand on the corner, laughing beyond mirth, their hands
skating over unpracticed flesh. So many roles to be performed,
as trucks add oily darkness to the day, and a topless car pulls to the
curb, the clowns inside trapped within the painted vacuity of
tweets and YouTube fails. Nothing there is more than a shrill laugh,
an insecure desire to be momentarily liked. Sitting as this day rolls
on, shadows and sun, green trees, monolithic clouds, and the
ephemeral desires we hold, comprehensibly null.
The daylight lies clear and cool. Wind ruffles the feathers of
old trees. The land is flat and unequivocally unremarkable. The
denizens here act like it means something more. They carry pride
like a dog carries its collar. What would you do if you were new
here? The response is always the same: the falls, downtown,
a park or two, gutted bars, meat to be cooked outside, God,
in all his glorious indifference. Many here are fixing to make a
change, but nothing really happens. The river runs like it does.
Geese shit everywhere. Tattoo parlors fail like pacified boxers.
Books fall to the wayside. It’s all about the hunt, pale beer,
whomever laughs loudest, and what will happen when this no
longer happens. “We got it pretty good here,” a drunk dullard
exclaims, swinging his molded mug of thin beer. But he has been
nowhere yet, not even to a neighboring state. His girlfriend is blank
and overweight, and at nineteen, already much too pregnant.
Suddenly the daylight seems too harsh. Dreams lose their tenacity.
Ten years from now, it’ll be a small grey house with a dry yard, two
kids and a dead cat. It’ll be ballgames with flies, impassive love
on Wednesday nights, overtime on Saturdays, in-laws who break
the slow momentum. It’ll be this and a shallow brown river, pigs
pouring in by their thousands for slaughter.
At work the fools remain fully foolish. The lesser
one bleats of the inhumanity of it all. The weirdo
coats himself in the oily sheen of butcher/killer.
The third descends into unlit catacombs, touching
here and there a favored clutch of bygone bones.
When the air’s not moving, tempers rise like winter
waves. No one’s mother goes unscorned. When there
is no dust, there is still sweat. Without sweat, only
more boredom, more rage, more dry screws twisting
in the drums of troubled minds. Dumb men can be
so damn cruel when they’re empty. The hallways lie
thick with dirt and squalid heat. Restrooms reek of
dry piss. Flies live and die in lucid worlds overhead.
Machines stay fickle as online love. Nothing dispels
the ten hour day’s inextricable waste, and every word
not needed, or unheard, falls to the unwashed floor,
where it quickly dies under borrowed boots.
She pushes them on in a scoop of wheeled plastic.
They can’t be more than two or three, maybe less,
maybe more, who cares. Not her. Their faces blossom
bright with snot. Their small hands wriggle twenty
pink and tacky worms. Tiny naked feet are angered
by the cool empty air. A dog captures their sullen eyes.
Then a fire truck, with its blood red skin, large hands
waving from inside. She pushes them on. They are
keening loud, and the park is near. Turkey vultures
dip the ragged tips of their midnight sails. An hour
here, then home again. Nothing gained beyond
enduring. Their cries continue, though the streets
are childless, the skies thick with heavy clouds.
F. X. James is the pseudonym of an oddball British expat hiding out in Minnesota. When not dissolving in another savage summer or fattening up for the next brutal winter, he’s writing poems and stories on the backs of unpaid utility bills. His words have appeared in The Sierra Nevada Review, Prairie Winds, The Adirondack Review, Mystery Tribune, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The Courtship of the Winds, and many other publications.