Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: JW Burns

Alan sat in a puddle.

            “…doesn’t pay enough. Twice in three months I’ve had to call my father just to get by—you know how I hate that—so I’m seriously looking.” Sharon’s voice jumped from a thick branch above Alan’s head, shook slightly before straightening into a long linear stream of bidding fragments. The liquid fed into Alan’s glutes, his femurs spinning in place under the influence of the cool dark water.

            “Godam, Adam! Now you’re all wet.” Sharon rose from the wrought iron chair where she sat with another young woman on the pavement outside The Caffeine Conclave. “Come on now, out.” She took a last sip from her paper cup, pressed crumbles from her styrofoam plate on her index finger, licked. “Out. Out of the water!” Picked up the cup amd plate. “Out. Now!”

            “I’ll take those. You have your hands full.” Her companion took the waste, walked it a trash can.

            “Thank you. Bye.” Sharon turned to face Alan dragging his body out of the puddle, standing inert, khaki Dockers dripping.


            Two small boys ran laughing, came to a sudden stop perhaps ten feet from Alan. Silent, staring, one nudged the other. Twin grins mixed humor with noncredible mystery. Alan looked over their heads at nothing in particular. They continued on, slowing to glance at their reflections in the puddle, then back at Alan.

            “Come on.” Sharon returned the boys’ grin, lifted Alan’s hand, gripped palm on palm. “Let’s go home.”

            As was usual they walked slowly. The worn blacktop path was primarily a pedestrian way interrupted only occasionally by maintaince vehicles. Sharon enjoyed this part of the walk back to the townhouse, holding hands with Alan, their arms swinging with the satisfaction given to consummating


motion transfigured by the nonexistent present. After the park they closed order to avoid other people on the sidewalk. On the crosswalks one of her eyes remained glued to his bouncing head. At the bottom of the stone steps climbing to the ocher orange townhouse door he stopped. Just planted both feet. Sensitive to past experience she also stopped. An elderly woman pushing a wheeled shopping cart passed behind them but they ignored her, concentrating on the door.  Finally Sharon released his hand which slapped twice against his leg, was frozen.

            When he looked at her she saw sleek gray creatures diving, disapprearing, reappearing, diving in the milky flux of his eyes. What she felt beating in his chest steadied her; dismay and doubt as reflected in the slurred speech of her father on the phone two nights ago seemed to float up past the third floor windows of the townhouse, flap for a few moments on a breeze near the sloping charcoal black shingles, launch high above the roof, faint, fainter, a tiny drone escaping control.

            “OK. Up the stairs. Jump. Junmp one. Jump two. Jump three..” Together they jumped up the steps to the front door. She punched in the code. Secure in the vestibule she patted his back.

            “Go to your room. Take off those wet clothes. Sit on the bed. I’ll be there in a little while.” As he shuffled down the hall Sharon felt an immense strength hurrying through the tissue in her arms and thighs, a feeling that the present tense wasn’t always gone in the blink of an eye but enticingly static. She guided her way to the kitchen, scanned the high little windows which made the room look small, remote, ut ice in a glass and filled it from the tap. Two sustained draws and the water was gone, the ice isolated, smoothly melting.

            “ Close your eyes. Please close your eyes.” Recalling the crisp spring sun all around when she went into the wilds down under to visit her Aunt Leth whose husband coached a band of young tumblers when not traveling worldwide to surf big waves. The tumblers too had became world travelers performing widely and even occasionally on TV. She pictured Leth and her companion continuing to age together running the tumbling school and a natural resort and fitness spa; Leth, her pinched blonde


hair tied in a ponytail with a red ribbon, jeans and a nervous gray Turkish cotton shirt covering her yoga body; him thick mustache twitching, silver ring in one ear, avenging abs, hands gnarled with tiny lemons.

            Pressing eyelids as tight as possible: twenty tumblers occupying the large grassy area behind the swimming pool. Four runway mats, five tumblers on each mat, the mats converging in a central captivating spot: a bare earthen surface sheltering just a hint of dampness, maybe even an inquiring pinkish mist but ever so light, but what she heard was all important, a voice duplicating a foam garment imprisoning you head to toe in swaying bliss…four tumblers in motion, gliding over the mats to soar into the air rotating in laid-back spirals before landing like birds in the center space.

            There should be the smell if fire, and smoke, pastel smoke making what you experience polite, in service to your acknowledgment of the fullness of what you see. The four tumblers hands on hips, each occupying a frozen thrust. They begin to bounce like children, like bamboo sticks, like flames of falling water; somersaults, rolling twists and turnssharding whips—eight hands , eight feet in the briefest possible contact with the ground—whispering near misses, the air formless snakes coming and going, four waves simultaneously gone from the earth and landing; bottomless back-hand springs walking on sleeveless arms…

            Quasi-enraptured by her vision, Sharon put down her empty glass, squeezed the sides of the sink, released another prisoner from the window before turning away, her feet fragments as she walked across the kitchen floor reaching with dried ribs. Upstair Alan sat stiffly on the side of his bed. Letters pushed through his eyes, different colors, all lower case, no particular sequence. As Sharon looked at him she knew he wanted to say each letter, knew what to say but something prevented the sound from forming like high rain that never reaches the ground.

            “Take off those wet clothes.” She smiled, clapped her hands. “Quick now. I’ll start the water.”

            She disappeared in the bathroom. Seconds later running water reels its way among the letters as


Alan undressed, the stream dissolving the letters. He stood naked  regarding a stuffed duck leaning against the pillow on his bed. When Sharon reappeared in the bathroom doorway she too was naked.

            “Come on. The water’s just right.” She disappeared again. He followed. Steam. Soft towels on racks. Gurgling drain. Sharon stood in the shower smoothing and tightening her black hair around her head. Water streamed over her shoulders, arms, breasts, stomach, thighs, splashing her feet. Alan stopped at the edge of the shower stall. Sharon stepped out of the cascading liquid, beckoned him with middle and index fingers. He responded by shuffling into the stall, inching under the water and lifting his head, eyes closed, mouth spewing.

            “Now step back. Stand still.”

            Sharon pumped soap in a wet washcloth, squeezed it down his chest, gently scrubbed through the sparse hair all the way over his mini-potbelly past his navelto the beginning of his pubic hair. Then she buffed both arms holding the opposite arm to steady him as she rubbed.

            “Turn around.”

            He turned at the same time time raising his arms, a foresighted robot. She pressed more soap on the cloth, painted his largely smooth back, wiped his armpits, increased the pressure a bit on his lower back and buttocks. She bent to quickly ripple over his legs back and front.

            “Turn around again.”

            Utilizing the same rigid motion he faced her. She washed her body neck to knees as he gazed. Then she quite tenderly wiped his face, neck, behind his ears. Repeat on herself. When she stood close, guided them under a remote wet past where the fact of life itself was the only commercial playing in the only sunlight worth calculating, sheer seduction before joy, pain, premomition, mirrors, maybe then he quivered slightly, maybe not.

            Sharon hung the washcloth on the shower caddy. The four corners of the shower stall were hazy,  interior clouds floating in the steam. She took the soap bar, rubbed it on his penis and pubic hair until


his crotch was a sudsy pendant, his penis finally a frothy spire.

            “Thats’s good. Now…” keeping one hand occupied with Alan while buttonholing her clitoris the the other hand. Gradually Sharon and Alan begin to move, lanquid, a bit more rapidly, more rotation from their middles, Sharon’s hands doing the work.

            “Now—bend your knees—no, too much, up a little, closer to me…” inserted his penis into her vagina. Again the motion began slowly, rocking gently, quicker…

A massive table dictating space in the middle of the room.

            Three place settings, plates, glasses, silverware, one at the head of the table and one on either flank; much of the polished rosewood surface commanding breadth. A middle-aged male seated at the head of the table complimented by females on either side, one whose face was made up to conceal determined lines persistant after surgical intervention, the other obviously youthful but slightly uncomfortable in an unfamiliar surrounding.

            “He seems to be content—within his own ultra-small world, largely unemotional but not unhappy.” The bite of T-bone steak on the end of Chambers’ fork appeared to shrink on the way from his plate to his mouth. “I’m grateful.” Ninety-five percent of his chewing motion remained completely obscured.

            “So grateful. So grateful.” Beverly repostioned three green peas with her fork, abruptly swept over a small clump of mashed potatoes, catching a thin gauzy film which she slowly raised to her mouth, snapped this from the tines.

            The used taste of darkness: swallow, specks sticking in the throat’s deep parts, noe particularly obtrusive, just there; not a black void but a definite dearth of illumination. Unable to fire the wood that would burn in her brain, Sharon’s eyes touch the heavy drapies on either side of the window. All she really hears is a familiar squeaking in the tunnel at the end of light. A squeeze from her heart twists like


a key in a lock; this was the first time Alan’s parents had ever asked her to have dinner with them. She knew she should speak, egg on the words which were forming somewhere methodologically truthful, gripping her tongue, lips.

            “Yes…Alan tries hard. He wants to escape his shell,” dabs with her napkin, “he really cares. It’s just so difficult for him to show it.”

            “That’s exactly what Dr. Lever says.” Beverly nods to her husband.

            “I feel we’re all making the best effort we are capable of,” Chambers cleared his throat, “Alan will have every opprotunity to thrive—I’ll insure that.”

            “Jenny thinks he’s learning more and more all the time. Dressing, all she has to do is lay out his clothes. Almost no bathroom accidents. He even fluhes the toilet—thanks to you, Sharon, or so I understand–” the women exchange fluent smiles, “and Jenny has taught him to put the paste on his toothbrush…”

            “Yes, Bev. And I’ll sure we can count on much more improvement in the future.”

            Evening eclipsed the view beyond the windowpanes. Chewing in earnest the diners were momentarily an essential ingredient of the room along with two well-fitted teak sideboards, a handcarved buffet and a glassed cased cherry china cabinet. Though they were in the heart of the city, any sound penetrating from outside was at once remote and fanciful, auditory craters from another world. The immediate silence punctuated by scraping utensils, glum teeth.

            We shouldn’t have ever allowed him to languish in that institution. Not so long–” The shock of her voice slammed her mouth closed.

            “If you’ll recall, we couldn’t manage even with assistence. His behavoir in those early years was completely impossible. “ Chambers snorted involuntarily, brushed the side of his face with his hand. “Then after what he did—we’re lucky to have him now. None of it could be helped. Bill Headly, Judge Headly made that perfectly clear. And if Jimbo hadn’t been related to Gov. Sandoughful, Alan would


still be residing in that place. After what he did.” Chambers neatly place his fork and knife in a diagonal relationship on his empty plate.

            “Well. That’s in the past.”

            “Speaking of which,” Chambers turned his head from his wife to Sharon, his expression softening. “I believe we have a sucessful working blueprint to construct Alan’s future,” counting on his fingers, “Jenny in the morning and again in the evening when needed, Nurse Hal on call at night if Alan awakes disoriented, and, most importantly, you, Sharon for five afternoons a week.” He tapped the third finger representing Sharon three times. “I feel you are the key here. Since you came on board as educational caretaker he’s become more responsible, alert, manageable—everyone’s noticed it–”

            “–more human,” interjected Beverly.

            “Exactly.” Chambers headbobbed Beverly then returned to Sharon. “So anyway we want to insure that you’re on board for Alan. To that end we’re prepared to offer you what I feel is a quite generous proposal regarding your future employment as a primary component in Alan’s future growth and development—we are dedicated to Alan’s wellbeing and feel that your continued attention to him is an integral part of this beneficial process.” At this point his look became a resolute probe. “So allow me to outline in economic terms what we are offering to retain…”

Alan sleeps with his head under the covers.

            Sharon is water.

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