He’s making his way through the world. It's been fifteen years since
he's seen the streets of that small town, fifteen years of nights laying
awake, missing her breath on his neck, fifteen baseball seasons
that the dogs didn’t wake him before sunrise, fifteen unseen gas station
calendars of naked beauties who never change except in how you look at them.
Fifteen years since his very own runts clambered up on their Papa's
knee at Christmastime.
The runts'll be big now, the girls young married ladies if you please and
the boys strutting as men of the place will, that or gone for the big cities to muddy
their souls with sin and experience.
His wife-- she'll be gray-haired but then she went that way in one horrible
afternoon, the very day...
So now he's making his way through the world, living job to job, standing
on streetcorners in the cold morning with a cup of burnt coffee in
one hand and a loose cigarette burning in the other. “Washing his face in
the morning dew” like someone sang once. When he gets lucky (not often now)
he cracks his knees getting into a pickup truck with other
men, most of them twenty years younger from south of the border.
When luck dries up he finds a quiet place to stretch out and roll through the
Hours, as the dome of sky slowly fills with dark.
Him! Who used to run the whole warehouse for Big JJ Bidilicus! He'd
wear a tie everyday and he had his own secretary who maybe didn't bring
him coffee but she answered the phone and screened his calls, and that's
a luxury most on Earth will never know… twenty men to answer to him!
He'd scream "Hustle, you lazy bastards!" and "I want those pallets
unloaded by lunch, y' hear me!" and twenty men would cuss and jump.
Enough in salary so he and the wife could buy their own small farm
far out past the warehouses. Not big: two cows, twelve chickens,
two ponies, brood sow and a litter of piglets, small barn and pond. Not
even a "farm" exactly but substantial enough for that town.
Now a duffel sack’s slung over his shoulder wherever he goes, the
mark of a failure who carries his home on his back. A romantic
might see it as a mark of freedom, but romantics don’t get around much.
He cried like a little baby everyday, for years, sitting on the sandy shoulder of
some nameless Western road as the wind moaned and lifted dust from the fields.
He'd sniffle thinking of his home, his marital bed, his TV, sniffle at
his lost reputation. "A pillar no more," he'd snuffle, "ain't a town
father, householder, volunteer fireman, Boy Scout leader, man of
solid judgement. I’m nothin’ now.” Tears ran down his sunburned
face as he screamed the names of his beautiful wife and his handsome kids
into the desert hills.
His eyes are dead volcanoes, all dried up; he’s almost forgotten how to speak.
He loved his wife; he never meant to harm her. He wasn't making
comparisons by what he did, it wasn't a cry for attention like he'd
read some doctor say in the paper. It was just spillover, that's all it
was: spillover. And that’s no better or worse, just different--in
Still he wished his kids hadn't been there to see it. Not all of them were,
just the youngest ones. It was bad they were there, he readily conceded it—
very bad. He had to take responsibility for that if he was any kind of man at all,
any kind of father. "I might not be much of a moral creature," he often said
aloud, "but I was a good father."
Except for that one time.
His little girl began to cry, to beg her mama to do something to help Papa.
His tiny son's face puckered as he turned away and crumpled against
the fence. A boy is never too young to be ashamed of his father.
His wife got the spike in the heart, took it full on. Soul of his soul, eternal
campfire companion, childhood sweetheart. How to speak a dead tongue
in the ear of a modern woman? “There is no common social currency for
what he did,” the newspaper psychiatrist said.
And of course he never could've put it to her in words she could understand.
He didn't know that many words to begin with.
She'd come running at the first scream. He’d hadn‘t been able to make a sound for
what seemed a long time, like he was underwater being dragged out by a
giant sucking wave, his lungs crushed to rags, but the pain ripped through his throat.
His head flopped back and he roared. He wept, he screamed and begged, his knees, shins
and elbows bleeding and dusty.
Now he's got three dollars and fifteen cents; he hasn't worked in two
days. He's down to about 120 pounds; he's hungry and his head aches like
he's laid it on a hot stovetop. His teeth are almost gone after all the
years on the road. So he'll buy the day-old box of donuts for $1.99 at
the mart, try and ration them but that won't be hard cause he can hardly
keep anything down anymore anyway. His clothes are so big they make him
As for his former friends and neighbors—well, "friend" is not a
reliable word. It changes color like a chameleon; he's learned this
to his everlasting bitterness. Where were his "friends" then, in the
blood-soaked aftermath? Where was the sympathetic phone call from
JJ Bidilicus, his patron of more than twenty years? He knew
where these “friends” were alright--they were snickering in the shadows
of the bars and the alleys, and in the churches too.
The doctor alone had showed humanity in that wretched hour. With
skillful hands he'd stitched and cleansed and balmed, administered
drugs that kept the world briefly blessedly dark and kept the man from
going insane with shame. After a few days, the doctor gave the man crutches and
took no payment ("looking to take it up with my wife later on!" the man often thought
He took off as soon as he was well enough to walk, bought a bus
ticket, left his wife with the one car. She didn’t allow him the
honor of a visit with her or the children.
He never saw any of them again.
But who knew? Who knew the sphincter muscles of a sow were powerful
enough to rip a man's testicles off? If only it had stopped there...but
he couldn't get loose, she wouldn't let him go once she got ahold of
him, though he punched and screamed. The big pig bucked and rolled, its
asshole tightened like an infernal vise, dragging him naked through the
dust of his own backyard. His dick bleeding and flattened as if by a
sledgehammer, pulled mostly off...as his wife and little ones watched in
horror, holding their hands to their faces, shrieking with him, the pig, each other, all
the noise rising straight up into the hot blue sky.
So he walks the world alone now; there's no going back. He’s become a
mythical figure, an urban legend, the man who fucked a pig and couldn't
get loose. His old "friends" tell of the incident with authority and glee, no
doubt, in the bars, alleys and churches.
His wife and kids--who can say? Changed their names maybe, to throw
off the rotten shame of his memory. The sons are probably either priests or
killers or both. The daughters no doubt have married men who hate and beat
animals. And his wife is certainly with the doctor who saved his life, and then
cast him adrift into the cheap legends of the world.
He sleeps in parking lots, under the stars, in concrete culverts by the freeways.
He thinks back to the hot afternoon that changed his time on earth
forever and wonders why he did it. He looks up to the stars, unsure why
he was ever brought into life, why he was ever born a man.