Art > Writing

Tableau Through Cornfield Dust

His house leaned left on the cinder blocks that mocked its cracked, bald-rotten wheels. The windows were dressed in plastic and egg-shell blinds, and the putrid green siding bulged and cracked, bleeding pink insulation and black mold. A rotting camper shell out back provided refuge to orphaned rabbits and carelessly shot bb’s, and out front, beer filled gas cans sat leaking next to weathered shelves stacked carefully with the empty bottles, labels peeled. Cool Water Cologne mingled delicately with wet newspaper and tobacco smoke and could be smelled almost two blocks away.

Bewitched reruns blared through the walls each evening, thundering laughs and cold flickering lonely light, and every dawn he stumbled through stacks of yellowing newspapers in his underwear and cowboy boots, down the driveway, and sunk into a fraying lawn chair next to the mailbox where he smoked a pack of Camels before the mailman arrived; a liver-spot sack of bones with a few wispy white hairs slicked back, sagging muscles, and an old blue tattoo dancing on his arm. His piercing green eyes temporarily distracted from the lack of teeth and arthritic, ninety degree fingers the way a Flavor-Ice distracts from summer heat or a full moon from the night.

We had the idea that he had stories, the kind we could someday tell our kids as if they happened to us, but we were too afraid to ask. Instead we pretended he was a CIA spy in disguise, former Nazi, and once, a child molester. We sprayed graffiti on his walls, used one corner as a pisser, and kept our nudie magazines under his back stoop behind a rotting board.

When he died his daughter told us he drove a tank in WWII and that a herald in the mud broke his heart in Austria with a telegram explaining her mother’s death by asphyxiation. They had found her, head in the oven, turkey bleeding in the sink, newborn screaming in crib, and a note taped to the swinging Frigidaire door that read, “George, I know you won’t make it alive. I’ll be waiting.”

Sometimes a man develops guts so he can face mowing the lawn and eating Banquet T.V. Dinners.