Because you want to be like John Smith. Why?
The guy’s a twit. A raging narcissist. An impulsive, irreverent heretic, one who–
and all he’d have to do, if we’re being honest here, all he’d really have to do if he wanted to get back on our good side would be to pay a little respect–
refuses to show even the slightest bit of respect! I mean, it takes, what? Fifteen minutes to burn some incense? You go somewhere alone, somewhere quiet, and you meditate on how awesome I am, how fearsome I can be, while the smoke wafts up and disappears.
(I love it. My god, do I love the smell of burning things. Incense, people–everything.)
You know what he does instead? What he did the other night? Did he tell you about that? Fucking guy. He’s jumping on the trampoline–after, of course, taking all the care in the world to put his beer down in the grass–when he gets this look on his face. His pants, it seems, for lack of a belt are falling off of his buttocks. At the bottom of each springy rebound his waistline’s falling lower and lower, while his hands are doing nothing to arrest this creeping descent.
And as though seized by this sudden realization–cool night air on bare ass–and canny to the possibilities present, you know what that prick did? He goes like this. He turns in mid-air, right? As high as he can jump, he’s in mid-air, nearly touching the hanging tree branches. And all of a sudden, with a jerk at his waist, this sonofabitch pulls down his pants.
Yeah. Har-dee-fucking-har. John Smith “mooned” us.
But lest you think me petty, let me assure you that there is another, deeper reason for us wanting to kill him. And kill him we will.
And what about you, Boy? You think you’re off the hook? That I can’t get to you, too? I mean, picture this: how about some blind conveyance of fate? Tell me why I shouldn’t send right now at this instant some errant drunk into your path. Why his truck shouldn’t be made to careen across the line, jump the curb–and now you’re meat in his grill, flesh versus steel–and your brains are smeared across the street.
Can you imagine that? The gears and the spokes all sticking out from your arms, your legs, your ribs? Listen to it, out there: it comes through the trees: the rumble of air from an unseen horizon, semi-vacant; the semis on the highway vacate air.
Just one truck, is all it’d take.
Hey. I watched you, Boy.
I watched you this morning, when the sensation of claws on sole still stung. So, so brave not to tell your mom about that, but good on you just the same. Because you know that she hates you. Did you know that? She hates you. How you live in her house, coming downstairs for breakfast every morning, expecting food, growing bigger. She resents you for being everything she’s not: Young. Free. A man.
Instead, what you did this morning was, you went downstairs and skipped any pre-noon pleasantries by sneaking out the back door. For my part, at that point in time I’m a pale and distant chalk line–but I’m watching you.
You’re fixated on the bike. You unlatch the hasp on the shed door and step into the shadowed air, smelling gasoline, earth, the clippings of grass and the dried prey of spiders. And still I am watching! And the hands in the shadows are all but snickering to see the haste with which you affect to hide your terror, because you feel it, you know they’re in there, too!
Ha ha ha ha ha!
Don’t try to ignore me. I saw you. I saw the oil. I saw you anoint your girl with loving swipes of the rag. The spurt on the gears, that manifold and mathematical array of layers interchanging, working as one to propel faster and faster the shaft.
Do you love your bike? We love you, you know. No, we do. Honestly…
Tracing your fingertips over the wheels… And now you’re pedaling, making your way from your grandmother’s house, that trailer at the edge of the woods, to John Smith’s party. Making your way through the retail outlets, the malls, the commerce all done for the day. No sparkle of eyes for deals done in plastic, but rather plate-glass shining with vapor. Entire parking lots empty, and yet it is on the sidewalk that you ride, catching sight in the windows as though of a specter, a boy flashing by, likewise astride.
You pedal, pretending you don’t hear.
…the horizon: smell it. Ahhh! That smell of salt and the beach, that itchiness that wafts over pines and into your nose…
Last chance, Boy. Because–