You are reading Fiddleblack #1
Stack of magazines on the sidetable, some with news, some with stories about horses and horsemen. Others with articles on military history. One about knives, one about guns. One with lewd pictures of young girls, their faces smeared with makeup. A president on another, and one small dog-eared pamphlet filled with newspaper print that advertised used cars, motorcycles, tractors, boats. In the bed an old man lay dying under a white sheet. His eyes were open and he stared at the ceiling.
A sigh from the front door. The old man’s ears felt breathed in. He raised his chin. The trailer door was open, letting in heat and the buzz of grasshoppers in the shooting wind. Footsteps on the dustlogged carpet.
A young man appeared in the doorway.
I was wonderin’ who that was, the old man said.
You are nosy.
Come on in here.
I can’t stay long.
The young man came. He looked around at the room, the heaps of dirty clothes the old man would never wash, never wear again. Western shirts the color of tobacco, white shirts with white piping. A mirrored closet half open exposing a wooden bar, a few bare hangers. Garbage bags in the four corners, the mouths open, gargling old junk, newspapers, boxes of shotgun shells, empty vodka bottles. One plastic commode, tan in color. A pair of boots corroded by time and wear, red flakes of mud and leather so you could not separate the one from the other, the particles of earth nor the tanned hides shaped into bootform, unseverable, the wetted ground indistinguishable from the groundfed beast, pseudomorphosized sunlight and sunlight the reincarnation of a dead god who last took breath one thousand universes hence, his final dream an inverse square, a relation of speed to placement, that insubstantial notion that a paired pair produces a tetrad. A stuffed owl in the room’s right middle, its eyes turned away from the bed. The absolute last standing act the old man would ever commit was to rise, hobble coughingly to the owl, and avert its gaze. The young man tapped the stub yellow beak.
Just wanted to wish you a happy Easter.
The old man’s eyes were glassy with pain, the eyes of a stoned man.
You all. The old man stopped. You all havin’ a. Get together.
Mm-hm. Been havin’ one all day. Out at granny’s house.
He looked at his eyes at the word granny but they did not move.
Out at granny’s house?
Uh-huh, that big pasture. You know. Had an Easter egg hunt.
A Easter egg hunt.
Tyrone out there?
I bet he was right in the middle of it wasnt he.
Mmm. You doin’ good. In school?
The old man closed his eyes and held them shut. The young man asked if he needed anything.
You good on water?
Well. I love you.
I love you too.
The boy thought for a second he might kiss the old man, but he never had before and he would not now. He stood instead and looked at the mute, rugged flesh that he would not kiss and he felt his belly burning up and he knew that in time his own flesh would be charactered in the same way and that they were each and all just burning up there on the earth in the violence of the sun.
Brian Ted Jones was born in 1984 and raised in Oklahoma. He has received the Whidbey Student Choice Award, the Bartleby Snopes Story of the Month Award, and was long-listed for the Fish International Short Story Prize in 2010. Brian lives in Oklahoma with his wife, Jennifer, and their sons Oscar and GuyJack.