Parenthetical #7


Back at work he can’t stop thinking of the things coming. Of the things that are now bound to happen. Of the things that are happening.


(he sees hundreds of children lined up single file. The road gray gravel long and straight. A line of aspens with yellow and crisp leaves fluttering. And there is nothing on the other side. Nothing opposite the line of trees and the line of children. Nothing but a gray horizon. A gray sky. A collection of long yellow grass. The world is filmed in a gray dust. Filtered through gray lenses. Touched without color. And the children stand like stone. Like statues. Their faces and eyes and mouths say nothing. He is their father now and he doesn’t know what to do).


People line through and his feet grow numb with standing.


(the line of children hope to see the sun someday. He can hear it in their breathing. And he can see it on their lips. Those lips gray and dying. Those lips that haven’t known clean water or the look of green leaves. They are children he knows who have nothing but gray and yellow and dryness. Children who see him as a father but who look back with hollow eyes. Sunken cheeks. Sad mouths with teeth rotting from a lack of use. Useless children in a single file line in between yellow aspen trees and a gray forever horizon).


He handles dresses with flowers and shirts with stars and jeans with the seamed signatures of celebrities.


(in this line of single file children with their hollow eyes and sunken cheeks he is powerless. He walks up and down their number like a sergeant calling to arms but his mouth brings nothing. It waves open and shut but nothing comes out. Like vocal cords set to mute. Like strings unplucked. But he continues to walk up and down their line and shout shout shout. And still nothing. And they don’t look at him. They don’t make contact. They can’t. Because he is a father that can’t help them. They know this. The children in a line of gray).


He takes money and gives money and people walk out with bags of things and with pawing smiles on their faces.


(in his head the line of children is growing. Has grown. So now as he walks he finds no end. There is no last child. There is no first child. The line is infinite. The children do not run out. The children are endless. The children are infinity for him. He walks and then he runs. And his still muted mouth is saying things that he wishes they could hear. But they can’t because he is mute. And even as he runs he is still. Because their faces are all the same and there is no end and the trees are all the same and the light isn’t growing or dimming. This world is static).


At lunch he eats and touches his own hands. They are rough and feel old. He is young but his hands today feel old.


(he sees that the gray road is flooding. He watches the tidal wave move endlessly towards his line of children. His children. And he can do nothing but run. He runs towards the wave and then runs away from it. Nothing happens. And as it curls and skims children are picked one by one from their single file stature and peeled into the wave. There becomes more children than wave. The wave is those stone faces of his children. And the wave keeps on. Keeps spilling. And the children keep going up and up and up. They are in the crest and the foam and the curve. They turn even the ocean to gray).


After lunch it is more of the same. So that even a woman in a simple black dress with a high and hitched hem line can do nothing to arouse his eyes from their stale look.


(he floats in the disease of them. The dis ease. The un ease. The illness. They are like always face down so that now it is their gray hair he sees. Their dust covered scalps. Their exhausted skulls. He simmers on the top arms out and legs scissor kicking. He cannot develop. He cannot become more than he is. So even as the wave vanishes down the line and the children’s heads bob he can do nothing but float. He floats and weeps. But his tears are nothing in the wave. His tears are no soak to the already dead and drowning world. His tears are nothing in a world so wet with weeping already).


He clocks out and thinks about how x hours at x dollars and x cents will never amount to much.


(the water swirls like towards a drain. But it is deep and there is only the vague notion of a drain. Beyond that it is him still floating. Still hanging there. Still laying watered arms on the surface of gray. Still scissoring his legs. And the children are now all face up and their mouths are saturated. Their mouths are lakes on top of this lake. And as the whole thing swirls and moves the children gather momentum and suck to him. He is a magnet to their drowned and stony face. He is accumulating them. He is a link to all those open mouthed drowning children).


He walks back to the apartment. He didn’t drive because he didn’t want to. The longer it takes the happier he can be. For a time. For a time.


(when the water is gone the world is more gray than before. The water has brought a depth to the colorlessness. The water has re-imagined the gray. The water has polished the world back to gray and dust. He is splayed in the road. The gravel replaced. The road still straight and long and dry and dusty. But now the children are crucifixion images scattered on the landscape. They spread in all directions and consume the horizon. They are an infinite dotting of the letter x). 


He smells cookies and heat. She is at the oven. She is baking.


(he sees her walking towards them. The children and him. He is still incapacitated. Laying arms spread. A crucifixion among many. A capital X among all the lower cases. She is walking towards them in bright and gaudy clothes. She is a gypsy. She is red and orange and blue and green. She is purple and yellow and pink. She is colors. And the world she travels in is gray. It is his world. His world and his piles of children face up and gaping. Face up and mouths filled with miniature lakes. Faces of stone and water like fountain pools. She does not fit in with this world).


He should say hello. He should kiss her. He should say I love you. But he sits and drinks a beer instead.


(he sees her standing over him. Her head is in the gray clouds and he can barely open his eyes. His eyes are slits. His eyes are squinting. His eyes are minimal functions. His eyes are gray now. She looks down at him and speaks but her voice too is muted. He sees her mouth moving open close like a fish breathing. Like a fish gulping and praying to the ocean. But he hears nothing. Instead he watches the aspen trees now leafless but still gray. Now upside down as he tilts his chin to the sky).


He thinks about the black and white static picture of it. He thinks about the heart beat of it. He watches a baseball game go into extra innings.


(he watches her walk away in those bright colors and the gray background of this world. He watches her ignore the scattered children who lay with stone faces and mouths full of water. He sees that she pretends to look interested in the horizon but it is gray and uninteresting. He watches until she disappears. He watches until she is a mirage. He watches until it is just him and the children and their lake mouths and their x shaped bodies and the grayness all around. He watches until he realizes he is one of them now. Mouth open and full of water. Gray).


She sits beside him and holds his hand. She pretends to watch the last bits of the game.


(in time the rain comes and it is cool. The sky has been gray and the air dry so the rain is cool and unexpected. But his eyes don’t twitch when drops pelt them. His eyes absorb the rain. Soak the rain. Drift with the rain. And it makes a hollow sound on the lake in his mouth. And it runs from the side when the space is filled. The water darkens the dusty road surrounding him. The water plays in the mouths of all the children laid out in dots and the shape of x. He hears the rain in their full mouths like an orchestra tuning dirt).


He looks at her and winks. He winks because at least that is something. She rests her head on his shoulder.


(the rain continues until it stands in inches around their statue bodies. Their mouths have all overfilled and are wetting the ocean around them. But they all like him remain still. Posed. Poised. And the inches become more until their bodies like bodies on salt water lift and lay on the surface of the new sea. Things are still gray but at least they are lifted. Things are still quiet and sad but he feels the tiniest reaches of desire. Water will replenish them he thinks. The children will revive. He may revive. He may survive. He might subsist. He might exist for even one day more).



- J. A. Tyler