bird on a field

an older man – say mid 60’s – stopped his bicycle, orange vest glittering in summer afternoon sun, quirked a helmeted-head and asked,

‘why you flippin’ them tires?’

shirtless and drenched and gasping rather gracelessly for air, my hands clawing the fabric of my shorts on bent knees as i gathered myself, i responded with a squint and,

‘huh?’

unfazed, the man re-asked his question,

‘why you flippin’ them tires?’

he gestured to the pull-up bars between us and asked,

‘why don’t you play on them bars?’

i heard him clearly this time and was upright and walking towards him and realized

i did not have a single answer that made any more sense than the other as to why i was flipping tires in 90 degree heat on a sun-soaked field by myself.

and i realized then how absurd this looks and that I’m working muscle groups i could work indoors and that i actually don’t need to work out at all or this hard at least and that i need to pee and I’m tired and it’s hot and

i smiled and said,

‘it feels right.

i dunno,

it’s just kinda fun.’

the man on a bicycle in an orange vest considered this, lied politely saying, ‘maybe I’ll try it one day,’ and rode off.

i drank some water that was hot because it’s hot and i forgot to put my bottle in the shade, typed this on my phone, and then flipped that tire a few more times because

why not?

what are miracles, she asked

‘what are miracles?

 he stopped short, spilling a few drops of milk on the counter.

‘that’s an odd question,’ he said, placing a blue bowl of cheerios – store band, mind you, with a little honey on top – in front of her.

‘what made you think of it?

she was already halfway through her first bite, displaying a hereditary lack of patience-while-hungry, and he let her chew to a finish before answering.  he used this time to wipe the countertop clean with a hand-towel and sit down next to her.

he, too, had a blue bowl of store brand cheerios.

and a healthier dousing of honey, but she wouldn’t notice, he thought.

‘i heard m

 ‘swallow, hun.’

she did, begrudgingly.

‘i heard my teacher say, ‘it was a miracle’ when talking to another teacher.  she was talking to mrs burns.’

‘now, honey, you know it’s rude to listen to adults when they’re not talking to you.’

she finished another bite,

such large bites of cereal she took, no doubt a lesson learned from her father,

and refused to be sidetracked.

‘what are miracles?’  she pressed, again.  ‘i think i know what the word means,’ she jumped in, beating him to the punch of asking, ‘but i don’t know what a miracle . . .‘

she paused, this time chewing over her word choice, ‘ . . . looks like.’

she held her spoon tightly in one hand, her other closed in a tiny fist of distracted curiosity and determination.

she turned to her father, a few blond curls spilling over her ears, and allowed him to finish his bite of store brand cheerios, but held eye contact, blue eyed-contact.

he pushed his bowl forward, an unspoken lowering of house lights, and the ushers pulled the doors, not to be reopened until intermission.  his audience leaned forward.

‘miracles,’ he said, looking at his hands, held open, palms to the ceiling, resting on the breakfast nook table,

‘miracles are the things that happen

when all we can do is hope.

when there is nothing left but hope,

no action, nothing we can do ourselves.

miracles are when the night

seems endless

and we have no light,

but a light shines, anyway.’

he looked over his left shoulder,
back to her blues, smiled,
and toned down his rhetoric.

‘miracles are when the things that scare us in the dark

stop being scary.

when those things leave us joyful,

you’ve seen a miracle.’

she blinked.

he fought off the urge to recite a list, metaphorical and literal, of examples, and chose one.

‘every day, you go to school.  i can’t control what happens when you are gone, no matter how badly i want to.  all i can do is hope you are safe and come home to your mother and me.’

‘daddy, you always pick me up.  i come home with you.’

‘you’re ruining the moment!’

she giggled and crammed a spoonful of now slightly soggy store brand cheerios in her mouth, never taking her eyes from her father’s, making this one of the messier bites of the morning.

‘all i can do is hope you are safe and happy when you are gone.  and every day you come home safe and happy, that is a miracle.  to me, at least,’ he said, reaching for the hand-towel.

the 12:05 to chicago

the train was late.

he snapped his watch closed, pocketed it, and rocked back onto his heels

his friend remained seated on the bench, idly leafing through a glossy magazine, only reading headlines and colored, full-page advertisements.  turning the page to a voluptuous cartoon woman selling eyeliner, he asked,

‘say – what do you think is the most dangerous animal?’

the standing man, now on the balls of his feet, did not turn while adjusting his cuffs and asked, ‘how do you mean?’

‘i just read this story about circus tigers, and-‘

‘you never read the stories.’

‘yes, fine, i just read a headline about circus tigers turning on their trainers in iowa. tigers seem a rather dangerous animal, and i got to wondering what you might think is the most dangerous animal.’

‘without question a man impatient and in love,’ said the standing man, again eyeing his watch and the notable absence of the train.

a house i would build for you

if i were to build you a house,

assuming i had the skill,

the resources,

the patience,

the time

to build for you a house with my own hands,

i would include a tower made of stone standing ten stories tall.

the tower room would have windows roof to floor, a ceiling made of glass to usher in the stars for you,

and a zip line without a harness because f*** it, we’re not playing around, here,

that would bring you to the breakfast table in the mornings as i wait and do the crossword and do my best not to eat your biscuit as it grows cold and your glass of orange juice, condensation on her brow, quietly shakes her head and thinks we’re a little silly.

an errand

it was closer to 7:00 than his 5:30 promise.

she sat facing the door, on the sofa they’d picked out last summer at an estate sale.

in a well rehearsed pose, her arms were crossed, her face set, her eyes resting on nothing in particular.

he opened the storm door and fumbled for his keys after realizing the front door was locked.  she remained on the sofa.

he fit key into door, fought his way over the threshold with two armfuls of brown paper bags, and used his heel and then backside to close the door behind him.

he paused upon seeing her well rehearsed pose, glanced at the clock on the far wall of the living room, and whispered a near-coherent, ‘oh, it’s almost seven.’  a quiet ‘mhm’ was her response.

he shuffled to the kitchen table, set down the bags, and began unpacking.  from the living room, she said, ‘i only asked for one thing.  what on earth took you so long, and why do you have two bags?’

he stopped unpacking and looked at his feet.

‘honey, why do you have two bags?’

one shoelace was slightly askew, he noticed.

‘i’m not upset, you were just later than you said you’d be, and i don’t know why you have two bags.   what were you doing?’

he inhaled through his nose and said,

‘i couldn’t remember which one you asked for, so i got ours and all of jupiter’s, too, just to be sure.’

he decided the shoelace wasn’t so bad that it required retying.

at his response, she found herself straddling a line of irritation and genuine endearment (which is what love often feels like, yes?).   she stood, shaking her head and smiling, and helped him finish unpacking.

a box still full

‘i meant to give her these last week,’ he said quietly and to himself, sliding the lid from a white box containing a pair of small pearl earrings.

he exhaled through his nostrils, his shoulders slumping in time with the exhalation.

he held the now open box, top forgotten on the coffee table over which he stood, shins close to one corner, eyes washing over the pearls, as if expecting them to move, speak, advise.

they caught well the light of the room,

but the earrings did not speak.

he leaned over, left hand fumbling for the box top, eyes still on the pair of pearls.

stubborn, they were,

and silent they remained

though perfect, he hoped, for her.

‘this week,’ he said still quietly, placing the lid over the pearls.

he inhaled  through his nostrils, his shoulders rising  in time with the inhalation.

‘this week,’ he said more firmly.