Kevin Still is at it again. (Enjoy Kevin's work at Three Hands in the Popcorn Bag.) Talk about a dream sequence worth reading! Good work today, Kevin. To read the entire series , click here.You'll want to start at the beginning if your new to this story. ______________________
She stands stage faded, kitchen yellow dress. Dark neck, chest, arms sparkle salt-water slivers slide skin. Eyes close. One hand microphone. Other strokes air. Yellow dress obeys curves, press hips damp patches late-July. To listen was to want her. To want her was to dream.
Old black man wears suspenders and bow tie sits upright piano. Juice glass gin-full wobbles piano top. Frank can not hear old-man, but Frank can tell he swings jaw and gnaws lip old man asks mercy himself. Janell’s voice swells out. Old man swings chin, eyes close, dreams someone seeps salt-water some other July.
Frank approaches stage, takes air hand. Janell recognizes. She smiles. She sings. Frank pulls Janell close, floor flushes grass field. Music continues but old man, piano, gin-filled glass, disappears and swift breeze lights Janell’s yellow dress, tugs loose places and tightens right spaces. Grass rolls calves, tall and fresh, uneaten by cattle or heat. Frank smells salt Janell’s skin and knows grass ain’t tall enough.
As Frank kisses Janelle, voice sounds. His name. He turns and sees mother stand hilltop, two butter colored hogs, stand horse high, crowd Mama’s sides. Mama calls son, “Frank! Frank, I need you go into town! Mrs. Maggie’s taken sick, and I need you to . . . .”
Angry, explanation full, Frank turns Janell. Gone. Grass grows, taunts place he not hide day away. Hay and grass and hog replace sweet salt smell. Frank turns back mother. She feet away. Hogs crowd her look eye-level Frank, grin through corn-mush and bacon grease slick jowls. He hates hogs. They hate him.
“You hear me, Frank? I need you to go to Mrs. Maggie’s. She’s taken sick, and them field boys ain’t gonna do right by her. She needs some Whiskey and brown sugar heated up and fed her by spoon. You’re gonna have to do it. Frank, you’re the only one. And when you’re done feeding her, you come feed me. I’ve been your mama long enough, and I expect the favor returned.”
Frank walks away. Hogs scuff ground. All this taking. All this expecting. To want away was to dream. Black pig army crowds feet, snort and bounce hind legs, mouths slick filth, filth table scraps, table scraps uneaten pig siblings. Frank kicks them, but black pig army root louder, gurgle chorus grunts and gut-laughs. Frank curses black pig army. Kicks them. Throws fist air. But black pig army snap heels, bite holes socks and take skin. Frank balls fists and slams own head, screams blasphemy at land and life and . . .
Frank woke on the couch. The light of the side-table lamp burned his eyes. He pulled his hand over his face, rubbing his mouth. His lips felt cotton-thick from his open mouth breathing. His throat stung dry. He used his thumb and index finger to pinch the bridge of his nose. He could see Janell in her kitchen yellow dress, and Mama with her guardian hogs standing behind her. Mama stood in every background. Her presence, her voice, bigger than those prized hogs.
Frank swung his feet off the sofa and reached for the bottle on the coffee table. He chugged a gripe of Irish Whisky, smoother than Bourbon, and looked out the window. The music had fallen silent. A few voices – one a bellowing laugh from a gentlemen trying too hard – remained after the crowds. Frank wondered the time and then thought better of it. “Tomorrow, tomorrow, you cursed slave-driver,” Frank said as he reached for the laptop. He couldn’t remember where he’d left off. Just somewhere in his story, his story that seemed to have no beginning or end, just a neon explosion of moments he could not re-gather except in words. Words were all Frank had.
Frank swigged the Jameson again and took the lottery ticket from his pocket. He held it between his fingers and flicked the corner on the coffeetable’s edge. “Mrs. Maggie’s dying, Frank,” he could hear his mama saying, “Mrs. Maggie’s dying, and you got the money right there to do right by her. She’s been your neighbor all your life, I expect the favor returned.”
Frank slipped the ticket back into his pocket. “Mama, why don’t you and your hogs go rut in someone else’s business?” He opened the laptop, waited for the document to reload, and then he lowered himself, mind and spirit and all, back into his pool of words.
The man behind me on the bus out of Millwood finally asked why I kept staring at him. I lied and told him that he looked like someone I knew. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he looked like one of Mama’s hogs.