Bologna gum and a robot card trick at the bottom of the stocking. Let’s clap. The embers of sub-audible children renting space in our heads. Reliving letters of how we behaved (admirably). The dog is cute at present take pictures of the dog grandma hold the dog. Stick on a bow. We’ll always remember you—your dug-up tornado bones. Grinning we made snowflake sputniks to crush under Chinese factories. Handcrafted dwellings of gnawed sticks. Drank in glue and multihued aluminum whorls, shellacked our insides watertight, invoking the well vigil. Silence. We have made it. And yet there remains an inextinguishable boy, suffering. He tries to translate the new lustrous order. We’ve left him behind and don’t know what to do so we lower a sumptuous rope of lamb; a gin tonic; a light of some kind. Our eyes swollen with Hallmark. Godspeed, boy.
Upstairs, in prominence, a man we barely knew is boxed. With our bare hands we salvaged, dragged him from a lake of worldly corrosion. Rebirthed him through plaques and tags. Positioned his fiber and admired our own reflections in the showcase glass, as if we too are celebrated (each regarding his own visage as the one indispensable). The flag folded in thirds. A shadow of gold flowers and flowers and flowers.
The glass came off the uniform. The lock came off everything. Out floods an aggrieved bible spewing photos of some blonde. Out coughs a clump of slick leaves. Lewd letter bullets that don’t even fit a shoebox. In the yellow heat of a crawlspace, a phone that’s been off the hook for fifty years. Deeper doors grow small, must be breached in stages. One by one, we squeeze past the threshold into a space we do not fit: A bird expired in the headlines of foreign wars. Dripstone formations of lace. The palsied husks of hornets. His & hers bowling balls holed in oblivion. The low roof that holds. This is it? We streak our fingerprints across this minor darkness and bang our knees on a borehole that opens on the glittering spread below and whistles with newfound pity. Hungry for air and boyhood. The gospel of blocked mountain passes. A fire in the window and mint in our lungs. Distant arêtes of recall, sharpened in weathering.
We never knew. Never knew Mimosa—her tart devastation. Never imbibed with such stubborn excess as when beer-bellied, rattling figments, amusing the grave bottomless. Behold our egg product, how it buckles the floor. Grandma wake up don’t you remember you love Elvis. Don’t you remember every boy ever? Shall we freshen your tourniquet? Bring the wine scissors. Bring warmth, escalation. Bring denouement. Here’s a quilt of expired colors. An icicle w/ USB headset. Let us screech of compatibilities. Here’s an exact replica of 1987—all the lights on, the Star-Spangled Banner warbling to a room asleep. Here’s a portrait of a fake fireplace. Here’s the hottest in all-weather coffins. Check the hologram! Here. We dreamt it together digitally from ten countries (X would not chip in). Saving the big one for last!
A sound—a draft—it’s the attic. We had forgotten to reseal the doors and now out blows a lawyer on his unjangling sled to regale the assembled grayish multifarious family gestalt a glum poetry of cost. He had been up there hiding, waiting—we must pay a bill. We are in debt and must settle. We puff out our chests, prepared to argue despite that we have always feared we live beyond our means: Indebted to whom? We hope a full invoice has not been prepared. O how this document fills us with dread.
Grandma wakes with a hack, waggling the missing service revolver we’d wanted to complete the tableau. Her foot is in the coffin. She reports the afterlife to be faulty: Ten thousand Polaroids of fog. A husband’s silence in five languages. Years of water at whose edges your contributions lap like pharmaceutical plastics. You were all boys once, she says—all barefoot, laughing. We’re exasperated. It couldn’t be simpler. We’ll get a fucking adapter. But it’s okay if you’re not satisfied we’ll raze the internet. We’ll call the 800 number and hold until they send champagne coupons, champagne blankets, glowing robes of champagne.
The lawyer croaks a dollar sign in the voice of a man frozen to the neck. Grandma is startled. The gun goes off and from her grave foot she blows off a single blue toe. The toe leaps into the fire where it melts. We are so drunk we have to close one eye to follow this. We gaze into the fire like mackerel. Against a pummeling ocean of tilt we close both eyes and try to comprehend: The toe is gone.
The information is slow to penetrate, our dumb phonebook hearts already bloated with rain. Our lips mutter of boiling. Is this the fabled laughter? We cease to trust any shared recollections and clutch at one another’s memories directly, impatient to memorialize the toe that is lost and already fading, as if any seized detail would solicit the truth, and would not be destroyed through mishandling. Unable to raise a legible thought, we avalanche, as children would.
Conversely, as if having succumbed to a bath of electric warmth, grandma’s eyes are now closed.
Eventually we pull ourselves together. Don’t we always? We rise to our feet. Help the dog get free. We concede a practical fact: the lawyer’s presence is opportune. Together we lift grandma onto the sled. We hold up our phones to record, to ensure proper handling. Every angle is covered. He will carry her with ease down the mountain (we will be billed). A goodbye of 90-day deferment. A goodbye of actual heart. A singular, true, exalted . . .
The sled vanishes on the horizon. We continue to record the place it had been.