Fleas

by dschapman

A child was born near the end of the 20th century to a hard-working family in the greatest country in the universe. He –

“I am supposed to be writing a story. I resolved to myself to write stories now, real stories, with beginnings, middles, and ends. It could be as simple and short as I wanted. But god damn, I can’t even think up the first thing about a story. I don’t even know what a story is anymore. I am paralyzed.”

I carved in neon letters across the screen: “SO, I LIKE TO WATCH MOVIES, WHAT?” I felt like I was drinking someone’s cum. Horribly disgusting. I threw a book from my bookshelf and kicked it across the hall. I had a hall, in those days, that ran from the front door to the read porch, and I kicked my book down it, out the door. I wanted to throw my fists in the air and cry, “No one understands a word I say,” and point at some, blame someone personally, for my badness; and then have that someone take hold of me, hit me, and tell me: “Who are you, to throw a fit? Who do you think that you are, acting like that? Grow up! Just grow up! You’re pathetic!” And I would kiss them, like Jim Dean, and laugh all about it. God, that Jim Dean, he was a slut, and despicable. He slept his way up, sure, and he was rude about it, too. He was just a wanna-be, some jock, barely even literate. Now Montgomery… Montgomery was even worse!

When was the last time I…? I saw a snake hanging from a tree and it’s been in my dreams for weeks. I can’t keep it from dropping on my shoulders. It is all over my shoulders. I hate snakes, but I love them. I loved watching it crawl across the road in the heat. It was pure struggle, and it chilled me to the core being next to that wonderful animal. I liked that deep, natural aversion, and I leaned into it, and I picked up the snake from the asphalt, and I walked it to the end of the road. I almost passed out as it slithered off my fingers. The snake in the grass and the sun in my eyes was almost a religious experience.

“I have been having very strange and vivid dreams lately. But when I wake up I want to remember them but they clean disappear. And I try to remember them, dreaming up all these other possible dreams. ‘Well I could have been dreaming about walking to Boston, or robbing a train, or growing beans,’ but I just can’t settle on anything.”

Every time I my phone rings I startle. My heartbeat quickens and I am afraid to see who is calling. When I get an e-mail, I breathe a sigh of relief when it is just spam, or somebody trying to sell me something. What am I so terrified of? Who am I trying to avoid? Why can’t I just step forward, strong and safe and proud, into the world, and engage with it? The most natural aversion in the world…

Darl, my dog, got in a fight with a stray, and successfully defended us. I lifted him up over my shoulders and carried him the rest of the way. I felt like a real boy, carrying him, like a strong man might carry someone in need. But it nearly broke my back, and when I got home I collapsed with a handful of pills, sleeping with Darl on a pile of towels in the bathroom for a few hours before going to the vet.

I am womanly now, and I am weak. I should have been born a woman. I should have been born a beagle mutt. I sure don’t see how I’m fit for the world as it is. I could have really been anything, like they say. I could have been a contender. But I’m nothing, as is. I’m nothing but trouble, and I’ll be gone before long, never disturbed nobody, never owed anyone a thing.

But I do have debts. And I have disturbed many people. I am a man, and I have boulders to roll, and oceans to part for my crossing. In the spirit of John I dove into the river and said my prayers as I sat in the mud with the catfish. In the spirit of Christ I sat down in the desert for 40 days fasting, drinking only water, and indeed, I had my visions, and I experienced the spirit. But the environment is different now… And I do not really have vision, and even if I did, I do not have the will

There are spiders all over the house. My walls are alive with creatures to consume. The mice, the snakes, the roaches, the spiders, the ants, the centipedes, the silverfish, the flies, the moths, the worms, the fleas, the beetles, the wasps – ecosystems in my house. I don’t blame them. It is a good place to live. I am no more deserving of it than they are. And I take up more than my fair share.

“I should take a story-telling workshop,” I think. “Isn’t that how people learn things? They take classes? I should learn how to tell a story.”

 

 

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