Nothing Bronze Can Go
By: Davy Carren
The confrontation between two souls, on a road, passing. The truck-crash of struck bowling pins. Nothing subtle. Open a window. Dye the carpet black. A brutal lash of free time, and then the movers arrive with back braces and dollies. Nobody who currently resides here. Nothing left to see.
The cruel shoots of April’s muddy grip. Chirped or pissed down the gutter. Ruffled curtains like a wedding dress. Pinocchio’s wooden balls. Suffering through the malaise of it all.
Fred stepped away from the gallant turn of events his life had yet to take and hefted the carcass up from the recliner, sniffling a bit as he did, like maybe he had a runny nose. He tried and failed to bate his breath. Mariachi music drifted from the crackly speakers. A man with a bad haircut. That’s all. And Fred lifted and stowed his guts for later. A presence or something that lurked between the drywall, and then you shoveled the damn thing to death — wearing cowboy boots of course. Snot crusty with dried blood. Some sanguineous vomit too, or something fatal in the air. A stir that belies all noisemakers. Dirt for the poor to sift through. That’s all Fred was drifting off to. The night was beset with flies.
A cigarette for the old guy, at least. Some tussle with a faulty starter, and Fred was gone. No more sirens. No more lights that do nothing but flash. It’s early, but not enough. Soon’s blank, stark. Another turn’s take. Dressed lightly, now, Fred stared off, lucky as a silver-tipped spruce, in the barroom of his discontent, lonely enough for a whole parking lot, but patient as a guy who grows trees for a living. Acting his age. Nobody’s business. A knee-buckling curve of a kiss. And then night gets on with it. Fred too.
“Mind’s a turnstile. Mouth’s a gruff stake. At best? I’m pouring over drenched fields. Leading an unproductive-out of a life. Not directly. Not exactly. A puff of rosin. And me? I’m not startled at all.”
Fred was mowing what smidgen of lawn he had left. Something meditative about it. Something mind-muddling. It was just for show. A curve of yard. Guessed off the surface of tilled grievances, he forgoes, he flits, and then he settles. The greeting goes something like, “Forget you’ve ever heard this voice.”
The first laugh was on him. It began smaller than he’d expected: just a tickle burglarizing his throat, a slight twinge of mirth. Then? Well, there are all sorts of whens to consider. Fred didn’t consider any of them, though. Instead he murmured, “Damn it, Ray!” to a passel of grousers who were seated on a curbstone. A car with antlers coming out of its headlights drove by. Everyone was abashed, except for Fred who was more agog than anything. “A firm step,” he thought, “That’s all I need. Act my age. Keep my genitals high and dry. Give some directions, take some others. I keep forgetting how to sing. That’s all.”
People seem to be disinterested. Drunk off to sleep, again. Something punched that way. Trenched and conceited, and to be lumped in with the likes of them, well, for Fred that’d be the worst.
So, Jack was back behind the bar, minding his Ps and Qs as always. And at a table there were some folks sitting around on low-back chairs: mostly just a few poets telling dirty jokes and getting drunk on boilermakers. Fred was almost miserable, jaywalking through his worst mood in a week. An acute case of The Horror was on him. He kept thinking, “This is just the pits.” The phrase whorled in a turbinate spiral through his head, over and over. Finally he exposed his messy interior: “All is a waste of energy. Everything. I’m a better capitulator than you’d imagine. You? Yes. You. You who are so splendiferous and wasted. Only the agitated stare better, or off, that’d be, in the languor of another fly-drowsy afternoon. There was a lady around here, at the bar, who drank champagne from tiny bottles and stuck her tongue in strangers’ ears. She looked just like Gregory Peck and smelled like a brewery. I could tell you that she don’t come around here no more. Yep. Nothing doing, at least when you square all the ‘around here’ that’s going around. Nothing nice about my time. Boy, did I get myself done right quick there. Something smashing about the whole deal. But Mr. Jack always wears his glasses when he’s pouring. Don’t you, Jack?”
Jack didn’t attempt to acknowledge Fred at all. He thought his eyes might’ve been showing something wry or sardonic, and so turned away and walked to the other end of the bar. One of the poets laughed a dry, phlegm-y laugh. A sparrow died on the building’s fire escape. The moon went down.
Fred wasn’t anywhere. Fred wasn’t doing a thing. He had hair like an Iranian goalkeeper. The strong swift swell of his pride was not enormous at all, not even enough to pull a sweater over, but something anyway.
“It’s what the piss-yellow hours do to you. Patrolling’s for dog-sweat imbibers and holier crap-outs than these. Like the guy who chopped down the oldest tree on the planet, as if knowing would’ve helped. I get gruffer all the time.”
The sunlight, sliced with a streaky down — like sap cut with caramel — hung heavy and festooned with dusty pipe dreams as Fred became enamored with the glint of the bottles behind the bar. A cooped-up stir slithered through him, and then he watched the bar stools, all lined up beneath the bar’s lip, their coppery legs flecked with silver spots, something almost caduceus-like about the design, a swirling loop of pipes as if the grid of support for the seat needed a chic sway of style to hold up the patrons. Fred didn’t dislike any of it at all. He sat alone at a table and kicked around in the peanut shells and dead cigarettes, and the more he thought about having another, the more he couldn’t muster the strength to get up and order it.
“Bad habits just keep getting worse. Telling time by the TV. One more. One less. I do not own the rights to any of this.”
A certain coarseness. A cropped blurt of honesty. Something terrified yet still smoothed to a burnished bit of bliss, a sawed-off lilt snuck away and hid in the brutal parts of being sad. Nothing that’ll warrant a description. Booted to a standstill. A way to feel that’ll never be the same again. Skinned sentiments and some small, pale stranger sings, “There just ain’t nothing like despair, baby,” to a crowd of summering delinquents.
Then, for Fred, it comes down to this: “Romance is for the refrigerator repairmen, the shoplifters, the tinsel makers and the jaywalkers. My heart’s in the shop. I wince and wheeze as the building-top flags flap and crack in a high gust, while all the lovebirds around here just look like ham sandwiches and limp pickles. I carry more than I’d care to out into it all, something rotten to brush my hair with, staying’s power to let go, and I catch snatches of sleep in my teeth. The cause of it all? An abysmal riot in the church-going well of my ketchup-and-mustard-holstered esteem. That’ll cut it right out for you and leave the pieces in the fireplace. Scouring the sewers and the garage sales for the point to it all. And, just like the rest, all I leave behind is my lies. Well, nobody’s playing the Wurlitzer. And the past’s going everywhere. Well, I guess it’s back to the minors for me. Showboating my despair all over town, it gets really tedious, and I’m a hassle that nobody wants to show off. Ride the subway all through the night. Get even with the oddest of characters. A woman in a moss-green vest walking sullenly towards me, up the sidewalk, down in the mouth, draped in the charity of ugly strangers, with the crescendo of booms going bust in that chilly old night. And I pick apart the space between us with whatever troubles might do, or don’t for that matter. There was the most comfortable silence on the planet between us. Nothing I thought or did would make any of it matter. Just a cross to never bear. Broken on a whim. Her eyes like credits rolling. I did what I couldn’t. All of my mumbo is jumbo. Hell, I’m through with it. Don’t tell the neighbors I’ve gone insane. But you better bet I’ll play footsy with God one day. One day I’ll get my soul massaged by cruel angels. And my boots will shine without sin. And my name will be tarnished, and loud, and it’ll rhyme with Jesus.”