Ironton, 3.B.5, 600 words

The sweet last listens to Connie. He is in a corner beneath a chair. She rubs her scalp and closes her eyes. “I’m sorry,” her fingers around his slender sweaty ankle. The boy creeps over Connie’s lap. Jack soft-shoes gray dust on the carpet heading toward the bathroom. “No. No.” “He needs to be on the bed. You know.” “No.” Jack folds the vent of the drapes over itself. Light spills still through. Cloudbands string over the desert. Seated Connie flies, hair swaying. The boy’s skin flashes cold. Connie bolts at the lash of that acrid smell, gripped in the firm closing hand of its earthen floor evocation, of somnambulant salts, and the rapid striding from the bathroom brown shade of this man, Jack, with a rag wavering in the still room pressing over the boy’s face, his mouth and eyes lost and body pooling on the floor over Connie’s bent knees. He folds the rag, drags the boy onto the bed, and binds the legs straight and tight together in a coil of sheet. Connie watches blowing bits of dried spume and wadded wavering cotton. “You need to be part of this.” “Of what?” “This. Hold him like before.” “He’s unconscious.” “Not fully.” “I won’t be part of it. It doesn’t matter.” “It doesn’t matter. It’s our way now. It’s his way.” “He’s my son.” “This is only partly him.” Blood, a shapely pressured dome, wells and runs from Jack’s first shallow scoop. The knife in Connie’s hand, Jack pouring water slowly over the excavation reveals the throbbing artery. “You must be precise. Prick it with delicacy. The finer you are the further it reaches.“ And she does and she holds him, like the others, as a colorless, spun arc slender lets go. It hits the far baseboard fanning red over molding beads, then black in the carpet. “Turn him. More.” The arc draws across the room. “The sink,” where their bag is untied. Its puckered mouth sags and when the arc aligns transfuses the blood like a corpse’s dream gratitude for the attention of embalming fluid. Sweat evaporates from his skin turning a greensick pallor. The sides of their bag swell against the sink. “Put him away. The chair is here.” Connie struggles to arrange him under the chair and is hosed by the weakened thread of blood. Jack cinches the bag. Her face is blank. Her blank face flies somewhere away from where she believes she is, away from her body. “I don’t believe it will look like much. It won’t look like him. But it will find its own way out of this. He will find his own way.” “I don’t want to wait. I don’t understand it. It’s a mess. Nobody could understand it. It isn’t him. It means nothing to me.” “We didn’t do it for you.” All the parts in the cinched oilcloth settle with a sickening squish, drawing famished flies on the tailgate of their car in late afternoon. “All that.” “This is him.” The two watch it sweat and watch for it to struggle into something else. The pleats and folds in the stiff material swell. “Should we say something? Should we ask for something?” Its green skin stills. At dusk a great inert nightmare of stars peers out. The sickening sound ceases from the spread out sack. “Nothing happened.” Jack hoists it like garbage from the dull paint and swings it into a gulley. The stars grown pronounced, gathered on the desert floor rocks, are quickly indistinguishable, at once glistening pricks and distant, worn haze. “Let me take you somewhere.”

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