La Lluvia |
by Charles F. Thielman

The opaline notes of a clarinet
mist the river and distant, green hills
 
as the long-haired sheep of evening
circle to sleep near the roots of trees.
 
Avenues emptied of midnight transits,
neon curves below cloud spun ribbons,
 
a blue-gray sweep of rain
rides the ivory keys milked by her touch.
 
La senora leans over her slow chords,
blue-gray shawl brushing her wrists,
 
she sings her children awake, round eyes
and jade ovals rising from dream.
 
 
___
 
Not a few of Charles F. Thielman's other poems have been accepted by literary journals, such as The Pedestal, Pif Magazine, SLAB, The Commonline, Gargoyle, Poetry365, The Criterion [India], Poetry Salzburg [Austria], Gangway, Windfall [Oregon], Muse [India], 'Battered Suitcase, Poetry Kanto [Japan], Open Road, Poetry Kit, Rusty Nail and Pastiche [England]. His book, “Into the Owl-Dreamed Night” is available through Uttered Chaos Press at www.utteredchaos.org .

 

Daughter Bird Bone Song 2. and 3. |
by Michele Pizarro Harman


2.

 
The calendar photo reveals green grass, blue sky, and many pieces of floating white bread in the foreground. Now that he's inside an aerosol can, he can easily be packed. They call their keno machine shark face, because inside the ball are two arms shaped like fins. The sidewalks are looping and thin and cut through the air like freeways; my father is king here. I taste test from the pitcher of anise and later run down the halls crying help. One weapon is a large metal arm painted into a suit sleeve. It will follow him home, since it didn't yet get his money, and I go to the wedding held in a doughnut shop wondering why the groom's in full drag. The mother offers a plate of confections: one is large and smooth like a goose egg; one is covered in noodles and long like a tube; one is rolled in powdered sugar; all the sweets breathe deeply as in sleep; I pull a noodle off one, and it flinches and rolls over: the joy of free coastal waters, she says from the other room. He lays the baby into Tupperware, closing it over with four different lids; I fear he's suffocated it, but its eyes are wide when we reopen the dish.
 

3.


Rushed and awkward and not at all like Christmas. The fighting takes such a long time. Blot up this blood's pool. Genes. Five demons inside! One of the girls in white gloves, and my character's lines have all been translated into playing cards and dice. I throw a handful of salt into the ocean. People incessantly climb ladders behind me. Suitcases filled with dust and a black high-backed chair as for tarot. Two boys begin their drowning. Cobwebs drop in sheets. I must go now. I ascend too quickly, while my stomach opens like a soft purse, and piles and piles of makeup tubes roll out in plastic, zippered bags. Killed by baby dolphin bites. A force throws me against the room's walls, though I remain uninjured by turning myself half into ghost. Grandma bounces up and down in a short, frilly dress. The electricity which runs Christmas, he explains. Black smoke clouds fill the room.
 
 
___
___
With undergraduate and graduate degrees in English literature and creative writing, poetry, from UCLA and UF, Gainesville, Michele Pizarro Harman has published poems in such literary journals and online venues as Quarterly West, The Antioch Review, Mississippi Mud, Midwest Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Sycamore Review, Berry Blue Haiku, Shepherd’s Check, a handful of stones, The Commonline Journal, and Miriam’s Well. She currently lives with her husband and two of their four children in the small town in Central California where she and her husband grew up; beyond the cows, crows and cranes, she teaches reading, writing, and math to K-6 special-needs students in a public elementary school. She also may be found at: www.michelepizarroharman.com.

green |
by Carl Miller Daniels

cute boys who paint pictures with their dicks
are the bee's knees. cute boys who dip
the tips of their big dicks into paint,
and then paint pictures with their dicks,
are god's gift to the universe.
these cute boys work with big canvases,
mounted low on the easel.
their days are spent copious, surrounded
by beauty, enveloped in the scent
of their oily pubic hair.
sometimes these cute boys get so
excited while they are painting, their
dicks get so stiff, that their
hot freshly-spurted cum gets
mixed in with the paint on their
canvases, and dries there,
along with the paint. after
a day spent painting with
their dicks, the cute boys
who paint paintings with
their dicks settle into
a nice sudsy bath, and
try to get their hardworking
dicks clean, but, truth be
told, their dicks are
never really clean ever
again, but retain the
sheen, the tinge,
of rampant creativity.
as they get older,

these dyed-dick
boys never think of
themselves as tainted, or dirty,
but just, perhaps,
as gently used.
 
 
___
Carl Miller Daniels lives in the United States. He's not a cowboy, but thinks about them a lot. His poems have appeared in many nice places, including Assaracus, BareBack Magazine, Chiron Review, Citizens for Decent Literature, The Commonline Journal, DNA Magazine, My Favorite Bullet, Thieves Jargon, and Zygote in my Coffee. Daniels has three chapbooks in print.  And his first full-length book, Gorilla Architecture, was recently published by Interior Noise Press.  His next full-length book, Saline, is in the works, also at Interior Noise Press.  Daniels and his partner, Jon (aka "the sweetest man in the world"), have lived together for over 30 years. And, if you wanted to see a couple photos of Daniels, you could click here: http://www.myfavoritebullet.com/PP_DanielsCarlMiller.html

Fein on Wonder |
by Robert Wexelblatt


“Just something I’d like you to see.”  That was all the explanation I had given my ten year-old daughter.  In the car Maya tried to guess.  At first she speculated excitedly:  the amusement park? a movie? street fair, hike, zoo?  Then she grew suspicious:  “Not another one of your museums, Daddy!”  My museums. This was Maya’s economical way of expressing disgust and my responsibility for it. Well, I do sometimes make her do things that serve up profit and, despite my hopes, no delight.  It’s bad enough to tell your child that the Brussels sprouts are good for her, but it’s dishonest to insist that they taste good.

            I parked the car a block away so we would have walk down a side street then turn a corner before Maya saw it. 

            Just inside the city limits, in the middle of an affluent neighborhood of Victorian houses, I had once stumbled on this park.  It is an oval of tended grass surrounded by mature copper beeches, twelve of them.  No slides, swings, benches.  Just silence, grass, and those dozen patriarchs.

            I wanted my daughter to see the trees and I wanted to look at them too and feel the peace of the park.  My favorite trees and I’d never seen so many perfect specimens of in one place.  Fagus sylvatica purpurea is my favorite tree.  It does you good to look at beeches, instead of reading the newspaper, for instance.  Trees are admirable beings. “Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does,” Shaw wrote.

            The bark of copper beeches is smooth and gray.  Their trunks grow thick and remind you of fragments of heroic statues.  Their leaves vary:  deep purple, brilliant red, burnished bronze, coppery orange.  The dozen beeches in this pocket park are old, uniformly broad, rounded, symmetrical, colossal.  Their inviting branches begin a little above head-height for a child of ten. As we age we give up even the desire to climb trees.  If our distant ancestors were at home swinging through the canopy, then it’s a case of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny.

            Maya stared at the park, the trees. She halted, arms a little out from her sides, eyes big as they could get in the effort to take it all in at once. I kept my mouth shut.  To see is what I wanted her to do, not listen, except to the quiet.

            Maya is captivated by Disney movies and enthralled by trapeze artists. But neither Cinderella nor circus performers—man-made things —elicited from her the reaction she had to those centenarian beeches, an elemental response drawn by living things made of real elements.  The trees couldn’t care less about entertaining her.

            Maya stood stock still for nearly ten seconds, a perfect emblem of astonished wonder, then gave a yelp and ran to embrace the nearest trunk, to grasp the lowest branch.

 

            “Philosophy begins in wonder,” Plato declares in Theatetus. The Greek word thauma does mean wonder or marvel, but carries also a suggestion of puzzle or problem.  To Plato the fitting, perhaps the most human, response to wonder is to get rid of it.  Wonder, conceived as a hyped-up version of curiosity, is the beginning of inquiry for philosophers who used also to be scientists.

            Scientists like talking about the wonder they felt in childhood, wonder at the natural world, like Maya’s when confronted by a dozen beeches.  The proto-scientists are the kind of kids who asked questions about the life expectancy of a Tyrannosaurus Rex or what goes on inside a black hole.  When they grow up they set about looking for answers.  These are the enchanted who become the disenchanters.  In a sense, scientists strive to turn the sublime into the ordinary; and yet I think for the most devoted scientists even demystifying the ineffable won’t do away with wonder.  How could it when wonder, and the ambition to probe its causes, is the very thing that keeps their shoulders at the wheel? “I want to know God’s thoughts; the rest are details,” Einstein confessed.

            A scientist’s wonder is active.  But what of my ten-year-old with her big eyes, open mouth, those outstretched arms?  Will her wonder be passive and not a spur to further investigation?  Have the two cultures got their own species of wonder?  Is the passive sort poetic—that is, a feeling sufficient unto itself?  Well, maybe.

 

                        There was a child went forth every day,

                        And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became,

                        And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of

                                    the day,

                        Or for many years or stretching cycles of years.

 

Whitman’s sallying child assimilates indiscriminately, appropriates but doesn’t organize a program of research into “the early lilacs” or the “old drunkard staggering home from the outhouse.”  Whitman makes no distinction between the natural and social worlds, outer and inner, artificial and organic, custom or season.  All existence is equally wonderful to him.  Unlike the child who grows up and goes forth to conduct field work, whose wonder becomes, so to speak, professionalized, Whitman’s child—clearly Whitman himself—cleaves to the unmediated wonder of childhood, gobbling up the world, living every day as though it were the first, like those youthful Aquarian revolutionaries of a decade back.  Whitman concludes his poem by closing the circle but, still open, includes a tangent:

 

                        . . .that child who went forth every day and who

                                    now goes and will always go forth every day.

 

What a contrast between Whitman’s open lines of free verse, the democratic vistas of his prosody, and, say, Philip Larkin’s regular rhymes and iambs, between Whitman’s enchanting cosmos and Larkin’s cramped, class-conscious world.  Larkin’s “Vers de Société” is about the passing of religious wonder, of childlike faith, of a solitude that is sufficient unto itself.  In this disenchanted world, virtues are social, vices personal, and hermits are selfish nutters.  God and Whitman’s wonder are both absent. Larkin’s opening stanza is unforgettable and clever, yet too jaded to be really humorous:

 

My wife and I have asked a crowd of craps

To come and waste their time and ours: perhaps   

You’d care to join us? In a pig’s arse, friend.   

Day comes to an end.

The gas fire breathes, the trees are darkly swayed.   

And so Dear Warlock-Williams: I’m afraid

 

What begins as a refusal of against the hollow and wonderless social world winds up with resignation to a suburban soirée as a wretched substitute, even gratitude for the escape it will afford from the self’s fiascos and regrets. In place of wonder, we get this anxious, all-too-convincing faute de mieux:

 

Only the young can be alone freely.

The time is shorter now for company,

And sitting by a lamp more often brings

Not peace, but other things.

Beyond the light stand failure and remorse   

Whispering Dear Warlock-Williams: Why, of course—

 

            Like so many things we feel or do not feel or once felt but don’t feel any more, wonder is a function of perspective.  Reckoned from the moment of the Big Bang what could be more marvelous than my bicycle, or a bagel, or the First Barbary War?  Sub specie aeternitatis what isn’t a wonder?  But the narrower your focus in space and time, the more things become normal—a bike, a bagel, slaughter going on somewhere.  Not only is the next moment usually indistinguishable from the ones before and after, but the context of all three includes countless facts, beliefs, arrangements—wonders looked at one way but now commonplace, mere conditions of life, like gravity and summer, telephones, jet planes, bananas, the two-party system.

            There are different views from the aeternitatis perspective, notably Spinoza’s.  To him, the wonders of the cosmos are not contingent but unfold with Euclidean logic, in accord with the iron necessity of axiom and corollary.  It is an admirable system.  One can’t help being impressed by Spinoza’s determination that everything should make fine sense.  In the seventeenth century, I imagine, making sense of matters was much the thing, for Empiricists no less than Rationalists.  Spinoza too has a brand of wonder; it is a kind of pantheistic praying.  It’s as if the beauty of a copper beech might be arrived at by deduction.  Can a pantheist can love a copper beech, or God?

            A few years ago Thomas Nagel wrote an attractive article called “The Absurd.”  It is the obverse of Spinoza’s ethics.  Professor Nagel proposes a kind of consoling existentialism or at least one without crisis or angst. This is how it ends:

 

                        If sub specie aeternitatis there is no reason to believe that anything

                        matters, then that does not matter either, and we can approach our

                        absurd lives with irony instead of heroism or despair.

 

Here sounds a truly contemporary chord.  Kierkegaard’s faith and Camus’ solidarity are put quietly away in the attic, with the rest of the abandoned exercise equipment.  Is irony—superb balm though it is—really better than heroism or even despair?  For that matter, will irony save you from either?

            I wonder.

 

            According to my Oxford Universal Dictionary, the etymology of “wonder” is “unknown.”  (One can only wonder.)

            The Anglo-Saxons used different the vowels (“wundor”) but the meaning’s the same.

            I also learned that the phrase “in the name of wonder” was once used to lend emphasis to the question that followed it:  “In the name of wonder, Sir, has the Great Fire of London gone out yet?”

            Wonder can be a noun, a verb, an action, an event, an building, a genius, a feeling.  The last is what chiefly interests me, and the O.U.D., never at a loss, explains it this way: 

 

                        . . .the emotion excited by the perception of something novel and

                        unexpected, or inexplicable; astonishment mingled with perplexity or

                        bewildered curiosity.

 

That covers it, I’d say, everything from Maya’s standing still (astonished = to be turned to stone) to Einstein’s shaking his terrific head and giving us his famous dictum:  “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

            Wonder, then, is something inward provoked by something outward—except for those times when we wonder at the peculiarities of our private thoughts and public behavior.  Wonder can be low or lofty, anything from idle speculation (“I wonder who’s kissing her now”) to the awe we feel watching an impossible over-the-shoulder catch or gazing at a few million stars.  When our perspective has narrowed like our prospects and we are, in the worst sense, grown up, we lose our capacity for wonder. That is, I suppose, what happened to the actor George Sanders.  Five years ago he began his suicide note, “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored.”

            Of course Sanders wasn’t simply bored.  After his death, an old colleague reported that fifteen years earlier his friend had declared the intention to kill himself when he reached sixty-five—which he did, right on time.  Depressing enough to hit sixty-five, but you have to add in the failed marriages and the declining career.  Nevertheless, Sanders’ case cannot be dismissed as purely clinical; he blaming boredom gives it a moral dimension.  It’s as if Sanders had reached the terminal stage of Kierkegaard’s aesthetic life, exhausting all of hedonism’s permutations, weighed down by the pointlessness of repetition, feeling life as mechanical with no spiritual dimension.  Existence without wonder.  The world, no doubt, had become all-too-intelligible to him.  That’s how it must be for the deeply cynical. I can imagine how, at the end, Sanders’ perspective would have contracted to the dimensions that hotel room in Casadelldefels and the little bottle of Nembutal tablets by the bed. 

            There are others whose perspective does not contract, not even to the dimensions of their own disciplines.  For that reason they retain, notwithstanding their mental sophistication, a child’s wonder.  Such people tend themselves to be wonders. How different they are from les mort d’ennui. These artists, scientists, and saints also seem to grasp their kinship.  I name Einstein and Kafka, contemporaries on the ground floor of modernism.  Both never lost touch with the wonder whose evaporation Larkin made poetic, on which Sanders acted.  Thus, Einstein:

 

                        The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.

                        It is the source of all true art and all science.  He to whom this

                        emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and

                        stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead:  his eyes are closed.

 

            Franz Kafka also understood art and science as proceeding from the same source—wonder, mystery, a person’s desire, as he puts it, “to rush beyond the limitations of his own small self.”  Thomas Mann called Kafka “a religious humorist.”  Somewhere I wrote of him as “an athletic agnostic.”  But one can say of such labels what Kafka himself did of a certain writer:  “Whatever he says something is always left out.”

            One afternoon Kafka met his young friend Gustav Janouch in Prague’s Franciscan Church of The Virgin of the Snows.  They spoke about the historic building. The setting must have prompted Kafka to speak of religion, of miracles, or the urge that underpins religion, art, and science.   Janouch, as usual, paid careful attention.

 

                        Miracles and violence are simply the two extremes of a lack of

                        faith.  Men waste their lives in passive expectation of some

                        miraculous directive, which never comes, precisely because our ears

                        are closed to it. . .

 

Janouch asked Kafka “What is right?” Kafka pointed to an old woman kneeling in a lady chapel. “Prayer,” he said and drew the young man outside before replying at length, like Einstein but even more like Kafka:

 

                        Prayer, art, and scientific research are three different flames

                        that leap up from the same hearth. . . Art and prayer are only hands

                        outstretched in the dark. . .

 

“And science?” Janouch asked.

 

                        It is the same begging hand as prayer.  Man throws himself into

                        the dark rainbow which spans dying and living, in order to offer

                        existence a home in the cradle of his little ego. That is what

                        science, art, and prayer all do.

 

Janouch ends his account here.  He does not record his reaction; but, if I were Janouch, I would have looked at the tall, doomed, tubercular Kafka with wonder.

 

            Wonder requires open hands, open ears, open everything.

            Why not open our eyes and our ears?  Why not stretch out a hand in the dark?  It’s impossible to deny that the world is a terrible place with deadly dinner parties and lethal hotel rooms.  But the world also has its little girls and copper beeches.  So it is wonderful.

 

                                                         ______________________

 

Editor’s Note

 

            This piece dates from 1977. I found it, with the archaic word Wundor at its head, in his file for that year. The essay is in holograph; Fein never typed it up.  His daughter was born in 1967 and George Sanders died in 1972.  Professor Thomas Nagel’s essay, “The Absurd,” appeared in The Journal of Philosophy, Volume 68, No. 20, in 1971. 

            Like many of Fein’s unpublished essays, this one feels like an improvisation, a riff, n abandoned train of thought, not fully complete or polished.  About the many quotations and allusions, it is hard to say if they were deliberately chosen, the result of free association, or if they reflect what Fein chanced to be reading at the time, the Larkin poem perhaps.  Fein does not always let us know what set him off, but in this instance, what evidently got him thinking about wonder was the visit to the park with the copper beeches.  When I showed the essay to Maya, she told me she remembered the day very well.  She also recalled that, at her father’s funeral, an old friend told her that sometime in the Sixties, when he had become depressed over the state of the world, her father advised him to “listen to the news less and look more at trees.”

            It may seem surprising that Sidney Fein would express anything other than full agreement with Professor Nagel’s celebrated essay and its prescription to adopt, in the face of an indifferent universe, an attitude of irony.  On reflection though, I think it may be just because, as an ironist himself, he understood the limitations of such a stance toward life.  Then again, maybe it is only that, in writing in praise of wonder, Fein felt bound to be ironic about irony.

            The essay’s own irony derives from the contrast it sets up between the world-weary Englishmen Larkin and Sanders on the one side and, on the other, the deracinated Continental Jews Einstein and Kafka.  It is tempting to say that Fein gives his heart to the latter.  His admiration for Einstein and Kafka is obvious; he quotes both at length and savors their words.  Nevertheless, I think it would be wrong to suppose Fein is without sympathy for Larkin and even Sanders.  He was not unfamiliar with faithlessness and boredom or immune to thoughts of suicide. In 1977 he had just turned thirty-five, a dangerous age for some men.  He depicts wonder as an exceptional state, seen at its purest in children.  Loss of faith and ennui are two of the perils of middle age.  Yet he insists wonder is not puerile.  Wonder like Whitman’s requires an openness to the glories and variety of the world, an inward condition provoked by what is outside us, the starry heavens or a dozen copper beeches.
 
____
Robert Wexelblatt is professor of humanities at Boston University’s College of General Studies.  He has published essays, stories, and poems in a variety of journals, two story collections, Life in the Temperate Zone and The Decline of Our Neighborhood, a book of essays, Professors at Play, two short novels, Losses and The Derangement of Jules Torquemal. His novel, Zublinka Among Women, won the Indie Book Awards First Prize for Fiction.  A new collection of stories, The Artist Wears Rough Clothing, is forthcoming.

Things You Get When Your Parents Die |
by Michael C. Keith


We pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal.
                                                                         –– Prayer Book, 1662
 
Most of the sadness Leman Cummings felt about the recent passing of his parents had to do with how little they had to show for their existence on the planet. They left nothing of material value despite their years of hard toiling in the textile mills of Lawrence, Massachusetts. The elderly Cummingses had finally been forced to sell their modest house in order to pay for their care in a local nursing home. 

 

Leman had been able to contribute very little to their upkeep, due to the low salary he was paid as a hand truck operator on the shipping and receiving platform at a large appliance store. The small amount he had managed to give them had all but emptied his savings account, and his efforts to seek a better paying job were thwarted by his lack of higher education. Although he had accumulated a significant number of credits, he remained three courses shy of receiving his associates degree in business from Northern Essex Community College.

 

What he possessed of his deceased parents estate consisted of one small file container, a faded photo album, a few dishes and pots that had seen better days, and two sets of worn sheets and blankets that had been in the family since he was a child. With the exception of a tired Naugahyde recliner and wobbly end table that Leman had added to his collection, all of the Cummings’ old furniture had been either discarded or taken by the Salvation Army. Afraid they don’t do much to improve on this crummy apartment, thought Leman, surveying his stark surroundings.

 

He had moved from his parents’ house three years earlier in an attempt to finally declare his independence and begin his own life as an adult. However, for a number of reasons, he had continued to spend at least as much time with his mother and father as he did in his drab accommodations. For one thing, his mother was a good cook, and he didn’t like making his own meals. Secondly, he could keep a watch on their declining health, which, in the case of his father, was serious. And, as he had no real social life, being with his parents helped mitigate his loneliness.

 

Leman’s relationship with a fellow worker, Cary Boswell, had gone sour after a year and a half, and since then he’d been in such a deepening funk about his life that he had actually contemplated suicide. The needs of his ailing parents had kept him from doing so, but in their absence the notion of ending his barren existence had reasserted itself. Now, as he sat in the gloom of his cheap apartment, he considered ways of taking his life.

 

Got no gun, so that’s off the list. Death by asphyxiation? But how do you do that without a gas stove? Jump out the window. Only on the second floor though, so the best I’d do is break some bones and hurt like hell. Pills . . . yeah, pills are good. Just go to sleep, and it’s over. Could take mom’s old meds. Enough there to take down a wooly mammoth.   

 

As Leman considered his options, he opened the metal file container that he had removed from his parents’ house. He had quickly scanned its contents before and been both touched and depressed by a note addressed to him by his father:

 

Dear Son, I’m afraid our lives haven’t amounted to much, but we’ve always

tried our best to give you what we could. When you look at this ring, let it

remind you that we loved you with all of our hearts. Dad (and Mom)

 

Ring? What ring? Leman had wondered, digging through the box. Finally, he had dumped everything it contained onto the floor. Amid the pile of papers, he spotted what he hoped was the ring. There it is, he mumbled, reaching for it and lifting it toward his eyes. The silver band contained a black stone with what looked like a tiny diamond at its center. Was it Dad’s? Never saw it before. Why didn’t he ever wear it?

 

Leman attempted to put it on his ring finger, but no matter how hard he pushed, he couldn’t get it past his thick knuckle. Dad had such small hands, he recalled. The ring failed to fit his pinky as well, being too lose to wear without it slipping off. Maybe I can get it sized to fit me, thought Leman, placing it in his pants pocket. Later in the morning, he decided to take it to a jeweler to see if it could be adjusted to his finger’s dimension. However, on his way to the mall, another idea occurred to him. Maybe I could sell it. Could be worth something. Sure could use the money. As soon as the thought entered his head, he chided himself for considering it. It’s your father’s ring, Leman. His legacy to you. For God’s sake, that wouldn’t be right.

 

Yet, the idea stuck and soon Leman found himself at a local pawnshop. Let me just see what it brings, he reasoned, entering the store.

 

“You wanna sell or pawn it?” asked the middle age man behind a display case filled with all manner of objects, including watches, bracelets, and rings.

 

“I don’t know. What will you give me if I sell it?”

 

“It ain’t very valuable. Onyx with a little diamond chip. Give you a hundred bucks, and that’s more than I should. It’s old, so that might make it worth a little more.”

 

Leman thought about it for a moment. “Okay,” he answered, surprised at himself for so readily opting for the money.

 

On his way home, he tried to fight off the rising guilt he felt for peddling what clearly had been a treasure to his father. By the time he reached his apartment, he felt sick about it. I can’t believe I did that. Sorry, Dad. Your son is such a loser.

 

Leman sat in his apartment with the lights out, considering his shameless act and thinking about his parents and their many kindnesses to him. After less than an hour, he decided to return to the pawnshop and buy back the ring. Whatever he wants, I’ll give him, resolved Leman, turning the lamp on. As he rose from his father’s tattered recliner, his eyes fell on a shiny object on the end table. What the . . .! Can’t be . . . There before him was his father’s ring. How  . . .? He picked it up, and carefully inspected it. It’s his ring, but that’s impossible . . .

 

After his initial shock, Leman put the ring in his pocket and returned to the pawnshop.

 

“I found this in my apartment. I have no idea how it got there. I’m thinking I might have accidentally put it back into my pocket and took it,” explained Leman, holding the ring before the pawnbroker.

 

“Huh? What are you talking about? I sold it right after you left. Some old guy came in and bought it. Paid two hundred bucks for it. How’d you get it?”

 

“What was his name?”

 

“Don’t take no names.”

 

“What did he look like?”

 

“I don’t know. He was old, like I said. Had a mole on his chin and no uppers. You know, no teeth on top.”

 

Leman shuddered at the description. His father had lost his upper plate a year before he died and had refused to replace it because of the cost. And the mole the pawnbroker spoke of had always bothered Leman, who had long suggested his father get it removed in case it proved malignant.

 

“Where did he go?”

 

“Through that door,” replied the pawnbroker, looking at Leman with growing irritation.

 

“So you don’t know anything else about the person who bought this ring?”

 

“I told you everything I know, buddy.”

 

Leman left the pawnshop and returned to his apartment, all the while clutching the ring in his pocket. How could this happen? Was it my father’s ghost? Incredible. That just can’t be. I’m losing it. Dad, what’s going on?

 

Once again, Leman sat in the darkness of his apartment and pondered the day’s unsettling events. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep. In his dreams, his parents stood over his crib smiling at him lovingly, encouraged him as he attempted to ride his first two-wheeler, watched with pride as he performed in a school choir, cheered him on at a little league game . . .

 

When he awoke, he was filled with deep gratitude for everything they had given him.

 

“I’m so grateful, Mom and Dad, for all that you gave me and what you left me, too. Really sorry for selling your ring, Dad,” said Leman, reaching into his pocket for it, but coming up empty handed. Where the . . .? Don’t tell me I lost it!  He quickly reached for the light switch. When the room brightened, he noticed that his father’s heirloom was now on his ring finger  . . . and it fit perfectly.
 
___
Michael C. Keith teaches college and writes fiction. You can find his website at www.michaelckeith.com