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radiantfracture

September 2017

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This morning's freewriting produced this fragment.


In June I would sometimes climb onto the ruined trampoline, brush aside years of oak leaves and pine spears, and lie down with my face to the sky. I'd read my aunt's books, often rocking a little on my back or even bouncing a bit as I lay there. The blue drum-skin was weathered and sagged with me, and acorns and twigs would roll into the groove my body made. It was a better spot for idling than for concentrating, though I dedicated hours to both.

Seventeen is too old to be idle, was my aunt's opinion, and later in the summer she found me a job at the highway store, making bread from frozen dough for the bakery and wearing a striped apron to sell it. The store was nowhere, but it stood behind a bus stop, so once an hour a wash of bored people trickled in to buy coffee and microwaved cinnamon rolls. I found it dull. My aunt said wasn’t lounging around all day dull; I said it was not. She said didn't I want to learn the value of work; I said that gardening was not really work, so she didn't know what she was talking about. She stopped driving me to the store. Still, I understood I was to keep working there, and for lack of another plan I did.

After five o’clock, the bus stopped running past my aunt’s house. I would ride to the end of the line, then walk along the weedy gravel verge. That stretch of road is cut tightly through the forest, twisting between steep crumbling banks. The locals drive fast out of proprietary arrogance. The last twenty minutes of the journey always felt precarious, though in those days cars were not very frequent and I was only hit the once.

The driver had swerved to miss the slow local deer. He'd nearly stopped, but he didn't see me crouching to pee off the side of the road. I stood up just as he rolled past. His mirror clipped my haversack and knocked me down the embankment.

I was cut up and bruised and everything was sprained, but nothing broke. I was able to climb up to the shaking driver, who was neither sweating nor weeping but exuding a clear ink of distress from his entire skin.

He drove me to my aunt's house, and then took both of us to the clinic, and finally drove us to the hospital. On the way we dropped off the doctor at the tire place.

So this driver ended up spending seven or eight hours in our company – mostly my aunt's. She told him about her garden, gently exaggerating the yield of yellow dahlias and summer squash. He told her about working as a software engineer and retiring in early middle age. Most of what he told her was invented or grossly distorted.

That's the man you asked about, the man who eventually married my aunt. And I'll say this: even with those first misrepresentations, if he had not also married five or six other people under various names and identities, I still believe that he and my aunt could have been happy together.

{rf}

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