Years for Ears
The bridge? Out by the river?
Well, of course it’s a creek, but you know, that’s what we used to think, haha. You know how it is. That bridge is older than I am, but it still holds together stronger than any man I’ve ever met. I once saw someone drive his car over that bridge, even though it’s only for walking on. The guy was a nut, but at least he had enough foresight to see if the bridge could support it. It could and did, but I’ve been told it wasn’t a fun ride! I’d believe it, too!
I kissed a girl out on that bridge, too. We took a walk all around town, up and down all the streets, and through all the parks. You can’t do that in this town anymore. Where was I…?
Oh, yeah. On the way back, she pushed me up on the side of that bridge and gave me something to dream about! That girl was the best kisser I ever had the chance with, haha. There was just enough light left in the day that I could open one eye and see the outline of that pretty face of hers before I pulled her in a little closer.
We watched fireworks while sitting on that bridge, too. Every Fourth of July, I remember, we…
Sorry, what was that? Oh, yeah, just a block past the bridge. Yep. Have a good one.
“I feel like I’m upside-down,” she says, asleep, distraught.
He didn’t quite hear her, since he was reading from a newspaper, and her head was deep in the pillow. He understood her perfectly, though.
“I feel like I’m upside-down,” she repeats.
“No, dear, you’re right-side-up,” he tells her, putting a hand on her shoulder. “You’re comfortable, right?”
“But I feel like I’m upside-down,” she says again, but a bit more calmly.
“What if I were upside-down too?”
“That would be okay,” she decides after she turns her face towards him.
He puts the paper down and looks at the curve of her nose. He’d like to trace it with his finger and replicate it on paper, but knows that this is a bad idea. He’d ruin her rest and, probably, a piece of paper. Yet, he felt it absolutely necessary to produce something to prove that he just felt that way. He presses his newspaper into a ball as quietly as he can, and then tosses it at the door of the bedroom. It sits where it lands the whole night through. He does not sleep, but she dreams.
The sun sets on Southgate Boulevard and the bookshop across from the convenience store. People are coming to the bookshop for deals—the shop is going out of business. Everything is forty to eighty percent off. The convenience store has brought out bags of candy corn. Two bags for three dollars.
But now the day’s ending, and the sun has mostly given up to streetlights, lit-up storefront signs, meandering cars, and whatever starlight can pierce through. People standing at bus stops have their hands in their pockets. Some stare at the convenience store, which has windows that serve as the brightest lights on the whole street. Brighter than the moon.
A big man with a big mustache leans on a big concrete pillar outside of the convenience store, holding a small pink bike between his legs. His hands are on the handlebars that have glitter streamers coming out from the sides. He is in his work clothes—dirt on his shoes and on the bottom of his slacks, a company logo embroidered on the right side of his chest. He looks tired.
Across the street, the bookshop has its last customer before they close for the night. A man buys a novel for half the price it has printed on the back cover. The man wanted this book for a while, but the price drop finally pushed him all the way to the counter. The owner of the store happily rings the customer up, wishing him a good night, even though he has yet to find another job to sustain himself after the store closes for good.
There is a little girl inside the convenience store, buying a tall can of iced tea and a candy bar with a couple of crumpled dollar bills and some change. She is seven cents short, but the woman at the cash register doesn’t mention it.
The little girl trots out of the convenience store and grins at the man with the bike, holding her treats with her hands stretched out towards him. The man smiles back, takes both from her, and puts them in his back pocket. Relinquishing the bike, the man says that she can have her candy bar when they get home.
To the girl, the unfolding ride is an uncharted journey across the sea in a pink boat with glitter sails. She is the pirate captain, and her father is her first mate, keeping watch over the treasure.