When death hands you pears…
LITERATI! When it rains, it pours! Here is Jonny Tobias’:
Pears. People saw the boy with the plough, but did not try to stop him. They only waited to see what grew, looking east after the saplings began to mature to see a never ending trail of pear trees in rows of four. Not many acknowledge that the trees came from the boy, though no one forgets the sound of his feet, the plough, or his mumbling…
As soon as word gets to my town about him, I know he is coming back for me. I do my morning paper route as usual, knowing that there is no point is trying to move on to the next town. The sky suddenly darkens, and I decide I’m dreaming.
I almost crash my bicycle into him.
“Who will take care of me now?” The question comes as if from a dream, asked by the pile of small watches he has collected and left on a dresser in a house no one remembers. He drools and breathes heavily. I know him. He looks down to me and asks it again. His brown eyes are wet with tears.
“I don’t know.”
He shifts and his bones slide under his skin like a clenched fist in a latex glove. He picks up a pear off of the floor and begins to eat, smacking as the juice drips between the deep cracks in his lips, then down the rest of his naked body. His other arm is long, very long, stretched out the way a hallway stretches in a bad dream. The hand attached to the long arm is skinless, and his knuckles dig into the earth like a plough. The same hand is clenched, holding two bodies. One wears man’s clothes. One wears woman’s clothes.
“Who will take care of me now?” I know his face. It is a face that came from the same translator as mine. The same big nose and heavy lidded eyes. Only, whatever language that spoke me into existence must have stuttered him into his.
He shakes his long arm and grunts, biting his lip, causing it to bleed. One of the bodies he drags loses a shoe. “They died.”
“And you are alone?”
He stares past me not answering. He could easily keep moving, easily push me aside.
“I can’t take care of you.” I almost don’t say it.
He begins piling pears into the basket on my bicycle, pulling out the newspapers and throwing them so far. Badly made paper planes given flight by so much strength and dumb determination.
“Not me. I can barely take care of myself.”
He shoves a pear into my mouth knocking out one of my teeth, though I notice the sweetness before I notice the pain.
I want to say I ran away to make my life better. That you can’t keep people afloat whose only desire is to drown. I spit the pear out watching as my tooth stays inside like a worm poking its head out. He loops his fingers through the spokes and begins pulling the front of the bicycle to the left.
He is not a monster. He is a never ending trail of pear trees. Only, he never looks back to know that. I think of Lot and his wife. I would have looked back to at least remember where I came from, to see that being lost has born some fruit. He will never understand that.
My bike faces the other way, and I can feel the frame give a little as he forces some of himself onto the seat, resting his big feet on the back pegs, digging the fingers on his free hand into my shoulder.
I ride slowly with the weight of him and the plough of his hand dragging our parents’ bodies. I knew this day would come.
“How long are you going to care for me?”
“Till the goddamn wheels fall off I guess.”
“Till the goddamn wheels fall off.”