6. White Dwarf

They said he was a strange volume, scariest in flight. “My god, you’re torturing this boarding ramp,” a large woman in a business suit said.

The plane above Chicago struggled to climb. “What if I slip through the seat?” he asked Martha.

“Must I always fear losing you, Thin as String?” she asked. “Escalators are the worst. When you’re on, it slows down and groans, but it also craves you, that frame of yours, thin as the edge of a square.”

He passed scratchless through thickets. Martha and Liz crashed out pulling thorns and slapping at their arms and legs, hair twig-flecked and ragged. “God, a tick on my arm,” Liz said. “I wish it were yesterday or tomorrow but not NOW.”

Martha whispered to him at the theater. “You leave impressions where ever you go. Bill said you owe him for that ruined couch. And how many times have you forced a repair to his porch.”

“We’re never going back there,” he said.

He threaded his way around turnstile arms. “Help me,” he said. “Help me up.” His brother had climbed over the fence. “You just had to slide under it, Scrawn. That’s maybe five inches there at the bottom. Did you know Dad thinks you’ve crushed the mattress coils?”

“My pants keep dropping and it isn’t the school yard bully, Dad.”

“Suspenders, then,” Dad said. “That’ll do the trick. But you’ve got to walk to school from now on.”

“Why?” he asked.

“You keep blowing my tires, Shrimp.”

“Look how the water explodes from the sole’s of his sneakers after he walks through puddles on stormy days. They needed four grown men to pull him from the concrete he stepped into. The ferry rides low, you know the work day’s done.”

“Why are you always squeezed against me when I wake up in the morning?” he asked Martha.

“Why do you think?” she said.

“Because you love me so.”

“Scrawn, what happened to the swings?” “You’re not riding with me.” “He’s on our team.” “No ours. He’s running back and center.” “Scrawn, we’re locked out. Slip yourself under the door and get the keys.” “You’ll never be an astronaut.”

“Don’t bother with the lock,” he said. He eased through that small gap between the door and the frame and threw the door open to them with a smile. He had to let air out to ease past the dead bolt.

At the age of sixty? The connectivity of bone and muscle and other tissue grew worn, the fractured knobs of his joints saying, “Save us and save us soon.”

“Look, I’m a dusty raggedy doll,” he said, flinging himself about. The grandkids erupted. He had them all braying with mirth at his old and wrinkled puppet show. “Please,” his son said, “you’re going to smash through the goddamned floor, Pop.”

The system degenerated. He could no longer bear himself. One day in the garden, Martha saw him collapse, crush the roses, and slowly he elevated heavily into the air and gently disappeared over the house, like a colossal dandelion seed.

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