I'm 28 years old in the flesh but in a mirror all I can see is a boy after his first crew cut, five years old and wondering what happened to his hair, disbelieving it would ever grow back, as the barber and his grandfather promised, while he wept, silently, trembling air through his lips, pointing at his hair strewn across a tiled floor. My grandfather unwrapped sour balls for both of us, and, leaving his Falcon behind, walked with me to the woods. These woods, he said, are yours. They were mine, but I give them to you. I am old, and it is only right they should now belong to you. I have lived most of my life in the absence of that gentle voice, and those woods of mine were clear-cut years ago, but my hair, I wear it long in honor of him.
Perfect, Wet with Poison
At Edwards’ Field, near the marsh, ours was the blood the mosquitoes in their gangly stealth sought. At dusk the city sent a truck, its sprinkler spraying a cascade of malathion, foul line to foul line, from out past the chain-link fence. Time called, we spread our arms and turned like we’d been told, spinning slow circles, left field to right and across the infield dirt, the chemical mist wafting over us, its sting like sharp dew settling into the corners of our eyes. The umpire tossed a dry ball to the tall boy on the hill, who rubbed it slowly between bare hands as he peered up at the crowd. The drumming in his ears dulling to a drone, he stepped to the rubber and leaned in. No runners to check, hadn’t been all game. Where but here was perfect even possible for a gawky boy with elbows thicker than his arms? Glove to chest, fingers to four seams, blow out. Fielders pounding their mitts, chanting and swaying. The gloam falling across the mound. And in the stands his mother done with her cursing of the city and its truck. Chapped hands over her stung eyes, she didn’t see her boy kick high and hurl one sharp-eyed home. Only heard the hush before the leather popped and those around her rose. Her husband roared with all the rest before he dropped a hand to her bent back and with the other waved. Caught his long son’s gaze, clenched a fist and beamed before their boy was swarmed. Then sat down, leaned in, angled for her ear. His right hand at her elbow, she lifted her eyes at last to gather in the ruckus their son’s left arm had wrought. Worry later, Mary Lou. Stand up and let him see you proud.