During Monday’s circle time, they passed a cardboard shoebox from neighbor to neighbor. Each in turn they lifted the lid, tilting it to hide the shoebox’s contents. If they paused to long, their facilitator murmured, “The first word to come to mind.”
A woman who huddled in a shapeless man’s sweater with a golf club appliqued on the chest where a baby’s head might rest said, “Refrigerator,” and passed the box to Sharlene, acknowledging her with a please and a surreptitious dab at Sharlene’s fingers with a disinfectant wipe.
Sharlene said, “Thank you,” opened the box, and saw the lemon inside, a miniature disco ball, and a single baby sock. She readied herself to howl but was distracted by the moth resting in her neighbor’s neck sags and said, “Car.” She hesitated to pass the box, afraid now it was known to her she’d be lonely without it. When she did, the facilitator smiled, his mouth narrow on one side and wide on the other.
She watched the box circumnavigate the room, communal property. Women burping and bouncing it when the facilitator wasn’t looking. The girl who roamed the ward barefoot spread her webbed toes, opened the box, and said, “Destruction.” The facilitator mumbled something about concrete versus abstract nouns.
Sharlene’s loneliness waxed and waned with the box’s motion. More than less — than almost nothing when her neighbor once again cradled it. “Please,” she said, passing the box to Sharlene. Their hands brushed, fingers damp with disinfectant.
Eye-size apples I cannot reach
Outside my window, in a tree we long mistook for another, hang eye-size apples I cannot reach. Neither from a downstairs nor an upstairs window nor from the ladder named after my husband’s father. My uncle wants these apples. He spends the morning straightening wire hangers and inserting them in sockets. He places the opposite ends in dirt, and worms teem forth from the ground. He hypothesizes he can wire an apple to illumine the tree like a light bulb. My youngest daughter builds a lamp from aluminum foil and an index card. In both instances, the idea came first. And, in general, same-sign charged particles repel while different-sign charged particles attract. In Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Sir Thomas Browne states, “If the ground were true, that the Earth were an Electrick body, and the air but the effluvium thereof, we might have more reason to believe that from this attraction, and by this effluction, bodies tended to the Earth, and could not remain above it.” But I tell you the apples are out of reach. And my other uncle tells me when the electrodes were attached to his head, he smelled apples and saw his brain fly across the room.