My boy got sick in Montana so I pulled off the
Will we still see Grandma? he asked.
I put my hand on his forehead and said to be
I want to see Grandma, he said.
I had the wipers on delay, and they moved,
sweeping mist from the glass.
You wait here? I asked when we'd rolled to a
stop in the narrow porte-cochere.
He blinked, and his eyes looked right into
mine, and he saw how bad and desperate I felt about this—his having
to convalesce on the road, in a Super 8.
The cartoons were too fast, too antic.
When he closed his eyes, I was hoping for
Will you tell me a story?
I pushed the mute. I straightened the sheet
across his shoulders.
One time, a few years before you were born,
your Mom and I went camping.
Not about Mom, he said, and I looked at him.
Sweat had pasted a curl to his cheek. I opted
to leave it alone.
I told him about Bearskin. Memory had beached
the central details, but they were ornate in my mind.
A man, and he's wearing the skin of a bear—he
has to. For years and years. A man, and he wanders. And strangers
round their eyes and pull themselves into their bodies, or turn and
flee, for he's dirty, he's ugly, he's wrong. And however bad the
man may appear, he feels just so much worse.
Somehow he has money. Gold coins, useless
things. A splatter on paving stones.
In truth he has faith—just that, nothing else:
I will make it through.
That's not a good story.
How about you sleep for a while?
Why did he have to wear the skin?
I don't know. I can't remember.
When he woke, he looked better—less slack, less
wan. On TV, something gentle played. For this I was feeling
He drank some fresh water.
Then his Grandma called, and we put her on the
speaker of my cell.
He said, Grandma, I'm sick.
She said, I know that, baby.
He said, I'm going to miss Halloween.
She spoke fiercely: about how we would do
everything tomorrow, or whenever he arrived. The costumes, the
carving of the pumpkin.
He listened. His face seemed vacantly pleased.
I went out for a smoke. But I left the door
open halfway, so he could see my shoulder.
Are there trick-or-treaters? he called.
I blew smoke. No.
Is there anything?
I called, Not really.
But it wasn't so. There was a moon, big and
round, and telephone wires. An intersection, vehicles swishing.
There was a sky. It was huge. Slow yellows and grays. I watched
as if it was my duty.
Scott Garson's American Gymnopédies
is in the works at WWP. He edits Wigleaf and has stories in
or coming from Unsaid, Hobart, American Short Fiction and