There’s no reason to call each other Tic and Tac, but we do just to keep up with that kind of childhood bond, the one formed accidently because parents put us together in rooms and in cars, bound into seatbelts and bunk beds. You’re almost always wiling to share your caramels, sticky in the white bag, sea air melting them wet. I say, “It sucks that dad’s a faggot,” and you say nothing.
I think, it’s different being the man with the gay father, and then I feel protective like a mother hippo with her calf. I want to swaddle you up from other people, the ones who have pointed at us and brought us reaching for driftwood to surf back out away from shore. You’re meager with graces, but today you say thanks, and really, I’m flattered
Sky Rats and High-Rises
These days, us out and out pigeon-haters were in real decline. No longer could you shoo away crowds of birds on benches or fire a few cap gun rounds to make your point. There were squads of angry twenty-somethings chanting at all of us pedestrians to recruit more morals for our bullshit ethics. They wore quilts stitched with phrases like, “Fine Feathered Friends” and needlepoint images of what were clearly meant to be us Upper East Side regulars draped in coats of grey-black feathers. One of the protestors even wore a macramé pigeon mask on her head, the honey-brown eye made of some kind of blown glass, big as an orange. I saw that thing in shadows before I shut my eyes at night. “You’re scaring the children,” nannies called out, pulling toddlers across Lexington and back to the safety of other streets, but they didn’t stop, and for months it went on like this. They put other birds in cages, promising to torch finches and flamingos if we didn’t let pigeons alone. Then the mayor got involved, and there were press conferences, most of them held in front of my building. I looked down when I saw a flash, and left seeds on the sill and the window open, hoping for mercy from what visitors I had left.
We’d count to six and then toss whatever we had off the bridge, looking to ding a paint job in the crowds of cars beneath us. Mostly it was pocket stuff, a couple of coins, a matchbook, pairs of plastic army men. We notched our wins in the railing, digging lines in wood for roofs we’d hit.
My mother dressed me Friday. It wasn’t clothes to throw in. The button-down made my arms go tight, and I didn’t think I’d get distance.
“Use this,” and it was a rock. Sturdy and gray, gentle as any coin.
After I’d thrown, the perspiration didn’t come from laughter. We didn’t crouch by the trees shouting, “Asshole!” over and over, mocking what we imagined the drivers were saying below. Instead, we were still, the noise of a car-wreck fresh in our ears. Black doors bent, arms and legs peeking out windows like a dish of picked-over shrimp.
Out We Go Beachside
I dislike the buddy system, but here we are, two-by-two at the beach. A turtle is on-hand to give directions, and I watch while you swim out in the ocean, far with gumption, no hint of counting time. There are cliffs in the background; it’s a postcard view, really, and if I let myself, I can enjoy the water a little, in up to my knees, as long as we’re not both swimming. I think, what if you were to drown, the ocean no longer your neckline? You immersed, regained by water. Would I call for help? Swim out to find you? My intuition says I’d watch, curious about the numbers, how long it would take for that hand to sink, your body relaxed, loose below the waves.
Sophie Rosenblum’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Short Fiction, New Letters, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. She is currently finishing her first novel, which was recently a finalist in the James Jones Novel Contest. You can find links to more of her work here: www.sophierosenblum.com.