Abby Frucht ~ Take Six

Even after a day being parked at the trail­head, she has yet to dis­cov­er the name of the trail, this stretch of boot prints in mud from which wet­lands spew, the lake to one side and to the oth­er some tur­tles sun­ning in muck, hurl­ing them­selves off logs as she nears. The lake is Lake Buttes des Morts, that much is cer­tain. It means Mound of the Dead, which is most inac­cu­rate. The sedges dead or alive make rib­bons of gold. Pelicans mass at the oppo­site shore, and yes­ter­day noon a colos­sal white ped­al boat turned out to be an actu­al trum­peter swan that flapped effort­ful­ly air­borne at her approach, the bay quak­ing under­neath. The old man just now wak­ing on the director’s chair set up to one side of the fish­ing bridge might once have been skip­per of just such a sea­plane, his dreams steeped in spe­cif­ic amne­sia of it, crumbs all around when she gives him his break­fast, his teeth chomp­ing on bread he once was able to taste. His name is Peter DeVoogd. He keeps it fold­ed in his wal­let, which she spies on the ground along with a ven­er­a­ble ring of dropped keys behind a flap of loose seat­ing between the legs of the chair.

Excuse me, Sir. There’s a hole in your pocket.”

The old man only blinks, bare­ly turn­ing his head as she hands him the wal­let. There’s an awful lot of cash, the ridicu­lous amount old men like to car­ry, one sheaf in one flap and anoth­er in anoth­er, except they’re every sin­gle one of them Monopoly bills. The keys too are defunct, all doors immaterial.

You must be Peter De Voogd?”

At which he gapes not at her but instead at the tod­dler, their eyes not meet­ing but col­lud­ing, twin­ing avid­ly between. She shakes the old man’s hand, then inquires of the tod­dler, “And what’s your name, Little Sir?”

The tod­dler shakes his head no. It’s his only lan­guage. Would you like anoth­er bite? Holding up a wedge of sand­wich. The boy shakes his head no. Could it be bath­time? No. Are you a sci­en­tist? No. Do you believe the elec­tion was stolen? No. But he’s nev­er unhap­py, and makes so lit­tle trou­ble it might be easy to for­get him if he didn’t help out by wheel­ing his sis­ter ahead in the stroller. Aside from being ter­ri­fied some­times of orange, the baby doesn’t fuss, either. Side by side, they’re like pack­ages miss­ing off stoops, allow­ing no way of know­ing what you might find if you could open them.

Time to go,” she says, to which the old man springs with sur­pris­ing alacrity out of the chair. “Take these,” she instructs, hand­ing back the lost keys and keep­ing her own looped tight to her belt. Only after the trio sets off down the trail does she squat care­ful­ly to pee then wait two min­utes while gaz­ing at a cob­web extend­ing unan­chored over the bay, the lake appear­ing unim­pressed by this next won­drous thing to hap­pen to it. She stands there for­ev­er, then stands there some more and still over­takes the stroller on its trek to the car. One key opens the trunk stuffed with blan­kets, canned peach­es, win­ter socks and the check­ers board, the sec­ond key dri­ves off and the third’s for the con­sole with col­or­ing books. The car smells like a rodent. The can open­er is bro­ken. The tod­dler shakes his head no, a fourth spoon has gone miss­ing and the test turned pink so that new box of Tampax is proven super­flu­ous. The dogs bound up where the road loops side­ways from out of the trees to accept her offer of teething bis­cuits, their tails ric­o­chet­ing. She holds her face to their noses, their ruffs to her ears. “Just who do you think you are, Sirs?” she asks. “And where do you think we’re all going, this morning?”


Abby Frucht  is the author of eight books of fic­tion includ­ing Fruit of the Month, which won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize for 1987, Licorice (Graywolf), and A Well-Made Bed, which she wrote with Laurie Alberts. Her recent book, Maids (Matter Press) was a final­ist or semi-final­ist at the Marie Alexander Poetry Series, the Debra Tall Lyric Essay Book Prize, the Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Prose, the Slope Editions Book Award, and the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award.