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Scott Garson


My boy got sick in Montana so I pulled off the road. 

Will we still see Grandma? he asked.

I put my hand on his forehead and said to be still.

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 sleep.

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.

All right.

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 grateful.

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 others.

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