e drags the bike up to the edge. It’s about twenty feet down. Enough to end it if you wanted it bad enough. The sun’s a bloody thumbprint. Smearing down, down.
Rooftops now where there used to be trees.
He drops the bike in the dirt. A child’s toy, even then. A museum piece, now. The frame barnacled in rust, the milk crate cracked with age. His kids had never bothered with it much. But he had never bothered much with them either. Even less as they got older. Drifting like icebergs or galaxies. He held them in his hands, swaddled in blankets, kissed their skin. But he could never feel close enough.
People make promises they can’t keep. Politicians, presidents and prime ministers. Human beings, too. I love you. I will never leave you.
Afterwards, it was all science and misunderstandings. We would never hurt a boy, they said. All we had were walkie-talkies. But he remembers looking down the barrel of a gun. Monsters in plastic suits. A child’s imagination, they said.
The promises broken.
I’ll be right here. That’s what it had said. The man in the moon. It had pointed at his head. Right here. And then it left him anyway. Never came back. Never phoned.
For years, every time he got sick he wondered. When a pain would hit him out of nowhere. Were they still connected like two tin cans and a string of twine. When he was lonesome. When he farted.
But then he saw the scans. The doctor didn’t notice. She slipped out of the room to take a call and he flipped the file open. Held the glossy sheets up to the light. There in the center of his brain: another small planet in orbit. Growing.
The moon is rising. He picks up the bike and sits on the seat, rocking back and forth on the wheels, kicking dirt down on the rocks below. He pulls the red sweatshirt down over his gut, puts his feet on the pedals. His knees are so high he’s practically fetal.
For years he’s dreamed of flying through the sky, swimming through the milk of the moon. Now he’s falling through space. That glowing finger jabbing at his head. Not a lie, a threat. An invasion. I’ll be right here.
Romper stomper bomper boo
t had taken three quarters of a bottle of champagne for her to break the first one upstairs. Swinging the heel of a particularly nasty open-toed Louboutin. Cracks spidering out over the surface before the first slab fell. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do.
Seven years, just like that. Then another seven. And seven more. And seven. A personal equation of ruin stretching from the master suite to the mudroom.
Slumped on the terrazzo, the tile smeared with blood. The heel had snapped and she’d been using her fist. Or what was left of it. This last one, a hand mirror, wood frame spackled with fake verdigris, had been a gift. It shattered like all the rest.
The house was quiet now. The lights were out. There was nothing left to break. Tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play.
She tried to count. Had there been ten? Eleven? More. Each one now multiplied. A thousand thousand mirrors, scattered like breadcrumbs behind her. She picked up the hand mirror, knocking the last piece out of it. She held it up. I can see... I can see… But there was nothing on the other side. Just the same old world. She was alone.
fter two weeks, the yelling had stopped. The fight had settled into a low, slow radioactive cloud. Meals were taken in silence. Eye contact, when made, left third degree burns. Obscenities, no longer spoken, were still telegraphed by the banging of doors, the rolling of eyes. They no longer slept. Sleep was for the dead and the forgiven.
The original insult went unremembered. A careless word. A missed date. It didn’t matter. The event had only been a money laundering operation for the real crime: their hearts were broken.
The days mounted. The fight was a kidney stone that would not pass. The pressure built like the marshalling of infantry at the borders, until one Saturday morning at the breakfast table, someone sighed at an ill-advised moment. Offense was taken. Violence seemed imminent.
At that precise moment, their front door was kicked in and a pantheon of garishly coloured bears entered the kitchen. Small bears, walking upright. Their stomachs were painted with strange symbols, like gang tattoos.
She screamed, he shrieked. They ran through the house, tossing chairs and bookshelves behind them, scrambling upstairs. But the bears pursued them relentlessly.
They cowered on the bed, together, as the knob rotated one way and back the other and the door swung inward slowly, whining on hinges. The bears filled the doorway. They seemed to glow, like the phosphorescence of deep underground caves and unspoken things. They thrust their distended bellies forward and beams of light exploded from them, washing over the two people on the bed. Burning their clothes, ruffling the sheets.
When they awoke hours later, naked and entangled, they were alone. The house was quiet. He pulled her close, she burrowed up under his chin. They were so close. Like the universe before the bang. Waiting to drift.
Remember when you were a minipop, and you saw that film, you know, the one you loved that never had a sequel? Well, let's say it did. And it was just like you imagined it, only a little bit worse.