Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Applehead Man (a short story)

(Not just a short story but my most rejected (by far) short story. I believe I'm 0-for-11. I hope you like it)

Cousin, I have much to teach you. If you find yourself shrouded in uncertainty, the way to confront it is to spill yourself to the world, scream the insides of your coiled heart and hope its arteries flow and when they don’t that it’s temporary.

The applesauce is for the children. Don’t touch it. It looks like it’s good for you but it couldn’t be. It’s processed and processing kills the goodness in everything.

Yes, you’re no longer a child.

The girl at the ice cream shop likes you. She gave you a free extra scoop. I saw it. Her eyes are blue like jeans. She’ll be your best friend if you let her.

I’ve often felt the uncertainty myself. I ask a question and I’m not sure of the answer. That’s when I get eaten up by the brain people – the little men with knives and women with blankets and children with horns – and then I’m older than I was a minute ago.

I can teach you only what you desire to learn. And only what I know, though I’m not beyond lying for effect. The girl at the ice cream shop is named Janis, like from the seventies. No one young has that name.

Well yes, except for her, with her little stumpy sample spoons and plum-colored bobbed hair with the bounce of a pole-vaulter. I collect the spoons she gives me. I’ve thought about asking you for the spoons she gives you but who am I to think you’d be inappropriate along with me?

There is truly no comparison between a farm-fresh apple and applesauce. You’re young. You’ve been hospitalized for a long time but you should know that better than you let on.

After the apples fall from the tree I like to eat the good ones and make people dolls with the bad ones. The underdeveloped red ones make great heads. I use Popsicle sticks for legs and sample spoons for arms and a day at the orchard flies by like a round of mini-golf. I could take you to pick apples there tomorrow but I was planning to show you the corn maze. It’s shaped like America this year.

I think I know why you like the applesauce. They fed it to you at the hospital, didn’t they? Every day. That’s why you crave it so. And you don’t seem moved by ice cream or Janis. Even though she likes you and not me because you’re her age and she sees the blisters in my brain when I ask for a second sample. And a third. Sometimes her hair is so shiny I could swear I see my reflection in the top of her head as I tower over her because I’m a giant.

Giants are scary. You’re scared of me, aren’t you? Because I won’t buy you applesauce and I make people dolls out of fruit and garbage. And I attach my keys to a chain on my belt and you’ve never seen that before, having lived in a hospital or a foreign country all your life. But you’re family. We’ll always have that.

Tomorrow I can also take you to mini-golf for real and I won’t just reference it as an analogue. We’ll pay extra for a second game and we’ll tip the clubhouse kids so we get the best clubs, the recent arrivals but not the brand new ones because you have to break them in and might as well let someone else do it. They do what I say, the clubhouse kids, just like Janis. Because I’m a giant. I’m a visible threat. My purple eyes are creepy because the whites are too white and they blink one at a time. But what can I do? These are the eyes I’ve been given. This is the body I’ve been granted.

The apple dolls last longer than you’d expect, though after a while the head falls off. I think it’s because the apples get bigger. It’s obvious the Popsicle sticks and sample spoons didn’t change stature.

Here’s a gift. This doll is you. Ask Janis to autograph it. I wonder what her last name is. Why don’t they make apple ice cream? Ask Janis that too. We’re going back for ice cream tomorrow, after the corn maze or mini-golf or both. Fall’s almost over. The sun comes down earlier every day and next week is Halloween and after that just getting up in the morning is a crapshoot.

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