CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
The old man made a list of things that would not notice his death. Pocket change. Leaves of Grass. Deck of cards. Somewhere in the middle, he put down the pen, took off his glasses, and rubbed the bone around his eyes.
Then, the knuckled hand left his face for a cup of cold tea.
Meanwhile, the arm of his chair supported a stiff cane that was unquestionably on its last leg. Elsewhere in the house, a hot-water bottle was blobbing its way across the bathroom floor, trying to relieve itself so it could travel lighter. And a thermometer, believing its problems all imaginary, leapt from the medicine cabinet without a parachute. The mercury and hot water did not mix on the floor.
The teacup could not agree with the man's stroke-twisted lip and was returned to the saucer on his desk. At the man's insistence, the pen bled further onto the page. The blood spread through the paper. The paper floated into a drawer that, for the first time in all its hardwood years, would not close.
A basement room with a single, small window. Outside, something green, attractive to wasps. Its leaves told me when it was spring, summer, or fall, and what the air was doing. The naked sprig, the other things.
A vent near the ceiling brought warm air and voices. Only cats and squirrels passed by the window, so, for the longest time, I thought the voices came from something like them—Queen Squirrels so gigantic they could no longer move. And those little, agitated ones outside were her Workers. And I had been grown for them in this live-food storage cell.
With my feet pressed against any wall, the crown of my head touched the one opposite. Standing, it brushed the low ceiling. They didn't walk upright. Such things were good signs I was being held against my will.
Sometimes the room was lifted up. This was preceded by a sudden change of darkness in the window, as if a blanket had been thrown over it. When the movement was steady, I couldn't tell I was moving, until the room was snapped back into place and the blanket removed.
A smaller vent dropped food pellets, shaped like hamburgers. Excrement went through the flooring and was collected while I slept.
Sleep came in tides. I never saw a moon but could feel the effects.
I folded my spindly arms, having no idea how I knew what I knew.
He was a natural counter-puncher, so it was a shame nobody would attack. Tired of waiting, his fists turned on him. He countered with his feet, but his eyes were with his hands. They helped his hands find his face and land with precision. That is, until the blows swelled them shut. After that, his hands moved in the same darkness as his feet and every other part of him.
But soon he saw he could feel what he could no longer see. He felt his fists, measuring him out. He felt the presence of others, including his dead mother and the cat in her lap. He felt the slipping of his once-tight grip. Then, he felt a blow he could have never seen coming and saw pinholes of light, as if through a mask.