Magic Sprinkles

“Can you come into my bed for a second?” Cayde says, “Or Mommy. I want to talk about Grandma Carole.”

And Mommy may have been the better choice since Grandma Carole in Heaven is Jenn’s mom, departed; but the opposite could be true in that my eyes would be less wet, my voice less quavering, in talking about her.

Still, I was there when Carole passed; I at least knew her and Cayden is bothered because he didn’t.

“What I want, Daddy,” and he pauses, “Wherever Grandma Carole lives is I hope she eats something with sprinkles, like magic sprinkles, and that she winds up standing alive on top of her grave.” He pauses again.

“Well she doesn’t have to be where she’s buried? But she gets to come walking through the door while I’m watching TV or something, and that I get to meet her for the first time.”

“…”

“I bet she was really smart. Her brain was too big, why it probably didn’t fit in her head.”

I tear up, don’t undermine his logic. The surgery hadn’t worked, but he didn’t need to know all that.

“The heart’s supposed to be as big as your fist. I bet hers filled her whole chest.”

“Yeah, Cayde. It did.”

I look at him.

“You look like her a bit, you know. You look a little like me, a little like your mom. Finn looks like me.”

“Uncle Timmy, he looks like…”

“Uncle Chris?”

“Yeah, Uncle Chris, but Chris looks more like Baba. Timmy and your Mom look a bit more like Grandma Carole,” I explain. “We all look like each other. We’re family.”

“Listen, Kid—you know how some women wear headscarves? Dresses to hide their faces?”

“Yeah—like Indian women?”

I don’t want to get into any Cultural Studies; it’s not the point.

“Well, sometimes. Anyway, I met this mom and dad once—their kids, too—and she was wearing this headscarf and I couldn’t see her face, but I looked at her and her husband, then her kids and I kinduv knew what she looked like though I couldn’t exactly see her.”

“Not supposed to see her,” I correct. I hope he doesn’t ask why not. All not the point.

“How’d you know?”

“Because. Family looks like each other. And YOU look a bit like Grandma Carole. I remember what she looks like when I see your nose, or Mom’s nose. I can close my eyes and still see her. Momma has her cheeks, so does Uncle Timmy. It’s how I remember Grandma Carole.”

I worry about my analogy, but Cayde seems satisfied and I know he’s following as best possible.

“I wish she was still here.”

“We all do, Friend. It’s ok. You can have these thoughts.” I pat him on the leg and kiss his head.

“Not sure about magic sprinkles, though. We can look at pictures in the morning, at least.”

“You, ok, Kid?”

He pulls bedsheets over his shoulder in response and buries into the pillow.

“I’m ok, Daddy. Love you.”

I linger before turning out the light, before the moment comes when it’s dark and I can’t see his face and when, lastly, it’s just the white of the bed sheet as he goes to sleep.

Rachmaninoff Hands

The surgeon who fixed Finn’s heart had Pygmalion hands, well scrubbed and seemingly cast of marble. Hands you’d want to see in a surgeon, with long fingers, tapered at each knuckle, nails buffed and professionally rounded.

These are hands you’d allow into your child, because—as the surgeon explained a day prior to procedure—this surgery necessitates a cracked chest-bone and exposed viscera. So far as infants are concerned, the heart rests close to the spine, a fact you realize once the rib cage is open like a grotesque and calcified blossom. The heart beats slow and sedated while awaiting the scalpel.

You’d like ‘nimble’ to be a resident fact on the doctor’s CV.

This isn’t like junior high when you’re slicing into frog alimentaries with a dull X-acto and making off-color jokes with your tablemates.

Finn’s surgeon could have passed for a Bond villain. I say this approvingly. He sported a Vanderbilt haircut; a Slovakian name; hands you could envision, within a different context, cinematically threading a silencer onto the barrel of gun. No apparent emotion, his only obvious proclivities being a surgical precision of language and a double-starch of the lapels.

You want an assassin when it comes to life and death. Assassins have good trigger-control.

“It vill be fine,” he held up palms. I thought of Rachmaninoff, who himself had long and expressive hands, the result, perhaps, of acromegaly: a genetic defect of human growth hormone. Genetic defects had been on my mind for the last three months. Finn was diagnosed with Down Syndrome shortly after birth.

The surgeon was either unerringly decaffeinated, else a Batman-type who maybe woke early everyday, breakfasting on half a grapefruit sprinkled with cinnamon; a neat and measured demitasse of espresso; and a plain hard-boiled egg. He was a man who had control of his faculties, who would maybe finish his evening with ten sets of rowing exercises in a cedar-lined room before retiring cross-armed to a mattress. He wore no ring on any of his impressive digits.

Me, on the other hand—I have dumb and stubby fingers. On the day Findlay was born, I sat in a fluorescent-lit hallway, too early, fumbling a Nikon camera and checking the light registers by taking pictures of the ‘Exit’ sign. I was in the hallway because hospitals sometimes make dads tourists in the birthing process, especially when C-sections are involved. The hospital either aids else emasculates Dad by curtaining him off from his wife before she’s cut open. Both my kids were born this way. I’ve therefore seen my fair share of hallways and surgical drapes, spent much time twiddling my clumsy thumbs.

‘You can’t handle this. Go sit for a spell.’ Take the pictures, cut the cord, be the et cetera, just don’t be here to hold any hands. We’re literally going to remove your wife’s insides for a minute and set them atop her chest.

<Click> ‘Exit.’

I can actually handle these things, just like I could’ve held the surgeon’s hand while he knived tissue from my son’s pericardium to later sew into his heart. I can, I could’ve. These are heart and gut things, and I specialize in heart and gut things. I’m still bad with a camera, though.

<Click>

The obstetrician who delivered my son had massive hands, a celestial exaggeration of his calling: a guy engineered to pull life into the world on the regular. The backs of his hands were neatly haired, fingers smoothed by pumice and iodine, still masculine despite their polish.

When he lifted my son into the world, he held a red-haired, flap-eared raisin up for review, and my initial and guilty thought was that Findlay was not as beautiful as Cayden upon leaving the uterus.

The obstetrician was triumphant, hands clasped around Finn’s waist and the baby was passed to robotic attendants who were eager to wrap Findlay’s frog-belly into swaddles.

“Dad—come here for pictures!” And I cut Findlay’s cord like I hadn’t with my eldest son, Cayden. The nurses had me fake cut it a second time because the first picture came out blurry.

“Why isn’t Dad cutting the cord?” Cayden’s attendants had asked five years prior, and from behind surgical masks. With their mouths covered, you could only see the nurses’ raised eyebrows. There was a table lined with blue huck cloth and neatly autoclaved steel, but goddamn if the only instrument they cared about was the camera. How you complete memories with the only unsterilized gadget in the room.

My hands were busy holding my wife’s hair in a bundle. She was puking into a plastic depository, and my hands were better deployed holding her sweaty ponytail, while the surgeon re-threaded her fascia and peritoneum back together with God-knows-how-large a needle.

“Guess, Dad’s not cutting the cord,” the nurses shrugged, while my wife retched for a second anesthesia-induced time.

Fast-forward five years and Findlay’s obstetrician, triumphant, hadn’t noticed that he’d just delivered a baby informed with excess, noadisjunct chromosomes. Essentially: Trisomy-21, in a womb-soggy, redheaded vehicle. Findlay had these constellated eyes that still and stubbornly remain Sinatra blue. They were open.

The OBGYN passed off Finn to the attendants without remark. It was akin to having just delivered a unicorn while deeming it a horse.

Children with Down Syndrome often have Brushfield spots, these stars that ring the iris. It’s a trick of the tissue, something buried deep in the 21st chromosome, and it’s a tell–an obvious one. Kids don’t usually have galaxies for eyes before getting their first astronomy book.

Obstetricians aren’t palm-readers, either, nor do they always look deep into infants’ eye upon birth. Doctors have flesh to sew, which is a real and corporeal thing, especially when narrowly looking through the fenestrated window of a surgical cloth. There’s the room full of bustle and the next appointment to consider.

Also, the lights in the OR are bright. They don’t always reveal the miracle of birth or its sometimes accidents. I’m sure the lights better highlight the work left to do, the reds and yellows of things left to close, the blue nitrile gloves and the Betadine-swabbed torsos. I figure the obvious is most likely ignored when urgency takes precedence and the attendant nurse hands you a stainless-steel tray of sharp things.

“He’s healthy! It’s a boy!” There’s the declaration, but then the obstetrician has to duck back down, thread a needle, and remember the stitch-loops he’s practiced on apple-skins back in med-school (form a bight in the end of the line, and tie an overhand knot, form a bight in the end of the line and tie an overhand knot…)

These things we do with our hands.

We generally always see the backs of our hands, never our palms, when working. Unless, of course, we’re juggling. But juggling is a trick, and work is not. Palm-reading is also a trick, but as mentioned, doctors aren’t palm readers.

When a doctor delivers a baby by C-section, the doctor’s thumb is perhaps the first thing the baby grips. The baby wraps his hand around any of the doctor’s available fingers, and hides his palm by enfolding it around the digits that delivered him.

The OBGYN didn’t see Finn’s eyes, or Finn’s single palmar crease when delivering my son. Finn, like a good blackjack player, hid his ‘21’ when holding the doctor’s thumb.

‘Always hide your hand,’ is the advice.

Finn, apparently, knew as much in the womb. The single palmar crease, like the constellated and almond eyes, is an obvious tell that a newborn has Down Syndrome. It wasn’t until the Recovery Room that these things were noticed. The attendants there were better palm-readers.

As far as fortune-telling goes, Finn’s diagnosis came with its predictions, less psychic than scientific.

“He’ll most likely have a heart defect.”

“He’ll most likely need surgery.”

“His heart will most likely be ok.”

At the hospital, days before scrubbing in, they show you a plastic doll with a multitude of wires trailing from its pretend heart-space. It’s a mock-up so that you’re prepared to see your baby hooked up to as many, if not more, cords and filaments and sensors immediately following surgery.

The sight is enough to make your own heart feel suspended by wire, cruelly commandeered by some unseen marionettist.

Finn’s cardiac surgeon, our man with the Rachmaninoff fingers and heavy accent, explained the procedure one day before surgery. He was clinical, matter-of-fact without somehow sounding clip or cold. His voice had right angles; his hands, however, posed as they were in various ways to demonstrate Finn’s heart and how it was to be fixed, had softness to them. I imagined the surgeon cupping Finn’s heart as if it were a newly feathered thing, a fallen sparrow, a creature to be gently returned to its proper nest.

The plastic doll had my wife and I in tears; the surgeon’s pantomime of Finn’s heart, to what nest it would be returned, had us dry our tears just as quickly. There is comfort to be taken when gestures alone conjure confidence, when panic is disappeared through a particular and subtle kinesic. The surgeon, for lack of a better term, presented as suddenly and consolingly able.

When Finn’s gurney was hurried down the hallway following surgery, there was a coterie of nurses running alongside the rig like a team of gowned Secret Service agents. Four sets of hands on the transportable bed, more steadying the rack of wires, the swinging bladders of dextrose and lactated Ringers. All ran in soft shoes, their orthopedics still covered in surgical slip-covers. It was a near silent 100-meter dash from OR to ICU. I leapt up from the waiting room couch in order to join the controlled footrace. The surgeon followed the gurney at a moderate distance, his surgical mask removed and dangling loosely like an awry runner’s bib. I searched the nurses’ faces for sign of an outcome, for assurance that our quickstep down the corridor was one of expedience and not urgency. They, however, were a hive of back and forth buzzing, a language of numbers and stats fluently exchanged. Any edgewise word would’ve seemed an interruption, though I am the father.

“How is he? How is he?”

The surgical rig disappears through a series of automatic swinging doors, my son and his zipped up chest, closed eyes, and fortune-foretelling palms swallowed up by a secondary corridor.

“How is he?” I turn lastly toward the surgeon, and he barely looks my direction. He says simply, “It vent vell.” Despite having emerged from surgery where the lights were undoubtedly intense and the minutiae of needles and scalpels as stressful, say, as choosing whether or not to cut the red wire—maybe the blue—the surgeon was nonplussed and devoid of sweat.

“He is fine,” and the surgeon, too, disappeared into the corridor leaving me for the second time in three months, the father at bay, staring blankly at a hospital exit sign.

<click>

I looked down at my hands and spread wide my fingers. Rachmaninoff could play C E♭ G C G with his left hand alone. I could maybe duplicate that feat with both hands together, but—as they were—my hands were slightly trembling, and unfit for piano keys let alone otherwise surgical poetries. I curled my fingers into my palms, exhaled mightily, then turned back toward the waiting room.

 

_____________

 

The Recovery Room has natural light by means of a large plate-glass window. Though it overlooks the parking structure, the windowed room is welcome respite from the fluorescent halls, the dimly-lit waiting areas, and labyrinthian stairwells.

Findlay lies in his bed, less the marionette than his post-op and ersatz Pinocchio. There are only a few wires still attached, sensors which inform the technician how Finn’s heart is performing beneath all the stitches and an already-knitting breastbone.

Finn smiles—smiles!—atop his sheets, and wraps his hand around my extended finger. He’s effectively hiding that palmar crease again, the one line that divides his hand neatly. My hand has the usual two. The irony, though, of him having an extra chromosome means his body is sometimes made simpler: fewer lines, smoother eyes, an inexact heart. All these things used to scare me. I adore complication, after all. It’s maybe why Finn hid the fact of himself for nine months in the womb, why he escaped detection in the delivery room. Why he held his hand tight close to his chest.

I smile down at him. The surgeon appears in the doorway. Two days out of surgery, and the doctor doesn’t even enter the room anymore. He simply stands in the doorframe, waves and nods, before walking quietly away. His work is done.

Findlay continues to hold my fingers, my clumsy but suddenly capable fingers, and my work is just beginning.

Jack in the Patrick (Unpop Goes the Weasel)

Patrick is holding court on the back patio. A seated Trout, who is reluctantly in attendance and working on the Sunday crossword, is not even sure if the back patio should be open. The cafeteria is closed, and the septuagenarian Ms. Ellen, who earlier taught seated yoga in the Group Room, reminded Patrick that the back patio is available during eating hours only.

She also reminded Patrick to wear a shirt, as there is a dress code. Ms. Ellen, though is retiring in two days, and her day in-day out seated cow-cat doesn’t exactly manufacture authority. Nor do the fact of orthopedic shoes during Vinyasa.

Patrick had been sunning himself earlier, and journaling, out by the asphalt walking path, near the fenced-in pool, which was for who knew what patients. The schizophrenics had the Ping-Pong table in the South Wing; the pool seemed to be for the pool guy only, who fished out the water bugs with a skimmer at 10a.m. daily. The pool was otherwise a failed Hockney painting, bottom-murky.

“Trout—you gotta hear this.” And Patrick was busy punching up texts on his phone.

“How’d you get that phone in here?” Trout asked. “Never mind.” He shakes his head. Patrick is practically manic.

Trout was stuck on 47 down.

James pipes up from his recessed seat near a potted cycad. He’s wearing a black hoodie pulled up over his head and hiding a cigarette. Earlier, he had admitted to being busted twice by the Korean security guard while trying to steal a smoke, but—since he’s withdrawing from heroin—tobacco only seemed fair.

“What’s up, Patrick?”

James is hiding his hand behind the potted plant, which is already yellow, and there are wafts of illicit tobacco.

“This message—from my girlfriend!”

Patrick is a short-timer, needs a ride to Mojave.

“Fucking hot out there,” Trout says. “Death Valley was 127 degrees yesterday, second highest recorded temperature on the planet. Seven degrees shy of hottest.”

Trout is still stuck on 47 down.

“I know! And Mojave was like a hundred-fucking-nine. I told my girlfriend it’s 73 out here and she told me to fuck off.”

Eric suddenly appears in a red flannel crew neck and blue flannel pajama bottoms. Comes out of some side door from somewhere, and—like a mad gibbon—moves opposite the caucus and places two hands on the vending machine glass at the patio’s far end. He then disappears behind the vending machine and crouches down.

Trout: “What the fuck?” putting down his paper. His pants are neatly cuffed, his shirt sleeves neater. He’s the asshole of the bunch.

Mike speaks up: “Monkey looking for Freon? Hell if I know.”

Mike is sitting behind Trout’s left shoulder, shirt off, and with a Vikings hat creased to resemble a BDU patrol cap atop his head. He’s a handsome black man, portly, with a neatly trimmed beard. Seated he’s exactly two rolls–stomach and tits—and has deftly sharpened pinkie nails which he hasn’t trimmed after almost four weeks of Program.

He’s VA, like Patrick, and they call each other ‘Chief’ out of deference.

“Here it is, here it is,” and Patrick holds up his phone.

He reads from his illuminated screen: “Hope you’re ready for me when you get here. I’m gonna fuck your brains out.” He laughs, “Ha-HA!”

Patrick is Nazarene-chic with a caved-in chest and wasted pecs. He wears shirts, generally advertising tequila, and is bandied on all wrists and ankles with assorted beads and twine. He looks like every Donald Sutherland film of the Seventies with bouffant hair and an anachronistic moustache. He wears cock-eyed Ray-Bans with tape on the earpieces to hold them in narrow place.

Trout had a hard time figuring out why all of Patrick’s shirts were ripped two inches south of the collar, but—in keeping theme with the hemp bangles—Patrick also wore assorted necklaces. Two inches south of his collar was a roughly cruciform pendant, battered silver, with a bauble in its center. A poor man’s pave´.

Mike says: “Nice. Can’t wait to get me some pussy.” James takes a drag from his cigarette, looking around.

James is all hawk-nose and probably could care less about the banter at present. He could only get out of bed twenty-four hours prior.

Trout shrugs. “Good for you, Man.”

Eric comes bounding over from his simian perch behind the vending machine.

“Dude, dude, dude!” he says to James. “Let me have some of that!” James obliges.

It ‘s safe to say that Eric has the dumbest haircut on the planet, a buzz cut of sorts, but with a hairline opposite of receding. His forehead is made small by wolf-boy overgrowth, and he’s got those goddam mismatched pajamas.

Trout figures out 47 down. On to 63 across.

“So how you gonna get there?” Trout asks Patrick.

“Gotta get a bus, but I need my license first WHICH I told my sister to send me.” He punches the air with his contraband phone.

“Wait,” James asks, retrieving his cigarette, ”You need a license now for a bus?”

“Well, YEAH,” Patrick says.

“Like MTS?”

Mike laughs. He usually only talks when pussy is the conversation d’jour, but he’s still a few rodeos ahead of James.

“Greyhound, Dude. Greyhound.”

“I told my sister to send me my license, but then she says she ‘feels uncomfortable’ sending that sort of stuff by mail,” Patrick is exasperated. He holds hands like electrical charges above his head.

“I KINDUV NEED THAT, I tell her.”

“So not MTS?” James asks again.

Mike chuckles, and no one bothers answer.

Eric is reaching for another drag, but James has already extinguished his smoke against the trunk of the potted sago. This is a complete disregard of prehistory. Sagos existed in the time of dinosaurs and well before Sir Walter Raleigh. Tobacco showed up only a few millennia before Christ.

Patrick bounces in a circle with hands still above his head. “Goddammit! I need to get on that bus!”

Trout: “Because of…(?)”

“Tina? No—not just Tina. I need to get into the VA Center downtown—I need my personals.”

“So, like one hundred nine degrees and then a 180 back? To the VA?”

Patrick points emphatically and taps his philtrum, the divot above his upper lip.

“Yes, yes, yes, Trout. I’m supposed to get a bed there. Year-long program. Christ—haven’t been downtown in thirty years. I hear my boot camp is now all shopping malls and shit.”

“Wait, what? Whendja go to boot camp?”

“’80.”

“Liberty Station?”

Patrick taps his nose and prances another circle: “YES!”

Trout laughs for the first time.

“That IS all shopping malls and shit. Golf course, greenbelt, restaurants, playgrounds. That place got closed down in ’86? Yeah—they finally re-zoned it. Now it’s all commercial.”

Trout puts his paper between his knees, momentarily. “Where did you serve, Patrick?” He cocks his head, suddenly and keenly interested.

Patrick has bled-out tattoos, green ink on his forearms where the track marks could be, and these are military souvenirs when there aren’t otherwise medals. The pool at the end of the patio is likewise green and nondescript. Moths fly in the low light, to be fished out tomorrow from the shallow end.

“Central America? Iraq?”

“No.” Patrick points, Jack in the Patrick, “No—DC! The whole fucking time!” This is a ribald joke.

Trout picks up the paper again. The last answer was ‘ayeforaneigh’, some crossword nonesuch involving horses and politicians. He decides the crossword is stupid, a dalliance, a needle in the head jerk-off; he folds it away.

Wolf-boy Eric says, belatedly: “Downtown. You can totally score downtown.”

“Greyhound station in particular,” Patrick whirls and, again, points to Eric.

He then reels himself in, reversing his sprung accordion.

Un-pop goes the Weasel.

“Shit.”

James meanwhile has fallen asleep.

“What’s up, Chief?” Mike asks, readjusting his hat, wiping his armpits with his discarded but matching Vikings jersey.

Patrick shakes his head. A Greyhound bus to Mojave would take sixteen hours. By car, six. Ten hours extra is the devil’s time, especially as passenger and not as driver.

Mike intuits something and scratches the side of his nose with his pinky nail.

“My roomie here, Trout—he normal. Right, Trout? You normal?”

Trout turns toward Mike for the first time. They’ve roomed together for a few days, have ignored each other’s snoring. They’re easy, throw snacks back and forth between beds.

“Relative, my friend. Relative.”

“Yeah, well—we ain’t normal, Chief,” Mike says, returning attention to Patrick.

Eric really should be a baboon. His blue flannel bottoms match a mandrill’s indigo ass.

“Yes! The Greyhound station!” His Librium hasn’t kicked in yet. He murmurs something about meth.

Patrick intones, “Every time I get on a Greyhound—shit—it’s the same story.” There is momentary pathos as the vending machine hums it advertisement of Fiber-One bars and Chobani yogurt—rehab food.

He perks up, can’t be a sad clown.

“It’s always some motherfucker from Corcoran sits next to me—ha!”

Patrick pins his chin to his chest and baritones: “Hey—I just got outta Corcoran. Wanna score in the bathroom?” Patrick giggles and jazz hands beneath the outside flourescents: “And I say, ‘Sure!’ Probably where I got Hep-C.”

Trout picks up the paper again, sighs. This is Willie Wonka shit.

“Shooting up in the bathroom of a Greyhound with bus tap-water isn’t probably a good thing. And that’s, like the first twenty minutes.”

Patrick taps his temple, pretending to Scarecrow-think.

“Nope—nope, not a good thing,” he decides.

In a patient-guided meeting earlier in the week, Patrick mouthed every single word of the twelve-step preambles. The preambles—seriously—take up half the time. It’s like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, but with nine extra verses, hand over your liver, not your heart.

“Think I’m gonna go upstairs,” Trout says, pushing himself out of his chair, molded as it were to resemble some Henri Moore sculpture, organic and unlike the asterisk tattoos on Pat’s arms, else Eric’s dumb haircut.

“See you up there?” He gives knucks to Mike.

“Oh wait, wait, wait, Trout. Gotta tell you this. So Pam wanted to shave her legs tonight and needed a nurse to watch…”

“Who’s Pam again?”

“The Goldie Hawn lookalike. Goldie Hawn!”

“314?”

“Yes!”

Trout thinks to Goldie Hawn, plays deuces in his head and comes up with a wither some 1.5.

“Sure, Man, sure.”

Patrick excitedly pulls at his ripped collar. “I said: Hell—I’ll watch!”

(Patients can’t use razors without the badges witnessing, eagle-eyed)

“Get this, Trout—I’m gonna go up to the nurse’s station tonight and ask what it takes to get a condom up in here. Funny, right?!”

Trout smirks. “That’s funny, dude.”

“Right?!”

“See you upstairs, my friend.”

Mike calls after Trout: “Hey, Roomie—you always be sitting by yourself at lunch. Me and Chief here—we be repping with the Ladies.”

Moths do their peripatetic thing and Patrick finally sits down on a table, strips his Wabo-Cabo tank off and places his fist to his chin, the sudden naugahyde thinker.

His wife died two years ago.

Trout sits with the paper in the upstairs. Downstairs is scary, all DT cases and medical instruments jamming the hallways, whereas upstairs is hotel-like. There is the fact that you can descend the elevator to breakfast, which makes the upstairs Four Seasons in comparison to downstairs’ one-star.

Patrick charges past Trout to the nurse’s station. He speaks quietly but rapidly to the nurse.

“The bus is 186 dollars. I don’t have my license, yet.” The exchange gets quieter and more hurried. After a few minutes, Patrick taps the desk and says loudly, “Thanks, Erica!” and strolls away.

“Hey, Trout!” And he leans in. “I did it.

“Did what?”

“Asked for that condom—ha!”

“That’s funny, Man.”

Patrick strolls off down the hallway. He refuses his pills; Mike, too. Says they’re making things too weird. Everyone’s supposed to have their vitals taken and their pills administered before bed.

But this is all voluntary. All an act of good faith.

The day before, Roberto, the tattoo artist from LA was discharged. Greaser hairline, all-black, svelte, manicured, the words ‘Meat is murder’ stenciled along his brow. Ropy veins and swallows decorating his neck. There was cake in the courtyard, the schizos played Ping-Pong on the other side of the fence. Ten people gathered, wishing Roberto well. Even Trout got a piece of the pie.

Patrick separated himself.

“Hey, Trout.”

“Yeah?”

“Isn’t that beautiful?”

“Sure?”

“I mean, ten people laughing, not one drug. It’s beautiful, Man.”

He fingered his necklace through the ripped collar, the battered pave´.

“I wish, Man, I fucking wish,” he says, slowly shaking his head by the penniless fountain, water in a constant recycle, the sound of white noise.

 

 

Misunderstood

The guy at the pool party had a chest-piece, which looked like spread moth wings. It was bannered with the word, “Misunderstood.” I liked this, thought it was about moths being mistaken for butterflies. He said, “I hate this tattoo. I was eighteen and high.” He then showed me scar-work on his side which was more thought out. It had both Polynesian and Filipino script. I liked them both; said, “I still really dig your moth wings. You shouldn’t hate that.”