Thursday, January 06, 2005

Flash-a-thon #4

Picasso Burns

Outside the pharmacy, a girl spins in circles with her arms outstretched. "Look, Mommy. I’m a tornado," she says. I look up at the sky. She could be--clouds are churning like time-lapse animation. I smile a centimeter and she keeps spinning.

I begin the walk home with the stapled bag clutched in my bare hands. I’ve long since sold the Saab. Jesus, it’s cold. It’s only quarter to four but it’s dark and the streets look like rush hour as commuters try to beat the snow. "You’re an asshole!" screams one out his window at a woman on her cell phone--she took more than half a second to realize the light had turned green.

The mucous in my nose is starting to freeze and my breath is hugely visible. I remember smoking, miss it.

I turn onto my street just as a gray BMW rolls by. It stops about twenty feet ahead and the window powers down.

"Hi, Mrs. Andrews," I say, as I reach her.

"Hi, James. How’s Shelly?" she asks.

"Not so good," I reply.

"If you ever need anything..." She lets the sentence dangle.

"Thanks, Mrs. Andrews. I appreciate it."

"Well," she says, and pauses. "You take care, okay?"

"Okay, you, too."

She waits a few seconds longer, watching me for some sign that I don’t know. I raise my hand in a brief wave. She nods hesitantly before disappearing behind the tinted window and driving slowly away.

Inside, the house is frigid.

"Shel?" I call, shutting the door behind me.

"Back here," she says. Her voice is faint.

I find her on the living room couch under several blankets.

"Why is it so cold?" I ask.

"Gas shut off today," she says.

"Oh." I scratch the back of my neck. I toss the bag on the coffee table and press my lips gently to her forehead. "Let me get you some water."

"Thanks."

The pipes clank as I fill a glass at the kitchen sink. I let the faucet drip so the pipes won’t freeze. From the other room, I hear her coughing. It sounds a lot worse, and I think of a night filled with blood-soaked tissues. We need a fire.

I spent the last of the payday loan on the medicine. There’s little left to sell, and, even assuming I can make it there before they close, the pawn shop is a two-mile walk.

The wood from the coffee table lasts about an hour. I don’t sleep. She sleeps fitfully, as I feed the fire with broken furniture. The sight of the used Kleenex makes my eyes burn and I set each one ablaze, a quick poof.

I’ve run out of furniture. The lacquer belched black smoke, which increased the supply of stained tissues. I wish we hadn’t sold all our books.

The fire starts to die around dawn. She is sleeping. I pace the house, looking for flammable objects, and my eyes alight on my guitar. If only the fire would last a few more hours, I could pawn the guitar. I haven’t played it in years.

She gave it to me on our first anniversary. It’s not an expensive guitar, a Takamine Jasmine. On its body, though, is a reproduction she did of Picasso’s "Old Man With Guitar." I suddenly feel ancient.

I pick it up and strum an open E. It’s badly out of tune. I pluck harmonics and twist pegs as I walk to the fireplace. The E is still not quite right as I set the guitar in a bed of embers.

Through the window, I see the first snowflakes fall. Strings pop and blue-black smoke rises as Picasso burns. Shelly’s breathing stills.

7 Comments:

At 3:35 PM, Blogger Ellen said...

Oh, Dave! You're breaking my heart!!

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger Dave Clapper said...

Yay! Glad you liked it! I'll send you some duct tape. :)

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger hplauze said...

What up Dave Clapper! I just finished up a ten hour work day and decided to kick back and do some surfing. So I grabbed myself a drink and stumbled across your blog while doing some research on beatles guitar tab for a upcoming project I am doing. Well even though Flash-a-thon #4 isn’t what I was looking for I really enjoyed reading your blog. Your doing a great job and please keep up the good work. Lots of people do not keep their blogs up to date :0) There are some very interesting view points stated here. Anyways I am going to grab the bull by the horns and continue to plug away at beatles guitar tab. I have already bookmarked your blog. You many want to visit me at beatles guitar tab. You never know you might see something you like! Again great job.

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger Rebek said...

All I can say is WOW Dave Clapper. The other half and I just got back from our friends house (well her friends house) and I needed a huge break. I am working on a project right now that is based on easy guitar song. I have literally been on-line for 2-3 hours doing research. Even though Flash-a-thon #4 really isn’t on the same page as easy guitar song I am certainly glad I came across your blog. There are a ton of great view points on this blog. Well I think I can here the kids screaming in the background. I put you in my internet favorites and I will certainly come back and visit. If you want to take a peek at my site you can find me here at easy guitar song. I update my site very frequently. Again, great job blogging and I will be back again soon!

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger hplauze said...

Well I just got back from the gym and I am beat. I am currently doing some research on christian guitar and stumbled across your blog. Which cracks me up really. The internet can certainly land you off base sometimes. Even though Flash-a-thon #4 is not completely related I think it is a cool blog. I have read back through the archives and lots of people make some very good points. Well I have been on-line forever it seems. I need to continue to plug away at christian guitar. If you have the energy swing by christian guitar. I try to update my site weekly and maybe you will see something you like. I already snagged your URL and put it in my favorites. If you do not mind I will be back again. Great job!

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger hplauze said...

Hey this blog is not about christian guitar. Silly internet bringing me here :-) Funny I have been doing hours of research on christian guitar and it brought me to your blog on Flash-a-thon #4. The web plays funny games sometimes. Anyways, I was reading your blog Dave Clapper and I think it is really cool. Keep up the great work.
If you do not mind I may snag your blog and put it in my favorites. I read a ton of stuff that interested me. Keep blogging away :-)

 
At 3:14 AM, Blogger Rebek said...

Hi Dave Clapper your blog is really great! Wow :-) As I was out blog surfing and surfing the web for detailed info on guitar tab and chord I stumbled across your blog. Obviously my search landed me here and it is a little off subject compared to Flash-a-thon #4, but I am certainly glad I did come across your blog. Did I already tell you I like it! If you would not mind, I would like to add your link to my "favorites" page to come back and read again sometime. Should you ever need it, there's lots of information on this site about guitar tab and chord. Again, great blog and keep up the great work!
P.S.S If you want to bookmark my site I am at guitar tab and chord. You never know you may find some good deals!

 

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