Summer 2009 - THE POTOMAC

   Jen Michalski

The light is like the smell of grass. Someone please kill the sun and the maggots crawling all over my arms. The woman is standing over me. Dad, are you okay? How have you been? And I say, ma’am? How have you been, Dad? You want to get in your chair? No, it’s the sun, I tell her. Is it too bright, Dad? No, it smells like the grass the mower used to spit out, like little swords onto the driveway next to the Impala. But this sun, this sun is going to kill us all. I could eat it and it would burn all the way out my ass.

I have shit myself. I do not know whether it’s yesterday. No, don’t touch down there, the woman says. My name is Eileen and I’ll be helping you today, okay, Mr. Culpepper? And to this I tell her about the men, the men who have been crawling up my nose all night. Damn Koreans. I hope Roosevelt has got his thinking cap on. These guys are pretty tough---right in the nose, not a complaint from any chink one of them.

Sounds like you had a rough night, Mr. Culpepper. She pushes hard on my body and I am on my side on the bed while she digs the damn chinks out of my ass. You gotta admire a woman who stands by her duty for her country. I have paid my dues, I tell her. I remember back in ’64 I thought I was going to get laid off from the newspaper and I stayed up a lot, smoking cigarettes and making plans. We had enough money to live on for a few months, sure, but then what? We could go out to California and I could get work in my friend Smitty’s paper factory. Heck, I always got a job for a fellow vet, he said.

You’re looking good, Joe. The woman says. Got a kiss for your Betty? Betty, I grab her arm. You gotta get me out of here. They’re trying to kill me, they want Roosevelt’s secret files. Eileen told me you ate good this morning. What did you have? Every morning, I tell her, for fifty years I have a soft-boiled egg with toast and coffee. Every day, rain or shine. No oatmeal, no waffles, no cereal. I’m glad they’re giving you what you like, Joe. I like the women, I tell her, what can I say? If you see that Betty, will you tell her I think she’s a fine girl? The woman draws the blinds, kills the sun, and it swallows us, the black.

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