Jimmy found inside of his pocket a tiny smooth stone that had been there since before the before of his mother’s death, when the notion that life still existed still existed in his head. It was, this notion, wrapped in paper wings and flying, and it went to flaming colors. The ashes rake from his ears when he tilts his head. The rock in his pocket goes light in his fingers he spins it until he forgets he is or was moving his fingers on its soft shell. Inside of this stone where Jimmy imagines his mother is sitting, her legs crossed, pulling the petals from a flower and waiting for him to come back. Jimmy, she says, it is time. Jimmy, she says, and he feels the weight of a stone, the curve of the earth, the feel of an egg grown solid. Jimmy, she says, come on. And instead he pitches the stone into the river and his mother drowns, her voice muted to river rocks and wake. She sinks. She blends with the rush of water. She disappears.
[ cricket legs ]
Under Jimmy’s bed is a blanket and scraps of baseball cards. Under Jimmy’s bed are bouts of fishing tackle, waiting there for another drift. Under Jimmy’s bed is a box that once held a square of tightly packed ball bearings, ball bearings that spilled out in a rumble of silver when he dropped them on the floor in their kitchen, his father watching silently as the mercury colored wave dispelled to quiet. And with the box now empty then under his bed Jimmy has this same box lidded tight and stuffed full of cricket legs. Jimmy keeps them in secret and only takes them out at night when the air is quiet and he can hear their sounds outside. When he is not deaf, in those nights, he takes one leg in a set of his fingers and another leg in another, and he rubs them together, ear to his hands, trying to make what crickets make, trying to recreate what has left him. So far Jimmy has failed, but he continues when no one is looking, rubbing dead legs to the pace of summer music.
[ nests in trees ]
Jimmy has found and is fond of finding nests in trees where birds once were, not where they are. He has found too the nests where the birds are still in them, the baby beaks gaping up and making a racket that means hunger, but Jimmy would rather find the empty ones. Jimmy would rather find and catalogue in his head all of the other nests where a bird once was, where a bird laid eggs and sat on eggs and hatched eggs and brought food back to the gathering of them, its new babies, and then kicked their wings out to the air where they flew and were lost to the sky. The nests that are empty now because no one is left for them to be a home. Nests made of sometimes grass and sometimes strings, sometimes trash and sometimes the feathers of other birds. Nests abandoned, meaning that everything has moved on. That is what Jimmy likes finding.
[ mother ]
Jimmy’s mother was a mother cut in straight halves by a train. That is how Jimmy’s mother became two mothers. The train whistle it blew as it always blows when the train is headed through town and on that night, the night when Jimmy’s one mother became two mothers, it was the night when the train instead of stopping to deliver or pick-up, the train just speeds through, blowing its whistle. And Jimmy’s mother was, like on some nights like this, full of drinking. She herself was a train, passing through the town bars and then resorting, a sagging uneven woman on the ties, searching the stars, singing america the beautiful. And Jimmy swears, though no one believes him, that at the instant his mother was split in two, if you were there, you could hear two voices singing that song, one singing melody and another harmony, his two mothers making of themselves a chorus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. A. Tyler is the author of Inconceivable Wilson (Scrambler Books, 2009), Sinatra (Vox Press, 2011), In Love With a Ghost (Cow Heavy, 2011), A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed (Fugue State Press, 2011), No One Told Me I Would Disappear [with John Dermot Woods] (Jaded Ibis Press, 2011), A Shiny, Unused Heart (Black Coffee Press, 2011), Girl With Oars & Man Dying (Aqueous Books, 2011), Wilson (Re)-Conceived (Scrambler Books, 2011), When We Hold Our Hands (Dark Sky Books, 2012), & The Zoo, a Going (Dzanc Books, 2013). The excerpt comes from his unpublished novel. He is the founding editor of Mud Luscious Press. He is also a review editor at Rumble and Red Fez, a part of the editorial teams at Dzanc Books, Monkeybicycle, Tarpaulin Sky and a columnist for Pank and BigOther.
Photo Source: MA ISD Charlotte Storrar