Confession | Patrick Loafman

The neighbor’s boy is a cartoon. The doctors said he wouldn’t live past two, but he turns twelve today. He coughs up old newsprint from the twenties, leaves dusty ink footprints from the bedroom to the fridge and back.

The blue cat is frightened by the bubbles that appear above the boy’s head when he “speaks.” Even his mother is two-dimensional. She married a nursery rhyme she read when she was five. 

She gives her boy pencil and paper. He stays up late sketching tomorrow’s scenes to be read with coffee and Danish on the train into town. I give the boy lists of what I want to happen tomorrow, thinking I might join him inside those walls, but he said it doesn’t always work that way.

Sometimes the boy has blue hair, the color of my cat’s fur, and we laugh about this for a long time… whole decades slipping like leaves from a boxwood.

He was just a cartoon, a boy drawn into a box… pedaling his red bike up and down the road… sketching tomorrow… boy as cartoon, not knowing the world was reading him.

I tore a small piece from the corner of his smile and swallowed it, then felt ashamed and sent the boy home. He thought it was a game, at first. The next morning his hair was the color of a bruise. I tore another piece from the page that was him. 

He tasted better than I remembered. 

His mother wrote her history and sang it late at night when she thought he slept. He adored the way she made everything rhyme.

He was just the neighbor’s boy playing in the boxwood. I wanted to live outside of the box, he said. I ate a piece of his smile… just the corner. 

He was just a cartoon around the corner from my home. When he turned sideways no one could see him. I folded him in half and tucked him between my cheek and gum; he burned like strong tobacco… blooming into an addiction… a boy… a past sketched onto a page.

I cough up half-digested wads of paper… tiny words… hard to read… from the twenties, I suppose… ancient history. 

Some mornings the boy shows up at my doorway, and he’s half-erased and crying. I sketch in all the missing body parts as best I can… I color his hair blue… I call him brother, grandmother and other names borrowed from the dead.

I made a list of things I wanted to happen tomorrow, but it doesn’t always work that way, he said, then turned sideways, vanishing.

Folding my paper smile into a plane, throwing it from the backyard boxwood, it crashed into a stone… bruising the edges of the clouds… just the edges.

I sketched a tomorrow that forgot to bloom… forgot the edges of tales that once rhymed…words are only two-dimensional, they turn sideways and vanish… a day torn from a page…long ago… hard to read.

I take out my old typewriter and stamp letters onto a crimson morning, thinking I might draft wings onto my back… climb the boxwood…

I want out of my box, I told the neighbor in his cell-sized apartment, and he nodded… clouds puffing from his lips… he was as beautiful as any woman… he tore off a piece of my smile… I thought it was a game…

I’m a sketch, something to read on the morning train, faces passing like so many words you take in your mouth…

Our father made love to an air-brushed magazine… Mom married a fairy tale… the big-headed baby was named Charlie… after the cartoon…

He should be dead by now… a boy who keeps knocking on my door, staring through the windows... a small boy... hard to read.

I put him in my mouth like communion… he calls me brother, grandmother, as though I’m the one who died…

I thought it might fly… my history with cartoon wings… bleed onto a page, fold it into a plane, climb the boxwood…

A boy who turned twelve for the last three decades… he leaves sooty footprints between here and then…

I spend all day on my knees, scrubbing 

and scrubbing…

Next... >

© 2003-2007 | all rights reserved
Contrary ® is a registered trademark of Contrary Magazine
The Figure of Authority | Thomas King
What Mary Did | Sarah Layden
Tithonus | C.E. Chaffin
Homecoming | Patrick Reichard
How You Remember Her | Amy Reed
The Night of the Iguana | Derek Pollard
Generations of Leaves | Taylor Graham
Three Poems | Patrick Loafman

On the Contrary
Archives | Search

commentary | poetry | fiction | chicago | summer 2007