By Ross McMeekin
My mind is between rungs on a belt. I can’t decide if you love me or you saw a squirrel in the bushes. There’s no break from this except in orange bottles. I didn’t want to say anything about prescriptions because that would be low hanging fruit flies circling a bruised plum I picked from the grass below a tree in my grandfather’s backyard. He couldn’t stop talking about his health. Like this, it was never interesting. But to him such matters were like small animals that catch eyes and keep them in their care. That and leather bands holding up trousers. You choose a rung.
I keep seeing you in other faces. But maybe it’s not your face I’m seeing, even when I look at you. There’s that squirrel again. This thinking is just a distraction, as if dissecting an owl pellet can make the voles come to life. Now that should be part of the discussion, like that party we dressed up as flappers. Let’s tip the head waiter so he serves regret as course number one. You’d lose your appetite as I licked the plate. This is all a distraction. As a kid I used to get tar on my feet from crossing the train tracks in Ballard and my mother would get angry because there was nothing to be done about it except wait until it wore off.
We don’t eat pills, we swallow them, as if by accident, like a child swallows a Lego. Swallows swallow scented candles for the perfume, and beads strung through wire wrap wisely around a neck. Coffee belongs in a mug; it falls apart if you pour it on the counter. I had a point. But what’s a point other than the dead end on the tracks? They never stretch far enough. The towns are always still off in the distance, covered in ferns.
Your love is a steel wool blanket. There’s a point to all this, the tracks just don’t reach it, and the tar is baking in the sun, waiting for a foot, so it can be looked a in horror by mothers. But maybe you know all of this.
In a back nook in the basement of my home stands a water heater that no one ever looks at unless there’s something wrong. Sometimes I imagine there are blind fish swimming inside of it, because why not? Should I think of you? Your glance would answer questions I didn’t know I was asking. But wood floats in syrup, and robins are a sign of spring that stick around until they cease being signs. I make things into something they’re not. Will you tell me you love bees, heavy with pollen? Can we sit down for nectar and talk of wings?
I want to be a squirrel, quick as thought. Watch me. Watch me go.
Ross McMeekin’s debut novel, The Hummingbirds, came out from Skyhorse in 2018. His short fiction has appeared in places like Virginia Quarterly Review, Post Road Magazine, Redivider, and Tin House’s Flash Fiction Fridays. He edits the literary journal Spartan.