My face was three inches from his face, max. I couldn’t tell for sure on account of the darkness, it being night and we being lightless, an “oversight.” He was on his back; I on my side. He doesn’t get my puns—the light/oversight thing. I’d taught him the word breeze earlier, my euphemism for the frigid wind. He whispered it at intervals as the tent’s fly ruffled. Other sounds included the raspy murmur of leaves and pattering rain—but all this was kind of muffled by the fog.
The third story I created, needing nothing to create it but his ears, concerned a Dad and a little boy. The previous two had as well, but they were short—mere yarnlets compared to this one, which, with each new word, gained synechdochal energy and increasing contemporary relevance.
Was he listening or asleep? I didn’t know for sure.
A dad and a little boy rode to town in a pickup truck, and this was a nostalgic story where town and home were different, clearly delineated, almost as if by the passing of tens of years. The highways widened the further they got from home. The traffic increased, the confusing pace of the world encroached ever more closely, shrouding lives in a sort of urban fog.
And the theme of seeing: the boy seeing and noting the sullen drivers of other cars, their lack of interest in him, their business. Trucks? Of course trucks. All stripe of trucks. The boy looked at his father as he drove and noticed that he was not actually seeing but thinking—what mommy would call plotting.
The dad let the little boy press the elevator’s buttons and the boy said “bank” to himself, practicing. “The bank. Not like a cutbank. A money bank bank.” They couldn’t see; then they could see again. The boy grasped his dad’s hand and they walked. He heard the voice first and saw the shoes. The voice of his uncle and the shoes of someone else. Then, the voice stood up and it was his uncle, and his uncle’s shoes, and the boy’s father shook hands across the desk, holding his hat in his left hand, the one that hurt, all the while.
His uncle asked how was his mommy and the boy said fine.
No country man walks into a bank not expecting to walk out with every hair on his head mortgaged to the hilt, even if it is his own brother who’s president.
They started talking by not talking. And outside, far below, a city bustled.
“Our mommy would wear people out bragging on her son’s corner office, if she was around,” the dad said.
“Shoot,” the other said. Seems like he should take a toothpick out of his mouth for punctuation. Yeah, let’s say he does that. And then he said, “Mommy ain’t never wore nobody out but herself.”
A reasonable silence. His mouth breathing inches from mine; I can hear it and even feel it.
“Pa, on t’other hand, had no need for bankers. If he’d a gone to school, he’d have liked Emerson: The world is in a state of bankruptcy; the world owes the world more than the world can pay.”
“Our Pa didn’t need no learning from school, and verily school didn’t need no learning off him.”
Then a voice ushers me back, for I’d forgotten about a character, and he noticed.
“Little boy?” he asked, not more than 3 inches from my face. The little boy looked out the bank’s window while his daddy and uncle talked, and while I described what he could see below, we fell asleep together.