Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Styl & Steel

A cough set up shop in Styl's life two years ago, teasing his throat with something like a feather constructed of steel wool and burying a maple-y thickness in the deepest recesses of his lungs.

The cough is habitual, which means he hacks through Sunday worship at Grace Baptist and sputters phlegm over mounds of produce at the supermarket. He hmmmhmmms on the mail—mostly circulars—as he pulls it from its postal slot. Everywhere he goes, everything he does, loudness follows.

That's not to say he's rude about it. He may have been at first, that can't be denied, but he's since learned how to be graceful with his predicament. When he feels the steel wool starts to churn, he lifts his limply fleshed arm, fans out the fingers of the hand that seem bolted to it, and covers his lips. The arid clay patch of his elbow sticks straight out, as if deflecting a blow.

Lately, a frustration has crept in. Not at the ceaselessness of his condition, but of the way people respond to it.

His girlfriend, Julia, long since headed for the hills. He wishes this was just a saying, but it's not. She met a man from the peak of some western state and migrated to be beside him forever.

Mother had an aneurism and papa was eaten by gout. Both are buried in a family plot two towns away, in a cemetery abutting the interstate.

The cat, well she's fickle as always. She demands net-free tuna and won't drink water that's not artesian and above a very specific temperature. Her shedding seems to have worsened.

Styl's not sure if there's a connection between these things and himself or not, but he's not totally unconvinced.

Two days ago, in the stall of the men's room at the Library Branch to End All Library Branches, after answering nature's call resoundingly, Styl pulled a pen from his pocket and etched his frustrations into the wall. There were four letters, spelling a word that you would not find in the bible, but that wouldn't get bleeped on prime time television.

He put the pen back, flushed, and left the bathroom, just like that, swallowing back the steel wool, for once but not for all.

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