Fishing in Beirut

March 9, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 5)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 09:17

Frank was holding the baby. His name was Jack and he was seven months old. He waved his arms and shouted with joy. His smile showed a tooth in the gum base.
“Ah sure go on outta that now,” said Frank, amusing them both with the spiel. “What would you be talkin’ about at all at all?”
Jack bounced and tried to look at several things at once, and then Frank put him down, and he sat there eyeing a soft ball. Frank procured it for him. The sun was coming in and stretching on the wooden floor, the American street half visible through the blinds. A pick-up truck trundled by, going the wrong way down a one-way street. Frank laughed.
“When are you going to start walking around?” asked Frank. Jack smiled, and handed him the ball. One of the dogs arrived and sniffed randomly, or perhaps not randomly at all. Frank picked Jack up and took him outside, and they admired berries in the front garden while a squirrel scampered up a tree. Jack turned his head toward the movement.
“Ga,” he said. Frank nodded solemnly. “Ga, ga, ga, gaaaa!”
There was a church a few doors down, ‘the opposition’ his uncle joked. Anglican or Methodist or some form of Protestant worship. The wine just stayed wine for them there. Frank and Jack watched a woman enter, Jack’s fingers catching on Frank’s shirt. Frank felt a stab in his ankle.
The crutch was not needed to walk in the house. It was for downtown, or the shop. If there was no tobacco, no papers, and he was gonna have to eat the grass or do without. If the dogs needed walking in the evening.
Jack wriggled and struggled, and Frank placed him on the ground. He picked at a daisy with interest, muttering some sound to himself. Frank stepped onto the pavement. The street was dead straight in each direction, tree-lined, peaceful. The houses were pretty and low. It was funny to be here, to be in America in daylight, a natural clearness in the October sun. It was funny and benevolently strange.
He felt the morphine buzz, a sealing warmness, and looked up at the sky as a plane flew overhead. The house was right under the flightpath, and this was exciting and nice. The flat in Berlin had been too.
Jack shouted something, and Frank turned around to observe him. Jack was holding the daisy. Frank picked up a leaf and threw it at him, and Jack watched it float toward his face, making no attempt to intercept. His eyes studied.
“That was a leaf,” said Frank. Jack laughed, gurgling.
“That was a leaf that I threw at you.”
Frank wandered over to a bush in the garden, and Jack watched him walk as he did so. A man on a bike cycled past. There was a wrapper or packaging entangled in the branches, a green and navy emblem torn and frayed. A fly crawled along it.
“Did you put that wrapper in the bush there?” said Frank. He had walked back to where Jack was. “Did you put that wrapper in the bush?”
Jack looked at him sweetly, aware that these questions were playful. He understood tone and mock-tone.
“Did you put that wrapper in the bush there?” asked Frank again, bending down and tickling Jack’s ribcage. “Cause if you didn’t, who did?”
He picked him up then, and they went inside.

In the evening, Frank and his uncle had a beer in the basement. This was the set routine. They sat at the old bar on barstools, studying the chessboard by lamplight. Frank’s days were numbered.
His queen was gone, a bishop too, and all of his enemy’s pieces had cordoned off routes of attack. He moved forlornly.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” said Danny. “I reckon I might have you if you do.”
Frank placed it back.
“I think you’ve probably got me anyway.”
“I suppose that it’s lookin’ that way.”
They played on for a while, and Dan won. He cracked his knuckles in victory.
“ I better go upstairs for a bit.” He finished his can and left.
Frank looked around, at the couch and the exercise clutter. A stationary bike and a treadmill. He stepped up on the treadmill and started walking at a low setting, loosening his ankle and making it warm. He liked the sensation at this pace.
There was a mirror over the far side. He watched himself, walking, and he thought he looked so thin. His forehead was creased into a frown. Consciously relaxing it, he realised how it was always like this now; furrowed, tight. He loosened his elbows and shoulders.
A dog padded on the floorboards overhead. He heard the scratch of its nails. Then the other one followed, more a scamper or a run, and Frank stretched out his arms, feeling tension ease.
In bed he lay with his discman. The comfort of low Leonard Cohen. Show me slowly what I only know the limits of, dance me to the end of love. He touched a sweet tear on his cheek.
The room was bathed in Chicago blue. His crutch held the wall. `He sat up and turned off the sound, and there was perfect, perfect silence. He put the headphones on the quilt. The streetlight in the laneway flickered outside, leaning over the chain link fence of the garden. The spirits could pass unobserved.
Frank watched all this stillness, this Hopper tableau brought to life. What joy in a pure lack of motion. The light died, went out, extinguished. It ceased. Frank and the world did not move. He yawned suddenly, and a delivery van pulled up. Brown. UPS. The driver got out with a package, and briefly entered a building. Then he drove off again.
The night had become early morning. Frank felt some pain in his leg. He leaned over for two codeine tablets, and swallowed them with water. The taste of the water was stale.
He lay back down and pulled the covers. The discman was next to his head. The headphone wire touched his neck, but he pushed it away with his eyes closed. A bird broke the silence with song.
Soon his uncle would let the dogs out. They would chase down the steps out the back. Frank was partitioned from the back door by curtain, and he heard it open every morning, and felt air. When the dogs went to piss it made him have to.


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