|28 Oct 2009 @ 13:44, by Jeffrey Trenton Crace|
Fragment entitled "The Eclipse"
“I can’t just go out and stare at the sun, now can I?”
“Well, you can Dierdra, but may want to bring some salt and pepper with you ‘cause that’ll literally cook your eyeballs!” Eerie fake laughter by both parties. The sound of it reverberates in the young boy’s head. “Just kidding of course folks. Now, there are basic precautions one should take when viewing a partial eclipse of the sun. First and foremost, do not directly stare at the sun. If you’ve managed to get yourself a pair of special glasses, then you’ll be okay. The best way to experience this monumental event…” The boy’s eyes, half-closed and covered in a feverish glaze, meandered slowly from the television and moved up towards the ceiling. Mounting anxiety had forced him to stop watching the newscast. The more he watched, the more the distance between himself and the world of that far-off studio grew less and less. He saw that small reality as one bud, among countless buds tipping countless skinny branches. He had felt himself inside the newscast, speaking the same words as that awful Weatherman who was so clearly faking it. The feigned laughter, the artificial setting and presentation, the plasticity of it all, it was too much. Waves of guarded panic began to roil in his gut.
He shot up from the couch, the blood flooding quickly to his head. He nearly fainted. His mouth was dry and the back of his neck ached. His head pounded and his sinuses felt severally desiccated. Unwinding himself from the sheet, he got to his feet. A moment of total disorientation ensued. How long had he been sleeping? Was this the same house had fallen asleep in? Panic finally seized him. Was he dreaming? He could barely discern the difference anymore. Pneumonia had wracked his young, eight-year-old body for a week now. In these few days, at the apex of his illness, he had lived swimming in and out of a hot and feverish delusion. One thing, and one thing only, kept him tethered. She was the only truth he knew. Praying she hadn’t somehow immaterialized, he set out to find her.
After scouring the house, he returned to the kitchen. He stood up on his toes and peered through the window of the door to the garage. There she sat, wrapped in her peach felt robe, fingers pinching a cigarette, phone pressed to her ear. She was somehow divine in this stark, mundane image: his mother, the Mother, ensconced among lawn mowers and bicycles. She tittered inaudibly through the glass. The young boy stood poised like this for a long time, enthralled and reinforced by the sight of her. It wasn’t enough though—she must see him too. He cracked the door and softly uttered, “Mom?”
“Hold on Sandy…Yeah honey?” She said this in covert exasperation. He tried not to notice.
“I didn’t know where you were…”
“Well, I’m right here. I’ll come inside in a second.”
“Okay.” He didn’t immediately shut the door. He needed her. If he demanded her attention, she would undoubtedly give it to him. But then it would be tainted by an air of annoyance and exasperation; he would be an obligation, not a love object. He wanted pure, single-minded attention, free of any taint of obligation. She must have time to herself…that is, if he wanted her abject care. He shut the door.
He didn’t move away though. There was nowhere to go. The rest of the house seemed too cold and too vacuous. He instead paced around the kitchen, biting his fingernails, a high-pitched longing in his gut. He had brief thoughts amid his frantic desire. The eclipse fascinated him. It sounded so magical. He could sense the rarity and preciousness of the event. Where was she? He thought it so unkind of her to make him wait for so long. Again, he peered through the window.
He watched her talk. She cocked her head back a bit from time to time, taking long, leisurely draws from her cigarette. She sipped her coffee. He stood transfixed. Watching her without her knowledge felt like seeing her…naked. He noticed that her robe had parted, revealing her thick but shapely upper thigh. A hot, sick thrill bloomed in his groin. An overwhelming feeling of wrongness seemed to fuel it. His breathing became short and erratic and he barely breathed, fearing somehow she might hear it. He was fully aroused now and could not wrench his eyes from that gorgeous leg. Everything that was happening was happening inside of a space that did not contain his moral, reasoning consciousness; he forced it to stay at the door. He was aflame now, sick in every way. He had just inserted his hand inside his pants when she turned her head and peered directly at him. In panic, he fell away from the window, beset by a shame and high fear. He was briskly escaping the kitchen when she entered.
“Noah?” The boy turned to face her.
“What did you need honey?” She said this with an amused, condescending countenance. He didn’t understand. Why wasn’t she upset? He had been spying on her! Her gaze drifted down. He looked down too and in horror, noticed what she must have noticed: he was still visibly aroused. He quickly looked back at her and saw the slightest, most vague triumphant smile touch the corner of her mouth; it suggested power, delight ….propriety.
“I want to go out and see the eclipse.”
“That’s too dangerous. You’ll go blind.”
“No. The weatherman. He said that you can do it safely, using a piece of cardboard and watching the shadow…” He looked down once more, crying. “I promise not to look at the sun.”
“All right. But let me take your temperature first.”
In defiance of the imminent eclipse, the sun shone fierce, reflecting strongly off of the rectangle of pavement that constituted the backyard patio. Cloistered inside all day, Noah was thrilled to breathe the outside air. A solitary bird traced a line across the blue sky. Noah stared at it, smiling, but whipped his head back down just as quickly. He must be vigilant! Within moments, he managed to convince himself that he had done no harm but admonished himself not to do again.
Recalling the task at hand, he leaned the piece of cardboard, pierced with an ice pick he had found in the garage, against the patio table. According to theory, when the partial eclipse occurred, one would see the small beam of light that shone through the hole in the cardboard disappear and then reappear. Noah waited, impatiently. Just to be safe, he stood with his back to the sun.
With one eye on the bright dot on the pavement, he studied his shadow. Extremely sharp, it made what looked like a human-shaped hole extending out from his feet. What if he fell through? It was a perfectly delineated hole, obviously made just for him. He imagined a stiff breeze blowing him over and he was sure if he did happen to fall, he would fall endlessly, turning head-over-heels for eternity. The sentiment reminded him of certain nightmares he had been having for years. These thoughts should have frightened him but in the midst of such a beautiful day, he couldn’t focus on them. Coming to consciousness, he started. The eclipse! He pivoted, looked up. Three seconds, maybe five minutes later, he brusquely tore his eyes away. Panic ripped through him. Rushing inside, he tore open the door to the kitchen and screamed for his mother. They nearly collided in the hallway. With only his scream to go on, she had become just as panicked as he.
“Oh my God, oh my God! What’s wrong honey?” The last few words came out through a whimper. She was cradling him. Noah just bawled—he couldn’t speak. This tormented his mother and in her fear, she became angry. “Noah, you have to tell me what’s wrong!” His face pressed to her shoulder, he tried to explain—it came out as unintelligible, muffled moans. She put his head in her hands and pulled it away from her shoulder. “What? Goddamnit Noah!” He told her, through the gasps and sobs.
“I’m going blind Mom. I’m going to go blind!” He could say no more and again buried his face in her shoulder.