Friday, June 20, 2008

Bob's Bull's Eye

Derek put down the newspaper he had been reading, which was physically shrinking in size, narrowing by at least twenty percent so that the newspaper people, who were not selling papers, could cut their losses. He had just finished a story, which left him quiet, but not utterly stunned. Angry, but not very. But nevertheless incredulous to have learned that a 2-year-old boy had started beating his sleeping grandfather, and would have killed him, if the man had not gotten to his feet and stumbled out the front door. And the bizarre story had not ended there.

There were stories that Derek would tell, that he could tell well and very interestingly, if anyone would show any interest in listening to him, or reading what he might write on the subject. But he could never compete with a story like the one he had just read. Everyone who read this story or heard about it would be talking about it for days, weeks maybe ... and then the shock would wear off, so that the next time a toddler began to kill a grandparent, it wouldn't be so overwhelming. There's nothing like the first time. From there ... it's all down hill, as Derek's older brother used to say. Bob doesn't say much anymore. Doesn't care to. When spoken to as Bob sits in his wheelchair, a paraplegic, a human scar left over from Vietnam, Bob always replies the same way, "Waitin' to die." Even if you were to pay him a compliment or give him a present, he would offer his only commentary on life for now, his trademark, his signature which let everyone know, somewhat hopelessly, that while Bob wasn't dead, he sure wished like hell he was.

And despite his disability -- both legs badly burned, one severed just above the ankle, the other above the knee, with white-pink scars crawling up his neck, where the flames had gone in search of more oil-rich flesh -- to further express his feelings about life, Bob had gotten up and managed to hang a big wooden dart board, which he had made, in a hidden corner in the dining room of his mother's home. And there he threw his knives, at pictures of various people, until the paper on which the faces were printed became so battered and full of holes that it fell apart in your hands. A lot of knives had been thrown, a feat Bob had learned to perfect in Nam, and a lot of pictures had gone up and fallen down. A picture of Jesus was the latest face that formed Bob's bull's eye.