How to Count to 100
A story from the 1970's
How to Count to One Hundred
too young for tricks
we're all fine
ten ten ten
Let’s try again.
It’s been said that each time words are read, they are reborn - the same is true of memories. Each time we revisit them, they become a new memory. So the man can stand in the memory with the boy, in a room with one door and one window, in 1972. San Francisco in the Haight Ashbury, in a gray room where the paint might have been there when baby boomers were conceived. Revisiting the memory, it’s an echo. Some moments are ghosts, following the living long after their moment has gone.
The boy couldn’t do anything for the woman on the bed. The man he would grow into, now standing in the same memory, can’t do anything for the woman lying under sheet or the grey sweat on her face that weighs down curls. Can’t take the heroin from her body, the trauma from her soul.
Sitting in a brown cloth chair, in a cloud of cigarette smoke that would never lift, two of him could have shared the chair and not touched the sides. Knees to his chest, arms around them, grey eyes watched through the building across the street, the pigeons that sat on the brick ledge. Lips moving silently, he counts.
Eleven is a beautiful number, makes the tongue curl. No out loud though.
Out loud wakes monsters.
Thirteen, the one with three.
Her moan turned into a growl as her fist hit the bed. Panting, brow lined, she rolled over, twisting the sheets.
count the breaths
take one more
Afternoon fades to longer shadows. Bright car lights make dancing fairies in the dark.
Do you know I‘m here? Will you talk to me, pretty lights, if I ask real nice?
Her breathing is harder, faster, jaw clenched, teeth grinding.
sit on the floor
"Stop," she screams, voice drawing out, begging, “Stop!”
Hands against the air, blocking the monster who wasn't there right now, she sobs. Tears tangle in bleach blonde curls, until she grips the sheets in a desperate fist.
At the edge of the bed, the boy reaches to her hand, cold hand, but human. Little fingers pet over skin, enlarged vein, dots. If you put a kitty it makes it happy.
"I love you, Mommy."
The smack to his face burns. Dark sculpted carpet pokes through thin pants. Then is memory is three - the boy, the man, and the little brown rabbit curled in a ball.
Bed groans as she rolls back over, “Just let me sleep!"
In the space between the chair and the wall, he sleeps. In his dream, he is in the orchard and it is always spring in the orchard. There is a blond man there who tells stories of bears and roses, of fairies. Such stories are realer to the boy than to the man he’d be someday.
He’s never hungry in the orchard. His skin is never purple there.
The morning takes away the fairy lights and spring dreams. It’s just like falling asleep to watch the dawn, but in reverse. You don't have to do anything and the light just gets brighter and brighter.
Sometimes the boy and the man he will be don’t agree. To the boy hunger is familiar, safe, like kite string that keeps him there. The man does not understand this. He’s forgotten that hunger means good will come and full means the darkness comes.
Can’t hold ghosts and can’t hold memories when they don’t want to be held. So the story jumps to when the boy is a little older, standing in the shadow of a kitchen that couldn’t be far enough away. It’s a different place and she’s smiling, hand out, waiting for her turn to slide the silver fang under her skin. The words that make that memory fresh are adult words though and the child just stares, hands on the warm wooden door jam.
too young to trade for tricks.
What the boy can’t do, the man can, turn back time, hold out his arms, and pick the boy up, hold him in strong arms. He can pull him out of the greyness like peeling up a sticker. A man can defeat the darkness - so it does not come back.
Full is better than hunger.
We are safe and fed.
Not always spring,
but the darkness is shed.
For the man, next day, bus stop, old fear at his ankles and he says to himself,
Gonna make my life great!
About the Creator
I write a lot of lgbt+ stuff, lots of sci fi. My big story right now is The Moon's Permission.
I've been writing all my life. Every time I think I should do something else, I come back to words.
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