Another Night Mare
I’m a nightmare, or a child, and it’s hot outside.
I’m wet with water and blood. As I step down from an above-ground pool, my knee sets on fire and lights the sky blue. Along the blood-blue sky, people watch me from windows like I must be important. The asphalt is hot on my bare feet. My feet are remarkably sturdy feet, solid and calloused, like the hoofers of elephants.
My friends—from high school but we’re toddlers—truth be told they were really more like acquaintances that laughed at the jokes I whispered in economics class—not that I was a wise guy: my jokes were secrets for only a few to know—I don’t remember names—my friends, they play with a hose, some of them, and some of them play with a snake, some of them, and some play with a puppy and some play with a He-Man and some play with centripetal force and gravity until I spin too quickly and faint.
An ice cream truck nears.
Its music is like an enchantress, a siren calling me to crash my teeth into sweet ruin. The ice cream man is a non-threatening clown. I’m not afraid of clowns; I prefer their grotesque but understandable faces. He leans down from his window. He’s surrounded by pictures of ice cream confections (briefly, he reminds me of Mussolini). Novelty bars look like ghosts and monsters and cartoon characters. The head of a prominent cartoon animal crime-fighter looks very convincing and similar to its tv counterpart up on the side of the truck, but when I’m handed the thing, it’s deformed, smudged and drooping on one side, features flattened to absence, a ghostly remnant of the once animate thing, a dim shadow soul.
All the children and animals gather to listen to a tale. The music stops.
“I know you’re all just tryin to have fun in the sun on a Saturday night, but I’m here to confirm my friend here’s silent theory on siren based propaganda.”
He gestures to me but he has transformed into a woman. I am older and so are my friends. My 7th grade band teacher Mrs. Simpson walks onto a stage in an auditorium. She whispers into the clown’s beautiful ear. They both look at me—I’m worried secrets have been exchanged—maybe about me—maybe even about what I look like in this godawful adolescent suit, how I have pit hair now. I didn’t want them to see my pit hair so I wore long sleeve shirts, though it was always so hot out, I sweated and sweated, and so I always had pit stains which is so much worse than hair, so I wore a jacket over that, which made the stains worse, but at least then no one could see them I could only feel them so clammy and crying down my delicate sides.
The Clown continues:
“We’ve gathered here today to listen to the many siren calls found in nature. The siren—once confined to waterways, mostly—makes new homes amongst the airwaves (that fling our ship about), for reasons I can pretend to understand but why would I do that? We might as well call it magic.”
I thought what she said was pretty obvious, so I tried to say so, but my words came out very garbled tongue. I meant to say something like, A lotta people these days don’t even believe in sirens let alone recognize that they’ve hypnotized most of our nation, which is a rather hackneyed sentiment if you think about it, so I’m glad my mouth garbled to make me say instead, “Are they all bad?”
“The sirens? No, they’re not all bad.” The Clown thought for a moment. I know she needed to choose her words carefully. Some other kids were trying to get my attention; there was a hot tub to climb within. I ignored them, even though some of them I liked, I really really liked, and I shouldn’t have ignored them, I should have went with them, why didn’t I go with—
“They’ve been enslaved, many of them,” said the Clown, “to do terrible things.”
She thought. “Well, I know one, for instance, who started out life like a skilled songstress, but now she just works in marketing.”
Again, I’m annoyed and I cringe. This is old news to me. I try again to tell this to the Clown, but all I can manage is: “What about like if let’s say I wanted to be a siren…”
“Do you want to lead men to peril?”
“Men and Women and Everyone.”
“Uh huh. To peril.”
“Have you been told by someone to ask this question to me, in order to ruffle my feathers?” She was angry.
And shut went the window of the ice cream truck.
The Ice Cream Man looked back at me from the driver’s seat window, an annoyed and disappointed expression, puckered lips, shaking head, gritted teeth, furrowed brow. The truck inched over the horizon to a song I recognized—not in total or in name—but I heard the melody, without words. If there are words, hiding inside the melody, they would go something like this (imprecisely and incompletely):
naked wraith / naked wraith / take me in / you naked wraith / walk me in a circle / throw me in a well / ebay my soul / show me hell / Naked Wraith!