What can he do, he wonders, but sit in his bed and pull the stitching out of the yellow scarf his girlfriend made for him? What can he do but hold and tug, hold and tug, moving down the scarf holding and tugging like he is pulling intestines out of a preserved lab rat? Like he is pulling the multicolored handkerchief from the sleeve of a clown. Now he can’t get the image of the preserved lab rat out of his head, its guts in neat piles on the silver work surface. The work surface looks like a platter. He thinks of the clown sitting down to dinner, still clowned, not yet undressed, and of the clown’s wife, or husband, or sibling, or kid pushing through saloon-style doors separating the kitchen from the dining room and the dining-room table where the clown sits, ready to eat, fork and knife in hand and napkin tucked into collar. The clown’s mouth waters at the prospect of digging in to preserved lab rat served in a fluffy cream pie. In his bed he’s pulled apart half of the scarf and the pile of yellow string resting on his sheets is like—yes, it really is—a pile of spaghetti, and goddammit he’s not hungry, and he holds and tugs and holds and tugs, and he thinks of the venomous water moccasin that slow-killed his dog a few years ago, how the snake, killed by the dog in a fight without winners, was short and fat and more like a long black balloon, one that the clown could turn into another animal if he weren’t off-duty and eating dinner. Now the scarf is almost gone. He’s got about six inches left. He hasn’t thought about what he’ll do with all of this yarn that his girlfriend spent hours weaving into wearable form. The only thing he can remember ever having spent hours doing is sleeping. There was the time he drove north to Ohio, fourteen hours in the car. But that wasn’t for anyone’s benefit but his own. Would he be able to spend hours doing something for someone else? Sometimes when he thinks about his life he feels like a child. This is one of those moments, when life and everyone in it seem colossal to the point of being unrecognizable. The scarf is gone. He looks at the pile of yarn. The scarf is unrecognizable. In this moment, the formless implication of yarn unsettles him in a way he does not understand. He pushes it onto the floor. He’ll masturbate, go to sleep, dream of a hand grabbing him from behind, again and again, and when he wakes he’ll teach himself how to crotchet.
Chase Burke has lived in Florida for most of his life. He is a graduate of the University of Florida, and he currently teaches English as a second language. His work is forthcoming in Emerge Literary Journal.
Photo credit: Joshua Rappeneker