#17 - Hair Drying Cardboard


      We were counting down from three and not getting there. Counting down and stopping, at two maybe, or that space between two and one.

      "Ok do it."

      My brother's voice was muffled by the homemade, cardboard wrestling mask he wore. He sat in the shopping cart staring down the steep country road through the holes he cut for his eyes.

      "Do it this time for real."

      Or maybe it was an astronaut helmet. The crudely drawn crayon design on the back and sides didn't give anything away, but he'd been fascinated by astronauts a while back.

      "I'll start the count down; you push the cart, ready?"

      A race car driver's helmet would make the most sense I guessd, given our current situation, but I couldn't assume he connected the dots the same way I did. He never did.

      "Three"

      Doc said it was ok though, that there wasn't anything wrong with him. He was healthy as a horse doc'd said, just processed things different is all, took the long way home. Said it just guaranteed us a lifetime of interesting table banter. Said that maybe he'd be president someday.

      "Two," the muffled voice came through the cardboard.

      Doc said he'd need a creative outlet for it though. Something to grasp onto, and be encouraged into so he didn't take up something on his own, like seeing what animals brains looked like, or spying on our neighbour's daughters.

      "Hey you think God makes squiggly lines on the road like that as a sort of warning against doing things like this?"

      I looked down the hill at the heat waves moving over the black pavement.

      "You're such a pussy."
      "You're the pussy"
      "Are You gonna count again, or can I just let go."
      "I'll count."
      "You remember how?"
      "Shut up."
      "You shut up."

      "Three."

      Standing in the middle of the road arguing with the back of my brother's cardboard head was wearing thin. We lived so far out of town all my friends were at least a 20 minute drive away. So at 14 years old that meant I usually spent my days with my brother doing stupid shit like this.

      "Two."

      In order to encourage his creative side, my mother bought a new fridge and a box of crayons. "It doesn't get much better than a cardboard box," my mother had said. She was right, as it turns out, the box was a hit.

      It was a house first, naturally, then a much cooler, "lookout", then a gang hangout. Then it became a fort, and then was slightly altered to be a school bus...

      He shifted his weight in the cart, and got in what seemed like a more "intense" posture.

      "Ok, I'm ready now," there was a short pause. "Three."
      "Pussy."
      "You're the pussy."

      Then the box was left in the rain. This event was marked as a milestone, like you would mark losing a tooth, a pet, a limb, or a best friend.

      The crying was heard all the way in town and we found ourselves around the dining room table hair drying cardboard at 3 in the morning to salvage as much as we could. All that was left was this mystery helmet and a crude sword he had stuck in his belt.

      "Two-wop-do-wop," he raised his fist in the air. "Don't stop, DON'T STOP!"

      I drifted off, and started thinking of the neighbour's daughters. Twin seventeen year old goddesses who do everything outside, and in their underwear. It's weird and ridiculous and amazing. For my 14th birthday I had changed my birthday wish from a bb gun to a telescope.

      "Hey, you think foxes have thumbs?"
      "Jesus Christ," I said. I swung the cart around and started pushing it towards home.
      "Ok wait, wait, I'll do it."
      "We're going home."
      "Aww come on I'll do it for real this time."
      "Shut up"
      "You shut up"

      The cart rattled and smashed its way up the road towards our house. My brother gave up and slumped down in it with a bored heave. Passing the neighbour's yard I saw the twins between the spokes in their fence doing cartwheels in their front lawn. I stopped, dumbfounded, watching.

      "You've got to be fucking kidding me"
      My brother followed my gaze, "You're gross"
      "Shut up"
      "You shut up"

      I turned toward home and started pushing again. The cart was so loud I almost didn't hear them calling out to me.

      "Hey you."

      I stopped, my heart started pounding like a bass drum escaping a burning building.

      "Hey cart boy."

      I looked around hoping to find someone else pushing a cart down the country road. She was peeking through the fence at me, her naked knee poking through.

      "Yeah?"
      "What're you doing?"
      "Pushing my brother in a shopping cart."
      "That's your brother?"

      The cardboard Darth Vader was silent.

      "Yeah."
      "What's he got on his head?"
      "Oh, a helmet of some kind." I feigned a sort of fake laugh in an attempt to separate myself from my brother's foolish pursuits.

      She turned and I heard them laughing behind the fence.

      "Is he retarded or something?" More laughter.

      "No he's not retarded."

      My fake laughing stopped. My reply came out quick and angry, like a swear word. It surprised me. My brother was looking down now; fingering the crudely shaped sword in his belt.

      "Well he looks retarded, you both do."

      "Let's just go home, I want to go," my brother's muffled voice broke the silence.

      "Yeah good idea," she laughed again and disappeared from the fence, leaving us standing there on the road.

      I pushed the cart towards home with a new found, something. I was angry, and embarrassed, and my cheeks were red with it. The cart rattled, and smashed the whole way.

      Later that evening I looked through my telescope at the twins playing twister in their underwear. What was once so beautiful wasn't beautiful anymore. I sat quietly, before opening the window wider and pushing the telescope out.

      I waited one second, two.

      Its cheap frame and glass made a satisfying and devastating smash on the stone walkway below. I saw the two half naked girls collapse on each other, startled.

      I turned, leaving the room to find my brother, and talk about foxes.




2009 Broken Chair