Parenthetical Untitled

Things move on and he smokes again, people come and go. The sky blue, the sounds of shaking leaves and burbling water.

Leaves in the pool, tones of blackened yellow and browning orange, the sun tipping, burning his skin. In snow even, the world tumbling white, his skin burning. The baby will have his burning skin. Burning in snow and sun, melting into himself, water and draining.

The blue bruises into purple, burnt orange, the wind a treble clef.

His baby is face down in the water, motionless as the water stirs ripples and surface air. He watches, the babyís body, the smooth and concrete edge, watches until the tufts of hair dry in the wind. Watches until the arms whiten, until the baby is a child, until the child is him, until he is face down in growing darkness, rippling and surface air. Until night paints out the sky.

He is an avalanche, sprawling. Feet stretched and white, riding, rolling, trackless motion. Children run, hundreds of them, reaching out from the foaming snow, him as a wall of white, children facedown and drowning, turning arms and legs, spindling children, dead and paralyzing.

Hundreds of children, lined up single file. A road gray, long and straight. A line of aspens yellow and crisp. Neutral horizon and nothing else. The world in filmic gray dust, filtered through powder. And the children stand, stone statues, their faces and eyes and mouths saying nothing. Him, their father, unable to speak. His feet growing numb with standing. He can hear their breathing, those lips gray and dying. No clean water, no green leaves. Children who know nothing but gray road and yellow turning aspens. Children who know nothing but him, as a father, as a statue, hollow eyes, sunken cheeks, sad mouth and teeth rotting. Children in a line to forever.

He is powerless. He walks up and down their number, a sergeant calling to arms, but his mouth brings nothing. It waves open and shut, nothing comes out. Vocal cords set to mute, strings unplucked. They donít look at him. They donít make contact. They canít. Because he is a father, their father, and he is nothing. He cannot help. He can do nothing. And they know this, these gray children in single file, how he, their father, is nothingness.

There is no last child. There is no first child. The line is infinite. The children are endless. The children are infinity for him, him, walking and then running, his still muted mouth unspeaking, their faces all the same, no end and aspen trees, light not dimming, not growing, the world as static. And the gray road is flooding. He watches the tidal wave move endlessly towards his line, his children, and he can do nothing. As it curls and skims, children are picked, plucked, peeled into the wave. A flood of stone faces, his children, spilling, up, up, up, into crest and foam and curve, the ocean scattered in gray.

He floats in the disease of them, the dis-ease, the unease, uneasiness, the illness. They are face down, their gray hair jogging, dipping, dust covered skull caps. Their exhausted heads, simmering on the top, arms out and his scissor-legs kicking. He cannot be more than he is. He can do nothing but float. He floats and weeps, his tears a wave, soaking into the already dead drowning world, his tears nothing in a world already wet and weeping.

The water swirls towards a drain, deep. A vague notion of draining, him still floating, hanging there, layered in watered arms, gray childrenís heads. Still scissoring his legs, the children now face up, mouths saturated. Their mouths lakes on top of this lake, the whole thing swirling and moving. The children gathering momentum, sucking to him. He is a magnet, accumulating their stony and drowned faces, a link to all the open faced drowning children.

And when the water is gone, the world is more gray than before. A new depth of colorlessness, the water re-imagining gray, polishing the world to dust. And he is splayed on the road, gravel replaced, the road still straight and long. And the children are crucifixion images, marked the horizon, the landscape, spread in all directions, consuming his sight, infinitely dotting the world.

And she is walking toward them, him and the children, all splayed still, crucified still, arms spread and incapacitated. Her, in bright colored clothes, the world in gray, his world. His world and his piles of children facing up, gaping. Mouths filled with miniature lakes. Faces of stone and watery oceans. Her, unfitting. A baby, unborn.

She stands over him, her head in the gray clouds, him, barely opening his eyes. His eyes are slits, squinting, minimal in their functions. His eyes, gray. She looks down at him and speaks, her voice too muted, her mouth open close, a fish breathing. A fish gulping and praying to the sea, the ocean. He hears nothing. He watches the aspen trees, now leafless, tilt as his chin to the sky. A black and white static picture of it, the heartbeat of it.

He watches her walk in bright colors, the gray background of the world. He watches her among the scattered children, faces of stone, mouths of water, pretending disinterest. He watches until she disappears, until she is a mirage, until it is just him and the children again, their lake mouths and their x shaped bodies, the grayness all around. Him, one of them now, mouth open and full of water, gray.

In time there is rain, and it is cool. But his eyes donít twitch when drops pelt them. His eyes absorb the rain, soak the rain, drip with the rain. And it makes a hollow sound on the lake in his mouth, runs over the side, darkens the dusty road surrounding them, playing in the mouths of the children, laid out in dots and the shape of x, the rain in their full mouths an orchestra tuning dirt.

And the rain continues until it stands in inches around their statue bodies. Their mouths all overfilled and wetting the ocean around them. But they are poised, posed, and the inches increase until their bodies, like bodies on salt water, sift to the top, floating. Sifting and gray, the tiniest reaches of desire. The children will revive, will exist beyond. He will not. He cannot.

J. A. Tyler has recent work in Elimae, Lamination Colony, Night Train, Underground Voices, & Word Riot. His chapbook The Girl in the Black Sweater is available now from Trainwreck Press and his debut novella is forthcoming from Ghost Road Press in 2009. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious, a reviewer for Rural Messengers Press, and a member of the Pindeldyboz editorial team. Read more at www.aboutjatyler.com

© 2008 Underground Voices