Lenny was gulping cereal.
His mother, “Get a move on,
school bus be here in a minute.”
His father came in smelling
of puke and perfume, blurry-eyed,
after a night in the camp trailer.
No one spoke to him.
“Well, how do you do?” he said,
looking from one to the other.
He put his big paw on Lenny’s nape,
and tightened. “Ready to go get ’em, are ya.”
Lenny put down his spoon and waited.
Carol, “The school bus.”
Lenny knew not to resist,
waited for the hand to loosen.
Then he rose, grabbed his coat
and was gone.
Lenny watched a light rain
dot the windows.
There was a scraggly old oak
on side-hill, by the trail
down to the ball fields.
Voices went on around him.
They were reading
aloud and the story would catch him
and bring him along. Pap. Old drunk Pap.
Stupid, mean Pap.
And the Negro, was he free or slave?
The raft. To drift away.
Mrs. Claremont called on him
and he read a paragraph.
Then back to the rain and tree.
“Stick him. If he catches that ball,
I want him to be separated from the ball.
You hear me?”
There was a bad snap and a pile.
They ran left, another pile.
Then the pass floating out his way.
And Lenny hit John Lester,
at a run, full in the chest.
and John stayed down.
“Good hit, Lenny.”
Lenny didn’t know what to feel,
in the light rain, on the forty yard line
watching John turn and gasp.
The bus doors squeaked shut.
No smoke in the chimney.
His mother still at work.
No sign of his father.
Neighbor’s black lab gave two barks.
He went in through the garage,
shop tools rusting,
the smell of mold.
Lenny went down the trail
to the river. The river.
from Rattle #75, Spring 2022
Gary Lark: “The sound of my mother’s voice reading ‘Little Britches’ by Ralph Moody accompanied the fading light over the pasture. The cows had already trailed to the milking barn. Language came alive in me as she read. I paid attention to the sounds words make when they rub together and to the patterns in my mind. I would write my own someday, I would.” ( web)