“Fat bastard.” That would be Kunkel or Kinkel or whatever. I don’t actually see him, just a blurry contrast on the lawn two doors down.

I still don’t need the railing to go up the front stairs. Maybe I never will.  I can get close enough to see the lock and the key is pretty routine, too.

Closing the door only reduces the noise from the chain saws. I grab for a record. My condition returns some of the romance to my collection. Having this many records, I can’t really be sure of what I’m getting. Choosing a record blindly, literally, is kind of like the way the radio was, once upon a time, when the surprise of the next song could make my whole day. Nowadays, well forget it.

I clean the record and drop the needle. I know what is immediately and pick the arm up and put it in the second groove. I don’t like the first song on the second side of Rubber Soul. There are few songs I don’t like by the Beatles. I guess if were still inclined to make lists, I’d have to say they’re my second or third favorite band. When I was thirteen or so, they were everything to me.  I knew every song, knew every fact. I got beetles in my life now but the spelling isn’t the only thing that’s different.

I didn’t appreciate Norwegian Wood as a song until I was a little older. Didn’t get the irony, didn’t get the pun till later.  Then I got the whole joke in one painful serving. I once had a girl and I was had, too. I guess. The record is ever so slightly warped. I can hear it go up and down, another rhythm to the song that I notice when it isn’t there, played on a CD.  I’m not one of those nuts who think that the static and scratches should be part of the music, you know the Luddites who don’t want old Jazz music remastered. But it does make it a little more yours when it’s your record on your turntable.

To be  honest, I didn’t throw her furniture in the fireplace or anything like that. I was pissed off but really because I still don’t know much of why she left. I mean, the easy reason to leave is because I’m fat but I was fat when she met me.  Maybe when her English got better she figured she could do better. Maybe I loved her, but she was too young. I miss her but probably only cause I’m lonely. I don’t blame her. You have to go out and live some.

It’s not like she wasn’t beautiful. She was built funny, no waist at all. That’s okay; I got enough for two. Maybe that’s normal for Koreans. But it was fun to have a girl friend for a change, especially around my friends and cousins. They would tease me, my brother teasing me. Very exotic, they said, an Asian.

Maybe she got tired of me, so much me. God knows I get tired of it. I get sick of it. I figure it’s not going away. Of course, that’s not what my brother’s wife thinks. “Of course she broke up with him, he’s a fat slob,” she said, in her Texas way, using vowels that don’t exist, “He’s got no self-control.”

I miss my brother. He doesn’t come back much.  I know I must remind him of Mom and Dad and I know he has his life down there with her and Kyle and Timmy. Little men becoming men. I wish we talked a little more, that’s all. The boys play football like their father, and she wants them to go to University of Texas, like she did. Hook’em Horns. The Longhorns of Texas.

Longhorn. Stupid name for a bug.  And inaccurate. I’ve seen the pictures and they’re antennae, not horns. Somebody needs an anatomy lesson. The panic of the city and they can’t even give it an accurate description.

Of course, I’m not so smart. Had an anatomy  lesson last week. Myocardial sac, something I never heard of before. An enlarged heart. Sounds like a virtue.

The sitar fades out and I pick up the arm of the player. I wonder how my little friend is doing and step out onto the back porch. The shade is dense and breeze is cool.  I see into the backyard perfectly. Nothing has changed. The court order will be in the mail any day now.  I guess I can drum up a sleazy lawyer and pay him a couple hundred to stall indefinitely. I got money. It’s just my time that’s limited.

Asian. Longhorn. Beetle. I suppose you can find poignancy anywhere if you look hard enough. Or irony, if you sit in the house all day manufacturing it.

Generally, I don’t miss Ma and Da. They were both so sick it wasn’t fair to wish them to live. It’s still their house. It’s is their back porch where they sat looking out when they couldn’t do much else and where they sat and watched us play in the yard when we were little. They were sedate, calm with us and they didn’t talk very much to one another and to us only a little. Ma would look at us when we got hurt and Da would intervene when my brother got too much of an edge on me. We did almost as we wanted either by ourselves or with friends. But you always knew they were there. They were perfect that way. The only thing that got them nervous was when we were up in the tree fort.

I wonder if the little bastard got into the tree through one of the nail holes. I can’t see that far, of course. My memory tells me there’s still a board or two up there, still nailed at the top of the trunk, but I have no idea, really. It’s just up there somewhere, eating and eating. And laying eggs.

I can get down the back stairs, too, even easier than the ones in front. More practice, that’s all. I’ll always be able, for whatever always is worth.

The wind blows and the leaves strobe light across my face. The sound of the leaves reminds me of wrapping paper, of birthday presents. It is cooler as I move into the deeper shade near the tree. I hadn’t realized it was so sunny before. I hear the branches move, hear it through the chain saws telling an old story, a popular song on he radio too much. I look at the moving mass, a blurry nothing except for memory. The size of the hole it would leave, I can’t imagine.

I’m sure somewhere down this line of identical yards someone is on a different porch, of the same bungalow, watching me. They are wondering, when is he going to do it,  will he do the right thing? Will he save our tees? Will the fat bastard cut the damn thing it down now?

And the answer is, no. Not yet.



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