12/21/10

Rhoads Stevens

A WOODEN PEOPLE, A WOODEN DANCE
A mantle.
A father.
Some money—maybe sixty dollars.
           A father leaves some money on a mantle, knowing that his son will steal it from him.  The amount he leaves is sixty dollars.  In the past, he’s left other amounts—twenty, five, six-hundred.  His son always steals the amount if it’s left on the mantle.  And the father does nothing.  He doesn’t accuse.  Doesn’t confront.  Doesn’t.
           But what does the son do with the money?  What he does is put it in a sock.  He gets on his bike and rides fifteen miles to the bus station.  The bus station’s waiting room is vast.  Its benches look like pews, and it has chandeliers with actual candles.  If the wind blows a certain way through the bus station’s waiting room, then some of the candles go out.  If that happens, then a man has to go up on a ladder to re-light the candles.
           So this son buys a ticket to another town—a town that’s a two-hour trip away.  Once, the son sat next to a circus clown who had just quit.
           “I never was funny or sad or drunk,” this clown had said.
           Once he sat next to someone from Spain.  “Cruel es mi destino,” this person had said.
           “Just make me some bananabread, and I’ll be happy,” a man who had sat next to the son once said.  This man reached into his jacket pocket and came out with brown, slimy bananas.
           This son rides a bus to go to a store that sells wooden spoons.  He buys however many he can before he takes the bus back and his bike back home.

           “Stop doing that,” the father says to his son.  His son—yet again—has bought wooden spoons.  And, to make it all worse, his son has carved small people into the handles of his spoons.  This way, when he eats his oatmeal, it’s as if these small people march or dance.
           The son makes his spoons go around fast in his bowl of oatmeal.  “It’s a race,” he tells his father.
           “Do they ever speak to each other?” the father asks.  His son slows his spoons to a halt.
           “Well,” the son says.  He positions his spoon people so that they’re across from each other.
           “I am from another planet, and I am in desperate need of alien currency,” the son makes one of the spoons say.
           “Oh yeah?  What does the money look like?” the other spoon asks.
           “Like trombones,” the first one says.
           The father then takes a spoon and makes it say, “Have you ever stolen from me?”
           “I haven’t,” the spoon says.  The spoon motions at the son and says, “But he has.”

Rhoads Stevens grew up in Honolulu and spent his summers in New Jersey.

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