Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 3
Spring, 2011

Featured painting, Bumper Cars, by Heather Watts.

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James Mansfield

1980 / Part Four

He's been the same all week, doc, and then today, he was all gray. Wouldn't open those eyes of his. He's gonna be ok, right?
She turned to the tall man, olive checked suit, no tie, as he crouched by the bed.
Mr. Merriman, can you move your left hand Mr. Merriman?
She looked down at the bars of light on the dark floorboards. The bed's metal legs looked spindly, hard to work out how they could support the frame, mattress, let alone the weight of her husband.
The bed groaned, and she wondered what the doctor would say. Give her some kind of analysis, that's what they did. She watched his pink hands touch Roy's neck, feel his throat, and then he paused.
He came back from the hospital last week?
Yeah. He was okay then, couldn't walk much but we had a good old laugh. He dozed off in front of the TV last night and it seemed okay.

The sun had risen that morning over Loreauville and had fallen onto the shoulders of Roy Merriman III, in his bedroom. Circular patterns filled his mind. He was asleep, he was awake, walking down the long road, the dust swirling by his ankles. He sat down and drew in the dirt three circles, each overlapping the other. He didn't want to go back to the house. He touched his cheek and it was smooth. He tried to touch it again and couldn't move his arm. He opened an eye and it was not his wife looking at him.


With darkness comes no relief as she mops her forehead and stares out at the ripples in the bayou, the tiny scratches she hears. She walks out onto the verandah, and sits down on a broken old chair, it protests. Everything's heavy to her. Expectations. Her body. The air. She picks up a wrinkling newspaper, pages all curled away from her ridged fingernails. Frustrated by the text, she eases back into the red and yellow cushions. She shuffles a little and then listens for Roy. A few shrieks, she imagines deep turquoise wings but it is crows. Deathly black crows.

He doesn't hear them. He listens to the tick of his heartbeat, a low vibration, irregular. If he concentrates too much it makes him feel weak. He feels bad enough already. He felt bad back in '42 when he nearly lost his leg. Some fool dropped a whole great piece of artillery on his leg and the doctor said he was goddamn lucky to have a right leg. The fool tried to shrug it off, he was a smooth talker, he left the unit and went off to California pretty quickly.

She can see a little more now, sees a mouse on the edge of the driveway, it moves down to the fence covered in dirty peeling patches. Roy said he'd paint it but that was two years ago. The mouse is a big one, perhaps half the width of her palm, which she examines and sees three lines, she's never spent as much time as now looking at these lines.


She opens her eyes, legs aching, turns over onto the cold side, no relief and she gets out of the hollow. Creaks erupt, deep slices of wood, and she slumps on the sofa, remote in hand, a little squeeze and the screen is white, then ACTION.

"We're just getting the results in for Lousiana, where it looks like yet another win for Governor Reagan. He is now just eight votes away from the Electoral College majority. Now, let's go to Hal Richards who is with the Reagan camp...."

She didn't vote. She had to wait for the doctor, wait for his final words, I'm afraid Mrs Merriman that your husband he's on the way out. I'll give him something now but I'm afraid...
She doesn't hear anything from the downstairs room, Roy's room, and she doesn't want to go in because she didn't vote and Roy he always voted every time. Back in '60 he told her to vote for Nixon.

He sees something at the end of his feet. Last time he'll see those feet, but he looks right past them, past the end of the bed, and onto the glowing rectangle, where a creased but happy face is moving. She is saying something to him but he can't understand it. He tries to raise his hand, gets a bit red in the face. She tells him to calm down, it's all ok Roy. He doesn't hear it, he just stares at the wrinkled face. She looks at Reagan, looks at Roy and wonders why. He's calmed down now. Dead calm. She knows what to do, but just sits there sobbing. The dark blue telephone waits in the corner on a wicker stand. The gray face of Roy envelops the first rays of the dawn as they with mint freshness, gather round the small house in which he has lived for twenty years, down the old road which is full of potholes at the end of which is a small collection of houses, not quite a village, and then there is Loreauville, where most people are waking up on this day of our Lord Wednesday the Fifth of November Nineteen Eighty.

James Mansfield lives and works in London. He is currently writing a fictional encyclopaedia of the 1980s, based on everything that he can't remember from the decade. He is inspired by urban landscapes, the past, and Arthurian legends.