excerpted from Light Boxes
Thaddeus Lowe! The guy who flies balloons. I spent my days collecting sap from the trees. Still do. Always covered in sap, tree bark splintered under my nails.
I'd be in the woods loosening the buckets, and I'd hear the sky hissing. I'd look up. I'd see a scrawny guy with a beard in a basket that had a balloon fastened above it. The balloon was yellow with green stitching. He couldn't have been more than a few feet above the tallest tree. At one point the basket brushed the heads of the trees, and pinecones rained down. Gave me a nasty gash on my nose. I tasted blood, but that was no bother.
I went up in a balloon once with my sisters, and we watched the sun roll across the horizon, clouds going red and pink, colors swirling around us in a mist. I shouldn't be thinking about that anymore, because flight is over. Some people in this town say the more thoughts you have about flight, the worse February haunts you. And then there's the priests, who have locked away believers of flight someplace at the edge of town. But that's just a dumb rumor. Could be true, though. If given the chance, I'd break open the skull of February. I'd swing a nice big bucket of sap right into the side of his head and watch the ice of his mind explode like confetti.
February sat on a cottage floor
with a girl who smelled of smoke and honey. The girl was telling him that she was tired of being around someone who carried so much sadness in his body. February drew his kneecaps to his eye sockets.
February apologized. He rocked back and forth. When he stretched his legs back out, the girl was smiling and running in place. February asked what she was doing. The girl who smelled of honey and smoke said it was to cheer him up.
I don't think that's going to work, said February. I'm sorry, but it just won't.
Just try it, said the girl who smelled of honey and smoke. Please.
February stood up and ran in place. His joints popped. He bumped into a table, knocking over a jug of water.
Looks like a flood, said the girl who smelled of honey and smoke, who pumped her legs and arms faster.
It does, said February, who watched the water expand across the table and drip onto the floor with great delight.
One possibility is to attack with bees, I said. I could send thousands. The stings would force February to peel the clouds away. It's an idea. It could work.
I told this to Caldor Clemens while we sat in a balloon basket staring up at the sky, under where the two holes were rumored to be. The balloon itself rippled, was deflated around us on the snowy plains like a gown.
Go ahead and send them, Clemens said. Thaddeus would try it.
I tapped my head. A swarm of bees moved up my neck and formed a funnel extending skyward. The bees disappeared through the clouds, and there was a terrible buzzing sound. Then, seconds later, the funnel collapsed and thousands of my dead bees rained from the sky and filled the basket. Their little bodies were hard and cold. Clemens stood there staring at me while I shielded myself from the falling, dying bees.
The sadness was overwhelming.
What the shit, said Clemens, shifting his legs out of the dead-bee basket.
I watched him walk back into town, swatting dead bees from the nape of his neck.
was born in February of 1980. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals. He lives in upstate New York.
This reprint is by arrangement with Penguin Books
, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
, from Light Boxes
by Shane Jones.
Copyright ©2009 Shane Jones