– a FREEMAN COBB novelette –
Copyright © 2018 FREEMAN COBB
This short story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Names characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
That snowstorm from when Clyde was a boy plucked him from the black and set him gently down into a world spinning balanced and quieter than the one-hundred fifty-three days of solitary in the cold basement of the prison in Pennington Gap where he was serving fifteen to twenty-five for murdering a man he never kinda killed with the grip of his strong hands with a crooked left pinky. That snowstorm when there was no school for two days and chirpy bird was chirping pretty like the pretty bird she was and smack-hit Papa was snowed out and G-mama told of the days when days were dipped in honey and savored like a first kid kiss and Clyde kept stoking the woodstove and watching the snow never quit — the only dread on his small shoulders was knowing it would quit and smack-hit Papa would be back and that wasn’t alright with the boy running in a world by the name of Clyde. G-mama made bread with honey and butter dumped on top and the woodstove yawned an endless warmth while the three with shared blood played the crazy eights until they fell asleep on the couches and little chirpy bird on the floor with the blue flannel sleeping bag and waking up to that storm that wouldn’t quit but really it would and sooner now cause like as with all things pushed and tugged by the gravity all storms quit at a place down the road. Those were the best two days of Clyde’s life ever and he knew there would never be two days better or equal to or greater than and he knew it then and he knew it always forward. But as his shoulders grew more muscle the thorn that stuck in his eyes about the two best days ever was that the snow that never quit but did quit was white and that shitload of irony bothered Clyde as more time built around him but the color of snow was beyond his reach and mostly he glossed over the color of snow irony with the ridicule all over it because when the stuff sprinkled down is out of your control it’s plenty nice to gloss and slide by like the trick the people called civilization pulls all the while or else one can turn smack into a nut. And that snowstorm back with chirpy bird and G-mamma buffered Clyde from nutville in Pennington Gap.
Kevin the security guard didn’t add up right. He was a fat dick but on day three Clyde found a small woman’s white digital watch in his piss-pale prison yellow scrambled eggs. Kevin put it there. No straps, just the watch part. A watch in solitary was like a whore in church spreading her legs playing with herself just for your eyes and you make it to the Church basement with her while all the acting is overhead and the real secrets of life that counts is wrapped around your waist celebrating the gospels in a way that flickers a sliver of light in the darkness growing throughout the universe. The whore-watch displayed the time and the date and lit up when Clyde held the right top button in to the count of one-mississippi-two-mississippi. The watch made him glad but he fretted the battery would die so he seldom lit the display expect for special occasions like chirpy bird’s birthday and on the Christmas. At midnight on New Year’s he blipped out hap-py-new-year-clyde with the light and wished he had someone to share it with because it would sound real good and maybe feel warm to hear someone wish him a Happy New Year. Happy New Year Clyde! Just like so.
He had served over three years and near a lot had been in solitary. He lied to himself that solitary was safer than not being in solitary so he lied to himself that it didn’t bother him a lot but it was hard and he said to himself that he could do it because he did a lot harder things in life than be by himself and he was glad that he liked himself because if he did not like himself there would be fights even in solitary. He couldn’t pencil out why he was always sent to solitary but a lot of that stuff civilization does in life doesn’t balance out so Clyde didn’t keep drill’n away on it except guessing maybe being marched to solitary might just be a test to see how a man would behave by himself for so long but the people at the prison didn’t have enough wits to care about tests so it wasn’t worth the bet. The prison people just didn’t like Clyde. Maybe the way his gray eyes hardly flinched and maybe the way that one eye on the left was lazy and crossed in the way an eye ought not to and that’s probably all it was and the world was like that more often than it wasn’t cause the people world pretended to like order and not so much a wandering eye that people didn’t know what it was staring at in this place called the world.
Clyde liked to build cabins in solitary and it was always in the woods in the fall because the fall was a good time to make shelter before the weather turned so everything was deliberate and with purpose so that if he didn’t build a button tight warm cabin then maybe the cold that kills wrapped in winter would kill him and his family living in it so that sadness would soak into the ground once it thawed and that was reason enough to build strong. He framed with dry rough sawn pine 2 x 6’s. He had built some cabins with green lumber and some with kiln dried construction dimension but he preferred dry rough sawn because it was more honest than other lumber and was a perk in life to hold it in his hands and build and the old coffee can with the handful of carpenter pencils sharpened right with a point that ran true was all the investment Clyde bet necessary for living in the manner he felt one ought to and purpose with sharp carpenter pencils kept him straight and narrow.
Those were the best two days of Clyde’s life ever and he knew there would never be two days better or equal to or greater than and he knew it then and he knew it always forward.
Clyde knew he could take the man who pushed the gravity in a manner to get Clyde locked up because he could take anyone one-on-one based on record alone as the dozen or so he had ever taken he took without the sweat but man always gets beaten sometime because the way the world runs was not to win all the time but even though Clyde decided to take the man pushing the gravity strings he lost as he ended up in the concrete closet but half his life was looking at the gray gray gray concrete so in that big picture from the touchable clouds of everyone running around on the ground the punishment was what he was accustomed to so with a shrug he took it like when a dog is kicked by the person with the food and the doggy moves away but not too far because a lot of life is about get’n enough to eat and Clyde knew that like nobody’s business.
Clyde was nailing a header together for the big window in the dining room when the delivery kid stepped into his cell with the 16” meat lover’s with that big blue bag over the pizza box to keep it warm like a pizza aspired to be and Clyde set down his nail gun and tipped the kid five bucks cause that’s what honor is all about, giving more than you got.
“Nice,” said the kid, eyeing Clyde.
“You bet.” Clyde opened the pizza box studying the warm beauty like he would should warm pussy be thrust in his face. He picked up a slice. “Hungry?”
The kid shook his head. “Had enough of that shit to last.”
Clyde took a bite. Then another. “That’s liv’n.”
The kid pointed toward the end of Clyde’s framed house where the framing went around the metal cell door. “What’s that?”
“Okay.” The kid was confused.
Clyde waved his arm holding the slice of meat lover’s pizza at the trees and dirt driveway and the kid’s shit car and the pile of 2 x 6’s and the orange extension cord running across the grass dividing the grass into sides to the green electrical box that juiced the saw that provided Clyde with all kinds of power.
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