What World Do You Live In?
Rich Ives

“Swish, swish,” went the sick boy’s mop.

“She forgot to clean me off tonight,” the sick boy’s father muttered.

The sick boy’s paws were rather chubby. They were voluminous. They were gargantuan. They were rather large.

The sick boy had a dream in which he learned to play the balalaika with the help of a large Eurasian gopher. The sick boy couldn’t believe he had that dream. The sick boy was sick.

“She wasn’t very gentle this time,” the sick boy’s father complained.

“What shall we do to save him?” asked the toys in the sick boy’s little dream toybox. Ha! Fat chance! What world do you live in?

“Swish, swish,” went the sick boy’s broom.

“Here’s a birthday present for your birthday,” said the sick boy’s father. So the sick boy gratefully accepted the token of obligatory affection and attended all six Tae Kwon Do lessons.

And you know what? The sick boy’s mother came to visit him after all and motherly Winnifred’s hands were very very small. Go figure.

But the sick boy got sicker and it wasn’t a physical thing. He claimed he was merely practicing Tae Kwon Do when they arrested him.

“Swish, swish,” went the sick boy’s stereotypically deprived cellmate.

“Let me show you how to do that right,” said Winnifred to the sick boy’s father’s incompetent and overly sensitive and cliched male nurse, who made it very difficult for all the other uniquely qualified and thoroughly engaged male members of the increasingly politically correct nursing profession, none of whom had been unfortunate enough to live, however briefly, in the sick boy’s father’s private game of as good as it gets.

It’s about time for the after to come happily evering along, but that was a life on another errand if it even had anywhere real to be at all. Didn’t you know that? What world do you live in?

“What shall we do? What shall we do?” asked the toys in the sick boy’s ongoing little toybox dream. It was a game and they liked not knowing how it would end, even if some of them got broken before morning.

And the sick boy with big hands got bigger and got well and entertained several attractive women while searching for the meaning of his experience even though his invalid father was still an invalid who complained every chance he could about the boy’s mother, loving her in the only way he knew how, which the boy’s mother understood, even if the boy didn’t, and the boy searched and searched and finally concluded, “I couldn’t find the hidden meaning because the meaning that surrounded it had been hidden too well.”

“Swish, swish,” went the broom, leaving just a little bit of happiness in its inefficient wake. “I’ll be your nursemaid now for your indescribable condition,” said the boy to his father, and his mother sparkled where he had swept away the gestures of false affection and let his parents discover what they really felt about each other, which kept them all together in the same old way. You might be tempted to call it something more substantial than merely happy. You might be tempted to say, “The hunger of the goat is with me and the limbs of the bougainvillea are sighing.” You might be tempted to the same sky of trembling that asks the boy in.

The boy’s not there as much as the circumstances he’s in are. He’s on his way to becoming a perfectionist rowing a round boat in perfect circles. He doesn’t need a destination.

Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was a finalist for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize.

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