Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 48

‘That boy’s not from around here. I ain’t never seen no dog named Stump, and nobody here’s got a wagon. You stole that picture.’

‘My father took this picture.’ The sun is agonizing, sweat drips down Grumps overgrown brows. In the still air, he smells the sweetness from crushed blades of grass and hears his father barking, hold still. Then a whir and a click.

‘You didn’t have a father.’ The boy laughs. The man is old and stupid and Cowboy can’t tell if Grumps really believes what he says. ‘You too old to have a father.’

‘Of course I had a father.’

‘No you didn’t.’

‘Everybody has a father.’

Cowboy pauses, just briefly. His spurs tinkle. ‘Not you. You too old.’

‘But I wasn’t always this old.’

‘Yes, you was. You been old since I knowed you. You always been a hundred, more than a hundred.’ Cowboy stares him down with eyes so brown they’re black. Grumps begins to breathe fast. He’s getting confused. Nobody’s questioned Grumps existence before. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

Cowboy looks away and makes to go. The boy leaves perfect, tiny handprints on the plastic chair arm—Popsicle-red creased crescents and cracked ellipses. Grumps stuffs the picture in his front pocket and grips the arms, his hands span twice the width of the prints. He lifts himself unsteadily. ‘Stop,’ he hollers. He motions the boy with one hand missing a pinky. ‘Come on, son, come on.’

They stand in the dark foyer until their eyes adjust to the dimness.