George Who?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

George dropped to the floor and pounded it with his fist. The tiles cracked under his knee. He moved his knee to the next tile and resumed pounding. Things were happening that he didn’t understand. He screamed. The tiles under his right fist broke. The ceramic cut his fist and he bled on the tiles.

The lights came on and George found himself tucked under the covers in bed. His mother stood over him and cooed. He wagged his arms up at her and she made sounds he didn’t understand and faces he didn’t want to understand. A second face joined his mother’s face. The face had a mustache and yellowed teeth. It made deeper noises, and didn’t make any faces. He understood this face and burped.

George woke up when the nurse prodded his arm. “The doctor will be here in a moment, George. Relax.” How was he supposed to relax with all the prodding? And what time was it anyways? Through the window, he thought he saw the sun sitting on the horizon. It was hard to see, though. Buildings, one piled on the next, blocked the horizon and most of the window. But if there was a horizon, he felt confident that the sun would sit on it.

“How are you doing this morning, George?” the doctor asked. George reached toward the doctor but became distracted when he saw his wrinkled arm. A cord ran out from his arm into a monitor. He tried to say something but nothing came out. George reached for the cord in his arm but the doctor held his arm gently and he relaxed it back into the bed.

George held the baseball bat choked up high on the handle. One foot outside the batter’s box, he reached across the plate and pounded the bat. The umpire kept asking George if he was ready, and George held up his hand toward the pitcher. He stepped into the batter’s box and dug in his cleats. He felt the umpire crouch down behind him. The pitcher wound up and threw the ball at George. George ducked when he saw the ball approaching his head but he was too late. He heard that the ball cracked his helmet, and even saw what it looked like afterwards, but he didn’t remember any of it.

The car’s engine idled and Nancy sat in the passenger seat. They had pulled to the curb over an hour ago, and George still talked about religion. Nancy was a good target. She was a devout Catholic and had no doubts about her beliefs. When he finished, Nancy laughed, and George took this as a good sign. When she started talking, George reached his hand past the shifter and placed it on Nancy’s knee. She wore blue slacks and didn’t seem to notice the hand. She continued, and George, feeling her soft skin, didn’t understand what she said. His rebuttal to her point was senseless and she patted his hand on her knee as if she understood.

George put down his pencil and raised his hand. The teacher sat at her desk marking papers. The kids around George looked over at him, and he sat straight, the line of his arm following his arched spine to the chair. When the teacher came over to his desk to collect the test, she told him to put his head down and rest. He did so, confident in knowing that he was the first done, and therefore the smartest.

The green dining hall tray was still warm from the dishwashing machine. George and his friends had stolen the trays from the hall to ride down the snow-covered hills. Two of his friends had flung themselves down already, and George prepared himself. He sat on top of the hill on the tray and held onto the ground with his gloved hands. With a slight push, he started down the hill. He felt the tray gliding over the snow, picking up speed. He saw a white pipe sticking out from the ground and tried to maneuver away from it. He threw himself from the tray, but it was too late. His tailbone smacked into the pipe and he fell sprawled on the snow, his butt numb. He sat up and tried to wave his three remaining friends away from the hill, but they barreled down after him.

The principal’s office seemed brighter than the rest of the school. George sat on the wooden chair outside it crying. The secretaries, sitting at their typewriters and talking on their telephones, paid him no attention. His chair was next to two empty wooden chairs, which moments before held Thomas and Stan. The microphone used for the morning announcements was across the door near the window. George wiped away the tears and studied the microphone. A large red switch dominated the wall with the letters “A/V” typed on blue tape above it. None of the secretaries watched George as he stood up, walked over to the microphone, and clicked the switch. A loud click sounded in the gray speaker at the other end of the office. George screamed, “class dismissed” into the microphone.

George placed his hand on his wife’s stomach. Her breathing was shallow and her stomach moved his hand up and down quickly. The moon’s light shone through the shaded windows and illuminated her face. He traced her nose with his finger. She was still beautiful. He rested his head on her stomach, keeping the weight of his head on his neck. He was afraid she was too weak to support his head. Even after forty years, this was where he belonged.

They swam toward the wooden platform floating in the lake. George wasn’t a good swimmer and he was having trouble keeping up. She kept circling back for him, encouraging him to continue. He struggled on, taking turns crawl stroking through the water, and paddling on his back. The platform didn’t seem to be getting closer, and he grew worried, until she swam back for him. The way he told the story, the dolphins saved him. The way she heard it, he never called her anything better than a dolphin.

There were three kids left, two on the far side of the dodgeball line, and George. George didn’t have the ball. He waited with his back to the wall for the next throw. The last three had banged harmlessly against the wall near him. The kids watching were calling for his blood, even his teammates. They wouldn’t be his teammates next game, as the gym teacher switched up the teams each time. The ball banged the wall next to him and George flinched. The ball bounced back across the line. George decided to try to catch the next ball. It was only a matter of time before they threw him out. When they next threw the ball, George stepped up and held out his arms as his father taught him. He wrapped the ball in his arms when it hit his chest and bent over it so it wouldn’t escape. The teacher called the thrower out. George ran up to the line and threw the ball hitting the last kid in the knees. It wasn’t until the whistle blew that he looked down and saw that his foot was over a foot over the line.