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Archive for September, 2012

Aaron heard once in a sermon that people are like buildings. They have walls and windows and doors. Most people know where their walls are and where the windows and doors fit in, but Aaron no longer had any sense of that.

He had a photo in his wallet he kept pulling out of his family when his brother was still alive. The boys are about eight and ten years old and stand next to their parents on the front porch of their house dressed for Easter Sunday. His mother wears a blue hat that matches her dress, and the boys and their father wear suits and ties.

Aaron stares at his family wondering who took the photo. The light on the house was brightest early in the morning, and they squint as the photo is taken. Had a neighbor come over, who would be there that time of day? The question popped around in Aaron’s brain like a pinball inside a machine. He closed his eyes trying to remember who took the shot.

“Excuse me, ” a voice said.

Aaron turned to see John Mason, the teacher in the art class.

“I was wondering if these belong to you,” Mason said.

In his hands were the drawings Aaron had stashed beneath the couch. Aaron looked at the drawings, not knowing what to say.

“I don’t know why I’ve hung on to those,” Aaron said. “I hope you don’t mind. They aren’t even half finished. I sometimes draw in your class after I get off work.”

Mason looked from the drawings into Aaron’s face. It was as if two windows had been raised in two houses that had been standing next to each other for years. Aaron and Mason looked at each other wondering how they’d never met.

“One of the other teachers saw you leaving the classroom late one night. Do you have any more? Did you ever think of drawing larger?” Mason asked.

Mason’s students didn’t know how to fill a canvas or a page, but here was a man whose drawings ran off the edges of the paper.

“I was wondering who this is,” Mason said.

“That’s my father after we moved here, during the years he worked at the Tribune.”

Mason pulled out another drawing. “What would you have drawn in this corner if the paper had been wider?”

Aaron looked at a drawing of a room where clothes lay smoothed out on a dresser table.

“My mother,” Aaron said. “On the other side of the room was my mother.”

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At first, Aaron begins finishing drawings left by students on the floor. He folds and unfolds pieces of paper into squares, finishing one square at a time.

A chin, a nose, a cheek, an eyebrow all become dark and light lines he smooths out into a face.

He looks at the still life objects on the studio table as if each thing is a person and has a small body wanting to be touched.

It is the first of October now, and the art building is chillier at night. Aaron walks through the city, watching cars pass on the highway and lies on the grass next to a lake listening to trains pass.

Mama is awake now crying herself to sleep again. “Maggie,” his father says, and her breathing slows while the train passes. Again it is his mother’s mind coming through the window, staring at the ceiling, watching the night as it quiets down. Slowly, the streetlights begin holding in their edges again.

Aaron had liked to draw trains as a boy. On Sunday mornings after church, he and Moses walked out behind their house where train tracks lead to small ponds near the town’s electric power plant.  When the boys weren’t fishing, they climbed coal piles next to the power plant or flattened their bodies against the station walls to feel the large generators vibrating inside.

Most men fished the lakes with boxes of tackle and flashy lures. Moses took a fishing rod and bits of corn or hot dogs in his pocket. Sometimes he snatched bread dough from the kitchen counter when his mother was baking.

“Sunfish and bass will eat anything,” he said, “but a carp has the mind of a man. They can hear you coming.” As he said this, Aaron saw a carp pass through the shallows on the edge of the lake. The fish turned its head as it swam through the lake grasses and looked at the two boys.

Moses looked at the fish and smiled. In its mouth were the barbs of the hooks. Its lips swelled with the tapered ends of the wire. Moses could feel the bright lines pulling at the edge of the fish’s mouth as if they were in his own.

Aaron woke up. He had fallen asleep by the lake. Once again he had dreamed his brother was a fish. Quick he’d run to the riverbank, but his brother would hide in the grasses beneath the water.

In the art studio, he moved his hands along the edges of the drawing paper, spreading the charcoal out with his thumbs as he finished a drawing of a boy holding a large fish.

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