Pseudo-Aster by David Crohn

October 7, 2013 Comments Off on Pseudo-Aster by David Crohn

Pa had been dead a few days when I returned home after a long journey through the Territories. The screen door was torn from the hinges and tossed into the yard, the front door broken open, an angry patch of splintered wood and scratched metal where the knob used to be. Above the familiar rhythm of creaks and groans rising from the floor, I heard flies droning amidst the smell of fresh rot.

“Ma,” I said.

Nothing.

Then I said, “Father,” and finally, “Aster.” The buzzing grew louder as I approached the kitchen.

Father was splayed face down on the linoleum, the entire top of his skull broken, its contents feeding the mist of flies. Footprints streaked the blood across the linoleum in uneven slips and fits. The prints led from the body to the back door in the kitchen. I went out the door, down the steps, and into the backyard, where I found an digger. The digger had Aster’s mop of hair, his gray eyes, his unmistakable build — the broad shoulders leveled below a too-small head. I recognized the tee shirt, faded-iron camo with a wheat-brown patch just below the collar Mother sewed in after I had torn it during a childhood wrestle. Only it was not my brother, Aster.

The person recognized me.

“Hello Lumpy,” said the digger, dumping a shovelful of wet earth onto a growing mound. A spade was thrust into the ground beside them.

“Who…the fuck —” I said.

“Lumpy, that’s no way to speak.” The voice failed at being stern, was instead disconsolate, defeated.

“Don’t call me that,” I said.

The pseudo-Aster paused and looked at me, shoulders slumped. Then after a moment, it resumed its chore.

“What have you done?” I said, because I really didn’t know. The ditch was pulling everything into its own diminishing reality, perpetuating its own emptiness.

The pseudo-Aster’s face frowned and furrowed. I had perturbed this person, had come to their function late and empty-handed.

“You could help you know,” said the Pseudo-Aster in a voice now like white linen, while it tapped the wooden handle of the spade with the wooden handle of the shovel. The spade should have fallen over but didn’t. “You think this is for my health?”

It spoke from under its breath or the side of its mouth, and dug.

“Ungrateful.”

Stab.

Lift.

Dump.

“Good-for-nothing.”

Stab.

Lift—

“Stop. You’ll hurt yourself,” I said, and I went to grab the spade.

© 2013 David Crohn

David Crohn is a student (in the MFA program) and a writing teacher (of high school kids and some others) at the City College of New York. His work has been published in downandoutmag.com and Lingo.

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