Nathan Leslie: The Mending & B2
Fiction » June 2002

The Mending

If I bend close enough, he says I can hear the buzzing. Heís leaning over me, like he always does. I can smell his wallet smell, and the stuff he puts on his neck. It smells like dog hair. Thereís steak and green beans on his breath. Thereís a ketchup smell, and onions. Sometimes I can feel him standing over me while I sleep. It doesnít make me feel weird, or anything. Itís what he likes to do. I love him. If heís standing there, most of the time I ignore him. This time itís hot and I sit up. He asks me to lean closer to hear the buzzing. I lean close, but I canít hear it. I tell him I can, because maybe I canít hear it like adults can. Maybe I just donít know how to hear right. I donít want to make him upset.

"Son, weíre going on a little trip," he says to me. I am very sleepy. My eyes feel burny and tired. Itís hot. I smell my own sweat. I want to swim. I can hear the fan turning in the window. The clock says 11:30. I nod and nod and nod, and then feel his arm hair against my face, and me lifting in the air, and then I hear metal jingling and the walking sounds, and I also hear more metal against metal, and then the door shuts. Heís a strong man. He says I will be like him someday. I donít know how Iíll ever be as strong as him though. Now I know how a cat feels. I wonder if he can lift me by the scruff of my neck. I hear the car door opening. My bodyís being laid down on the back seat. Things are happening so slow, like Iím dreaming and living at the same time. I smell rope and other stuff in the back seat, and pine needles, and then his car door opens. Now it smells like all kinds of things from the outside. Flowers, and trees, and bark. Leaves from the trees. Stems from the leaves. It makes me feel sleepy.

"This is just something we have to do," he says. I nod again. He starts the car, and we whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr backwards, and then stop, and then go forward. I like the sound a car makes going backward. It sounds like it runs on batteries then, but it doesnít. It is a comforting sound. I feel safe in the back seat. Iím not wearing a seat belt, but I donít have to since Iím lying down. I canít hear the crickets or the fan. I can hear a man talking low and deep from the back and sides. Then another man talking, and some music. "I can turn the radio down," my father says. The talking gets quieter. I can hear the whoosh of the air conditioning, and I can smell that clean air-conditioning smell. Itís like the refrigerator. Do all machines smell this way? I want to ask him, but instead I fall asleep.

Then weíre stopped. I lift my head and all I can see is white gravel, and then nothing. Darkness and trees in the darkness. The clock says 3:30. The lights switch off, and the car door opens and closes. I am there, just waiting to see what happens. I rub my face, and I rub my eyes. I can hear my fatherís boots in the gravel, chhh, chhhh, chhhh, chhh, chhh, chhh. Then the back door swings open, and he lifts me out of the back seat, and onto his back. This is how he carries me usually. Itís better for my back that way. My back is curved. I need to get a rod in my back. The doctors told me that itís pretty normal. Many boys have curved backs. I havenít met any but when I do, weíll compare. Mine looks like the letter R. Not the straight part. Maybe another boy has a J or a P. Once I heard my parents say the doctors might have to fix it with some operation. Iím not scared about that. Maybe thatíll be a good thing to happen. My father and I can talk about not being perfect a lot, because heís got that thing where you hear sounds all the time in your ear. If I get an operation me and my dad can rest together in the hospital, and maybe we can share a room. My dad rests a lot. He listens to music a lot, and leaves the television on, and tries to talk. He says he doesnít want to hear himself. He hears a buzzing, but sometimes he says it sounds more like a crackling. Like a fire in his ear. He says he got it from my mother. He says it was something he didnít know could happen until it happened. He says he canít stop thinking about it. He says all he hears is bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sometimes, he says he tapes a pillow over his head with that gray kind of tape to stop the buzzing. It doesnít stop the buzzing though, he says. It just makes it buzz more in the pillow, and less in his head. When he sleeps he always has a radio on or the television.

When my father lifts me I can smell the woods all around. I recognize the smell of honeysuckle, and I ask him if I can eat some. He shakes his head, without saying anything. My father never says no. He says yes. My mother says no. My mother says no a lot. My father seems serious tonight, and not talkative. Usually my father tries not to be serious. My father usually talks all the time so he doesnít have to listen to the buzz or the crackle. He scratches my hair with his fingers. I can feel his arm hair against my cheeks. If I listen closely I can hear the arm hair against me.

"Just try not to worry," he says.

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