Fairy TaleIn the backseat of a Mercedes, where he finds himself, he is thinking of a belly-button ring. He’s never touched one, had one, known anyone who has one. The car is not moving—it has no wheels! The icing on the cake is he’s sleeping here, once it finally gets light, and he’s got to wait two more days till he goes home, so he’s looking forward to things like icing. Iced tea. Icies. Belly-button rings. This feels like a movie he saw, only he never sees movies — he’s a poet, doesn’t have any time for that — to tell the truth doesn’t have the attention span for that. But it could be a movie. Stella is his daughter. She turns two next week. He’ll be home and back at work, showered, nails cut fingers clean by then. Till then, he’s hanging out with greencoat the Devil, in the back of a trashed Mercedes, thinking of belly-button rings and the wind. Waiting for it to get light.
In all of those stories he’s read, the spirits in the bottles, the disguises of the devil, the places where you have to tap a wand to get the door open—in all of those he sees himself. Beggar at the side of the road, taking in the magic, watching poor men turn doctor, desperate men get back from seven years’ servitude, brothers’ betrayal; he goes nuts for the animals in these stories—they’re barely there. In one drawing snakes are coming out of the guy’s head. But the story’s not about snakes, it’s about having no money so you go to hell for seven years and poke fires for the Devil and peek under the lids of pots you’re told not to. Then of course when the time is up, no one apologizes for breaking the rules, but his nails sure get long and they don’t talk about the smell, but he can already begin to notice his own smell, belly-button ring, back of this Mercedes. Maybe it’s just the junkyard. Hard to tell.
He could try, you know? Sometimes when it feels like you’re alone, sometimes you feel like you’re alone but you know someone else is there too. Seven years is looming. The pictures make it really look like your nails could get long in seven years, but he can’t imagine that long. The Guinness book would tell you for sure. The Guinness book in the back of this little car. He needs a book with a photograph of the man with the longest fingernails ever—some German painting of a man with ribbons growing off his fingers, with his hair going straight out. But he’s pretty sure the guy in the Guinness is from India. Guys are from India. He’s not from India. He’s right here, dark car, greensleeves or greencoat or the Germans.