Friday, July 17, 2009

Boner Jones, fiction by Antonios Maltezos

Boner Jones would see about getting a pair of moulded insoles made for his feet like the cripples wear, so the bottoms of his shoes would hit the ground properly. He would have his pants tailor made, stitched special so the creases could run good and straight down the front. He’d stop farting, at least in her presence. He would learn to pee like she told him he should. . . sitting down unless he was in a back alley. He would call her Sweetness and give her pecks on the cheek, his face freshly shaven and splashed with the Old Spice, teeth scrubbed so he could finally go by his real name and not feel the shame, Robert Jones, his grandfather’s name, a good name from the time when most men had the bowed legs from too much of the hard life. Boner was the name he’d acquired on account of the big empty space between his knees, from since the age of about six, that first after school thrashing. Bow Jones! Bow Jones! His best friends called him Bones or Boner for short. He’d do all that, he thought, a neat stack of baseball hats in the cradle of his arm, if it was still a couple years ago, and if she’d never left before he could get to changing, a squeeze bottle of burning fuel in his pants pocket.

***


He had bad feet, not bad to his mind, just peculiar to him, but she always said they were bad, so they were bad feet and that’s why his shoes wore out so quick, his feet and knees and hips hurting less once the soles of his Hush Puppies thinned along the outside edge, his bowed legs pronouncing more and more as the rubber took on a shape very natural and comfortable for him. Besides, as long as he had on a pair of baggy pants, the outward arcs of his legs, the gap between them, was pretty much concealed, but she’d hated his baggy pants, too, tried to force a fancy pair of slacks on him once, the creases so crisp they looked penciled in, fake, and bowed just like his legs, the gap like a giant wood biscuit or a giant football.

Yesterday, he took all his clothes outside, dumped them in the shed, and then went back inside for the baseball hats, John Deere and the like, Pepsi-Cola, littering the vestibule, her words--littering the vestibule--one for each hook on the wall. He would have trouble deciding which hat he’d feel like wearing, so he’d spend five minutes there every morning, just a couple steps from the outside, his eyes hopping from one hat to the other. She’d tried getting him to wear a hat like the kids wear --at least a hat like the kids wear, were her words, but he told her he couldn’t do it, just couldn’t bring himself to wear a nigger hat down to the tavern, even if it had a golden Bo embroidered across the front, even the one she forced on his head, sure snug and soft, he hardly could tell he was wearing it out the door. He had it next to him all the way to town, riding shotgun just like she would. He even opened the door for it, just like he would for her, and then flung it in the trashcan between his pickup and the tavern.

He never had the muscles for it was all it was, but she persisted in calling him a coward. “You lush,” she’d say like she was accusing him of some criminality. Quit your drinking, quit this, quit that, as if a man could change who he was as easy as changing an undershirt. More she complained, more time he spent down to the tavern. “Fuck her!” he’d say upon entering The Coq de la Place, as if he was the big Coq himself, used to pissing standing up. “Fuck her!”

***


He remembers bending to pick them up, getting halfway through the job before realizing he only needed the one, and then waking up a couple hours later, his face buried in his pile of clothes that smelled of week after week of heartache, stronger, even, than the smell of burning fuel, wishing he hadn’t drunk that last beer, wondering as clearly as the pain shooting through his skull how he was going to get through this, too beer-sick and cowardly to answer the question for himself, his peed pants, creases broken like heavy stitch on a catcher’s glove, gone cold so he wanted to cry, or start all over again.

Bo Jones. . . no, Robert Jones. . .he would see about getting a pair of moulded insoles made for his feet like the cripples wear, so the bottoms of his shoes would hit the ground running. He would have his pants tailor made, stitched special so the crease would run good and straight down the front. He’d stop farting, at least in her presence. He would learn to pee like she told him he should… sitting down unless he was in a back alley (or passed out like he was, a spike driven deep through the side of his skull, his face still buried in a neglect as lonely and hollow as a hunger and an empty fridge). He would call her Sweetness and give her pecks on the cheek, his face freshly shaven and splashed with the Old Spice, teeth scrubbed so he could finally go by his real name and not feel the shame of having let go of his life for nothing. Robert Jones, his grandfather’s name, a good name from the time when most men had the bowed legs from too much of the hard life. But first he had to cry like a baby.



Antonios Maltezos says: "I've always dreamed of building a BBQ pit that resembled a mausoleum from afar, or at least a brick shithouse with wings, for roasting my lamb come every Greek Easter." He's thought of motorizing the spit, but then he wouldn't have those three hours alone with his cooler full of beer, his cassette player connected to the house by a couple extension cords, his dad's music out of doors as if his backyard were a valley and the men had gathered to build a fire and drink and lament and dance and rejoice while the women were busy elsewhere.

4 comments:

John C. Mannone said...

Great descriptions! Enjoyed the read.

F-harri-stow',
(my phonetic Greek thank you)

John

Antonios Maltezos said...

Nice, Johnny-boy! You're very welcome! And thank you for reading.

David said...

Great story, Tony.

Sam N. said...

Nice story. Tony rocks. And he barbecues whole animals too.