Copyright © 1955, 1963, 1964, 1991 by George Dickerson, 7/7/08
I was hollow-standing before the door.
The door was a greenness and had a thick rectangular small glass-window
eye. The Eggshell pushed the button
again and I could hear it ringing far off.
The Eggshell, pushing hard on his white eggshell M.P.'s helmet, as a
young chicken hatches into crowing, held his bolt of sudden lightning carbine in
his tight hands. He pointed the open mouth of nothingness at me, daring me to
run down the long length of the hospital corridor.
I did not move.
He fingered the button again and the button created an eye in the
rectangular glass eye of the door. The
eye looked at me and then at the Eggshell, then back at me.
I didn't like the eye. The
eye disappeared and I heard the lock click-exploding and my eyes felt the door
green falling away, swinging back. The
eye belonged to a mountain of flesh and a mop of red hair.
I knew his name was Shorty-eye.
Shorty-eye looked at me and said he was the corpsman.
He asked me if I had ever existed in an Army neuro-psychiatric ward
before. I said, "No, I did not
care where I existed." It did
Shorty-eye took me to a room that was almost empty, with a desk and a
scale to weigh my pound fleshness. He
took me from my army uniform and gave me sky-blue pajamas with no buttons, that
I might have the pleasure of knotting them at my belly-button.
He gave me cloth slippers with no strings, that I could enjoy their
flap-flapping, without tearing the strings off to knot together, to strangle
I found out that everything was not given to us.
Glass and pencils, buttons and strings, knives and forks, razor blades
and identities were denied. It is
wonderful how many tiny everythings a once-upon-a-time-man can use to suddenly
Shorty-eye took my clothes and with them locked up the statistical data
of my existence: my birthplace, age, name--Tom--and my one false tooth.
Across the corridor from the room I was occupying were the doors, holding
cells together. Shorty-eye led me toward them and then left-turned onto the
corridor-long-running-tunnel. As I
barely walked I could hear the tearing of rose petals.
They cut my feet when I walked on them.
I closed my sight, and Shorty-eye pulled me firmly through my arm down
When I opened my sight, a bug of a doctor stood before me, with a grin
reaching out to grab his recorder ears and dissecting microscopic glasses.
I later knew Specs was his name. Specs
asked me why I had been chain-dragged here.
I tried to tell him simply that I had a loneliness. I told him I was crazy and that I saw people walking down the
long black of streets, carrying their walls with them.
When I tried to touch them, I broke my fingers on their walls; and once I
had cried because I had known a girl with breasts and rouge caked into her
jawbone. I told him that I could
hear shouting and crying behind their slate faces and I had tried to save them,
but I had failed. Now when I walk, I hear rose petals tearing, and they cut my
feet. I told him that I tried to
drain the blood by razor-blading my wrist, and I would gladly relieve him of my
eternal presence by doing it again.
His grin reached up and grabbed his ears, then fell down, and he said
quietly that he would try to help me, that everything they would do would make
me feel better. I later had many little meetings with Specs, but I never
could remember from one word to one word what his mouth was moving about.
I occupied the same room with Specs for a non-remembered no-timeness; and
then Shorty-eye pulled me through another falling away door-green and I was in
the ward, the long cross of this world.
The ward fell away between two rows of beds, and on either side it
dangled its hands: the latrine and the bullpen.
I see the burnished copper almost-mirrors of the latrine, denied glass,
riveted to the texture of the wooden walls.
I see the bullpen in blind hot sunlight, guarded securely by a steel
barbed-wire fence, keeping the outside world from getting at me.
And I see the heavy screens on the windows and the large shovel
tablespoons, with which we eat our fuel on the tables at the far end of the
But mostly I see the Sky-blues. I
see them standing in their sky-blue pajamas staring at me with sucking eyes from
the far end. I do not want to see
them. I do not want my sounds to be
taken into their ears. I do not
want my sweat to be taken into their noses, nor my fingers to touch their feel.
I just want myself alone, crouching behind my ribs.
But I find myself liking them because they have no stone in their cheeks,
nor slate for skin. I create them
as they approach me, and they become grotesque truths to me.
I know them in a few days. One
is Rubberjaws, a prisoner. I find
out he is a prisoner by a mistake of the legal system.
Rubberjaws finds himself existing here because he has been in the
stockade and someone kicked him, his jaws broken into unconsciousness.
Now he snaps his jaws with rubber bands, holding them in place, and the
army has no better place to keep him than here.
Shaky simply shakes. That is
a simple enough existence and Shaky loves simplicity and alcohol.
I think mostly he shakes because he is afraid.
Shaky shakes most when he sees Monster.
Monster is six-foot-five and quiet.
Monster hates himself. "I
am a monster," he says quietly, with a hidden explosion. No one knows why
he hates the strength that is him. Somewhere
down inside the tall blond pillar that he is, red-hot-riveted his soul shouts,
and someone has forgotten to put out the fire.
The corpsmen are afraid of Monster.
When they gently walk him, two or three of the biggest of them with their
arms padlocking his, I see Monster stop, with a sudden stillness--perhaps trying
to catch something that flickered inside--and two or three corpsmen whipcrack
back on their armchains.
But always Monster is just there and I can feel him.
He paces up and down, looming great in the ward or in the bullpen, or
standing pillar-like, staring somewhere-nowhere out the distance through the
heavy steel screens.
There are others, including the Professor who is always nose-buried in
the thin transparency of words; and I can touch them all.
I can put my finger right through and around them and hold them inside my
ribs. I do not want to know or
taste or feel them, but I have them pushed into me by Chico.
Chico is like some miracle, some untouchable fantasy in the broken
sunlight of my childhood. He picks
me up in the tremble of his fingers, caress-pushing the craziness out of me,
picking up the rose petals and making them suddenly soft.
He stops the brittle beating of my fists and he is so large that he sucks
me away from my ribcage. Specs is
giving me shock-electric salvation, but Chico forgets me my craziness whenever I
feel him. And I fear Chico because
he makes me church tremble, because I heard him singing in the shadows, opening
everything bright and clear.
Chico is the sunshine and the earth and the tree.
He is the shortest of the Sky-blues, the friendliest, and the most
In size he can tower to five-feet-three flexing gigantically every one of
his wiry muscles. He talk broke
Eeenglish bout Puerto Rico and his home, bout sea and children, small--they run
round reel queek and boom-boom fat tummies steek out.
Chico has no other name, or if he does, I never know it.
To the other Sky-blues he is Chico, but to the corpsmen he is
Chico is there when I come. The
first morning I get up in the ward with the other Sky-b's, he is asleep under
his bed on the floor. The corpsman,
Gastro (the big-belching-stomached-one), is yelling at Chico.
"Chico! What are you doing under the bed again? I'll have to report you to the doctor. You're just like everyone else." (Gastro getting red around the gills.) "You have no special privileges!"
(Louder. Chico lying with
hands behind head, looking into Gastro with child-blue-eyes.)
"Get up from there and make your bed!"
"You-Coorpsman," Chico says.
"I got wreenkles here (pointing to face)--am thirty-fie. Go
boom-boom at Gooooks een Krea. Gooooks
fall boom-boom and no go run round fat boom-boom tummies out.
You-Cooorpsman, I sleep in groun, no sleep een bad when een Krea.
Can no sleep een bad. B-b-bad
ees bad to sleeep een. Floor ees
goood to sleep. Keeep tough.
Then Gastro takes Chico by the arm and pulls him out from under his bed.
Gastro is brave. He is six
feet and has keys to the door. Chico
is large. He is
remembers sometime when Praysident of the You-knighted States stands and geev
heem Coongress Medal Honor. He
remember he stand crying and Praysident stand and tell bout goooks he go
boom-boom at (no go run round no) in Krea and bout grenade peeces een his legs.
Gastro is pulling him and large Chico is going limp-silly with him
because Gastro is brave and has never seen war and Chico has a disease that is
eating the brave out of his mind and body and has left him childlike from
shooting goooooks eeeen Krea.
"You-Coorpsman, I come. No
pull, I come." (Smiling
hurt." (Then giggling,
shake-shaking, remembering Praysident, shake-shaking his hand.)
Chico is on his two flap-flapping feet, shuffling easily before Gastro.
Gastro looks at Chico's magnificent crop of almost no-hair and then his
smile-wrinkles and the child-blue innocent eyes.
"Don't sleep under the bed anymore!" Gastro belches.
Chico is shuff-shuffling. "Thank
you-Coorpsman for waking me up." And
Gastro turns and goes away because he will find Chico smiling from under his bed
tomorrow--thank you, Coorpsman.
(Chico is hop-looking at me. I
am floating somehow in the floor middle, trying to grab hold, trying to pull my
ribs together. I try shutting my sight, squeezing it, hand-push-hard.
I shut my sight, but he is somehow there, pulling my insides open with
his gentle eye-fingers. I feel sick. My
insides run up my throat--out. I
weakly and wobbly. Chico is eyeing
me and it is open blueness. It is
stained windows, stained hands with blue. Chico
touches and I do not have to break my fingers on his stucco face; my fingers go
right through to where I am not dirty. I
floating in a thin strand of sunlight airness, I feeling his simple, feeling the
stretch out reach touch of a child-flower.
Chico runs into my ribs and sing shouts there.)
Chico loves all small things. He
loves to stand in line. He loves
the shaving or the eating or the shower lines.
He will giggle in line. I
see Chico shouting-giggle-shuffling. "Hey-you-Coorpsman.
My turn nex? My turn nex? (Knowing
it won't be his turn, knowing Coorpsman will get mad.) Lines are something special.
They are each Christmas: waiting for the surprise package, can't sleep
excitement waiting, finding the razor with the blade in it every morning.
Surprised to find the blade always in it every morning.
Surprised to find his face almost in the burnished copper
riveted-to-the-wall mirrors. Surprised
when the razor with the razor blade already in it takes away the rough
ecstasy-feeling stubble from his face almost in the mirror.
shave thees morning. You like to
shave? Shave after me." (Coorpsman
is thinking how tedious it is to shave, thinking how crazy Chico is.)
Chico is in spasms of happiness and hole world ees wanderful.
The other Sky-blues, Monster (silently) and Shaky and Rubberjaws, are
watching and smiling inside at the sunshine of Chico and the bubbling inside.
They are watching Chico take the brushless shaving cream tube and squeeze
it. He is watching the cream.
It is a white worm. It peeks
out at him. He giggles and stops
squeezing. It sucks itself back.
It peeks out. It backs in. It
is wonderful. Then he squeezes it
all long-squirm-out laughing. He
doesn't use it to shave with. He
just likes to watch it squirm out. He
is laughing. Monster is almost
laughing inside and Shaky is roaring and Rubberjaws is hurt-stretch-laughing.
The corpsman is angry and shouting at Chico, who is laughing.
Chico is special sunshine for us; and because people from the outside,
like the corpsman, do not understand special sunshine, they lock Chico up and
save him for us.
(I am beginning to feel still. There
are not so many rose petals when I walk, ripping up through my knees.
I am quieting, soft-feather-down inside.
I take Chico up into my sight, holding--I can't let go. Suddenly I am piece-broken again. Inside I corrode, rust-rotten, because Chico is so circular,
so non-breakable. He is almost--but
I hyena laugh into myself. I do not
take him into my eyes. I step him
out of my think, but he pops in eel-slippery.)
Chico is also evil. One
morning after being pulled out from under his bed and stand-shuffling in line,
Chico gets before the almost mirror and looks slyly at the corpsman.
Coorpsman is not seeing. Chico
quickly unscrews the razor and takes the blade out.
Sin!! Chico holds blade out
at coorpsman. "Here, Coorpsman,
blade is no een razor thees morning? What
Chico stands on one foot with his tongue in his cheek.
Chico is suddenly roar-laughing. The
corpsman is suddenly roar-shouting scared-mad.
The corpsman tells Chico to lay the razor blade on the sink. Chico stands there laughing, hopping faster on one foot.
The corpsman is shouting louder.
Another corpsman comes and is talking to Chico.
Chico is laughing hysterically, hist-erackacka-ackalylyly.
They call the corpsman Shorty-eye, whom Chico likes to talk to about his
boom-boom tummied children. Shorty-eye
comes and tells Chico to put the blade down.
Chico looks at Shorty-eye and then at large Gastro, who stands behind the
other two. Chico is roaring, and
then he puts down the blade and walks toward the door, unable to contain his
Gastro jumps for the dangerous blade.
Shorty-eye and the other corpsman grab hold of great Chico.
They tell Chico that he is going into solitary confinement for this.
They try to act tough.
"Chico, you are going into a cell by yourself.
If you do that again, we'll put you into a cell and never let you
"You-Coorpsman, I go, okay."
Chico looks almost sad, as if he were going away for good.
He walks up the aisle between the beds towards the door.
Softly he says, "Goobye Toemmee, Goobye Ruuuberjas, Goobye Moonster--Chico
The door closes behind his greatness and we are saddest because our
special sunshine is gone. But I am
smiling inside because I know he will find something special.
He will be surprised at being suddenly alone.
He will like the sound of nothing. He
will watch the sun rectangles move on the floor and have lots of time to dream
about his boom-boom kid tummies. Best
of all, he will be laugh-bubbling back among us, suddenly surprised at not being
Chico has a tree. It is not
so much of a tree, but to Chico it is a giant tree, and he climbs to the sky on
Each day when we go out to the bullpen there is the pinochle game or the
basketball or Professor reading a book. But
Chico does not understand complex things like basketball.
He watches the flap-flap of slippers on the dirt court and the big
roundness of the ball as it flies from one Sky-blue to another.
It is not important the beeg rounness go through circle een sky.
It is too hot to be important. He
watches the flap-flap of cards: kings, queens, aces.
It is not important. He does
not understand why Shaky gets so nervous when he doesn't win.
He watches the flap-flap of Professor reading a book, turned-over pages.
It does not matter what is written.
They look nice, words: Streeeeetch waaaaaaay oooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuut
or short wuds.
He likes simplicity. That,
he can understand: like the word "tree."
Chico likes tree, so he goes around boolpain and finds a tree. Nobody noticed the tree before.
It seems it must have suddenly grown there overnight.
It is a giant tree--perhaps twelve inches high.
"Seee, You-Chico find heem treee.
You-Tree, Treee." (Softly.) Bubbling:
"Hey, You-Toemmee, Chico find heem tree."
Chico comes over to me where I am in the shade and pulls at my arm.
"You-Tree." I have
to go over and see Chico's tree. It
is a maple tree over in the far corner of the bullpen. It comes only halfway up Chico's calf. Chico is bubbling and hopping up and down on one foot.
"I haav treee."
Whispering, he says: "How
eet say in Bibull--God make a tree but cannot eat treee or geet keeecked out
Pardice? Well, thees ees good tree!
Theees ees Chico's treee."
(I start to think his tree is silly.
I start to try to run solitary into myself, but Chico has me wide open
and I can feel open chairs and windows, and there is only present timeness.
I am no past and no ahead. He
is warming me.)
I nod and smile quietly at Chico's tree.
Chico child-blues me. "I
tell you bout treees."
Chico tells me about trees in darkness and how trees, he thinks, are very
lonely. "Arrr you loonely?"
He child-blue eyes me. "Yees,
I theenk so. Trees arrr loonely.
They geet loonely cause have stay een wan place.
They like people talk weeth them. I
play een them when I was boom-boom tummy kiddie.
Then they lak mee and they no loonger loonely."
He pouts a little. "Yooo
understan, thees treee ees my Pardice treee."
(I fall inside of myself and swim back out.
It is easy to swim out now, floating up the waves of sunlight.
I look at the scar on my wrist-dangle.
I laugh-bubble inside. "Paradise.")
"I understand, it is your Pardice tree. --Pardice."
Then I go back over to the wall and the shade, and I watch Chico and his
tree. Chico is all lost in his
tree. His mind is hiding up in the
leaves somewhere. He remembers falling boomp down from a tree and he smiles.
He touches gently one of the leaves, making it real, and then he sits on
the ground and smiles at Paradise.
Everyday in the bullpen it is like this, and Chico carries out a paper
cup full of water to grow his tree sky high.
Sometimes: "Tree ees
noo loonely now, hey you-Toemmee?"
Chico is happy with his tree until the day of the tree riot.
Junglebunny starts the trouble.
Junglebunny is a marine who did not like his duty assignment, and so he
went in one day and pissed on his commanding officer's desk.
Junglebunny is about eighteen, and he does not understand the simplicity
and the sunshine of Chico-under-the-bed. He
understands only stubborn. He has a
scar on his left cheek, where he got into a fight about who was going to take a
whore home. Junglebunny is one of
the few Sky-blues I do not find in my ribcage.
He yelps and howls and bites
my feel, preying on Chico. But
Chico never pays any attention to Junglebunny when he kids Chico about his
sleeping under the bed. "Hah!
Chico is a dog. He sleeps on the ground like a dog!"
Chico does not understand meanness and so he hangs his hands doglike in
front of him and pants his tongue out doglike.
I laugh and Shaky laughs and then Junglebunny does not understand that it
is funny. "See!
Chico knows he is a dog. Here,
doggy! Here, doggy!"
Then we take Chico by the arms and laugh with him down to the tables for
chow and leave Junglebunny hurt-mad inside.
He does not understand why we like Chico better than him.
Junglebunny hates Chico's tree. When
he finds out about Chico's tree, he runs around to all the Sky-blues in the
bullpen and tells them about it. "Chico
thinks he has a tree. It's only a
foot high. He thinks he's going to
grow the tree overnight so he can escape over the roof.
Ha! Ha! He thinks he can
The Professor does not even look up from his book.
"Corpsman! Chico's got
a tree that he thinks he will escape on. Ha!
Ha! He's crazy." The corpsman smiles at Chico.
Chico comes running over to the corpsman. "Doooono take my treee.
spits. The corpsman tells him they
will not take his tree and then Chico is happy again, and he goes back to guard
Junglebunny sits over in the corner by the fence and scowls.
He waits for his chance to make fun of Chico, and Chico sits over by his
tree, guarding it from Joooonglebooonie.
It is two days after Junglebunny discovers Chico's tree that Junglebunny
gets his revenge and the tree riot precipitates.
Chico sleeps under his bed as usual, and Gastro has to pull him out as
usual, but Chico does not want to stand in line this morning.
He does not want to shave. It
is visitor's day and Chico's family is coming to see him.
Chico says, "Me noo shave tooday.
My woooman coom. My woooman
like me weeth beard. No like mee
all smoooth. No shave."
Gastro tells him he has to shave. It
is a ward regulation.
"We'll have to put you in solitary if you don't shave."
"You won't be able to see your visitors."
"No shave! Dooono want
too seee wooman eef I haav tooo shave."
Junglebunny laughs when they take Chico away to his cell.
"Gooobye Toemee, Goobye Shakee, Goobye Ruubberjas--Chico no
(Shorty-eye walks me in to see Specs.
Specs puts the electric salvation shock on me and I feel it tingle
deeply. I sit quite in the stiff wood of chair. I see myself run up against the hollow bones of sunlight,
then I spill on the floor with a clatter. I
do not want to talk to the other Sky-blues.
I try to reach out and touch Chico, but he slips far-greased away.
I see Junglebunny smirking down the long length of a hollow.
I want to be myself and sit. I
sit stiff in the quite wood chair, clattering bounce on the floor.
Junglebunny smirks near and leers that he has fixed Chico, torn Chico out
on the wood tight of the ward. "Ha.
Ha. I fix Chico.
Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Hah!"
I push him back with my brittle fists, and quite tight the chair sits in
Gastro brings Chico out to see his visitors.
(I am suddenly knocked off my chair, but I feel a little
elastic-stretched from Chico.)
When we are ushered out to the bullpen after dinner, the storm breaks.
Chico goes over to water his lovely tree.
Soomboodie hurt You-Treeeeee."
Chico is tear-crying and water-spilling down-falling on his sky-blue, and
he is down-falling inside. "You-Tree"
is torn up out of the ground, and broken-bodied leaf-bleeding.
Junglebunny makes the mistake of laughing.
"What happened, Chico? Can't
you escape now? Ha! Ha!"
Suddenly Chico spins and is running fullspeedahead-bullfashion at
Joonglebooonie is crashed down when Chico bull-butts him in the belly
with his almost no-hair head. Chico
is child-crying. Junglebunny is
yelling, "Murder!" The
corpsman runs over to grab Chico, and Chico butts him suddenly crash landing in
the belly. Chico is laugh-crying
now and runs for Joooongleboooooonie, who accidentally gets up.
Down falling is j-b. Back to
the cooooooorpsman, who accidentally gets up.
Down bouncing is c-m.
Chico suddenly stops. He
remembers the tree and runs over to it. He
kneels by it and touches the broken-bone tree.
He feels the wound in the ground and tries to stick the tree back in. It falls over jaggedly.
Later, Specs talks to Chico, and then Chico and I go out with a new
corpsman to bury Chico's tree. Chico
is sad and is like a priest. He
folds all the torn branches up together and caresses the leaves with his
soft-feeling hands. He lays them all in a pile and scuffs some dirt over them
with his hand-grenade legs. Then he
mumbles something over the tree which I cannot understand, and I am glad because
I do not want to remember that much.
The corpsman is shuff-shuffling. Chico
looks softly down and then says, "You-Toemmee, you know.
Sooomboodie breaks my treee oop. Sooombooodie
no go Pardice." Then he
smiles, surprised. "Treee is
no loonely mooore."
(I am looking at Chico, and he is fading a little.
I stretch-feel him die at my finger trembles.
I grab, try to hold, but he is slipping greasily away-- a little out...)
(Grey this morning. Torn I
twisted under Specs' touch--Specs poking and pressing Chico from the shadows
secret. Chico fading and I stiffening.
Specs Christing Chico, and I tearing and lonely.)
Sometimes Chico is almost what people in the outside world would call
rational. Even when he is
almost-rational, he is never quite like anyone else.
One day Chico comes to me and says, "I am goona die veree sooon,
hey-Toemmee." I am not sure
whether he is asking me or telling me. "Yes,
I goona die. Doctor says I no goona
die. But I knoows. Doctor come round in mooorning.
Looook at mee. Heee say:
Why you-Chico sleep under bad? I
say, cause I lak sleep under bad. He
no ask meee: Why you-Chico goona die?
I no can say: cause I wanna die. He
say I no goona die! He lie tooo mee.
I can tell. I feeel.
Soometime I lay wake een night and knooow. Sooometime whan I weeth my woooman sheee knoow and shee cry.
Doctor no ask why my woooman cry. He
oonly ask 'why you-Chico sleep unner bad?'
Gooood Doctor." Chico
stares down at his feet and follows a crack in the floor with his toe.
I try to tell Chico that he his not going to die, and he looks up at me
into my eyes and sees that I am lying to him.
He can see that I know he has a disease that is eating up his brain and
that someday he will wake up to find himself not here, not anywhere.
Still, I have trouble believing it myself, and I am lying to myself more
than I am trying to lie to him. I
cannot picture him being anywhere but here on this ward with us. But Chico is hurt because he thinks I am like the Doctor, who
does not care about him.
"Doona lie to meee, you-Toemmee."
(Far away.) "Yooo knoow,
don yooo-Toemmee? I knoow whan I
wake up, and I knoow I have not beeen membering where I am.
Yoooo knoow where yooo arr all time, hey you-Toemmee?"
I want to tell him that sometimes I do not where I am, that sometimes I
feel all crazy inside, but I know that he will not understand, and I do not
expect him to understand, so I nod my and follow a crack in the floor with my
Quietly, he is speaking--quietly so the others cannot hear, because he is
giving his insides to me, and I do not want them because they remind me of my
insides, and I want them because I do not want to forget my insides.
(I am diving inside, but it is hard to swim back.
Hyena laugh-like, I swing jaggedly at the end of my elastic.
Specs is grin-catching at his ears, finger-tappings together.
I feel dying. I try. I
up-diving. Chico talking.)
"I have a wooman. Thass
why I noo wanna die. Shee coom see
meee here. Yooo have a woooman?"
I do not answer him. He is
gentle and goes on anyway.
He tells me about his woman. His
woooooooman wears red because he likes red.
His woman makes kiddies for him, makes him three kiddies.
His kiddies have nice teeth, and they like to listen to seashells.
They hold them near their ears, and they show their white-teeth-smiling
at the roar. Then they hold the
shell up to Chico's ear and he hears the roar, the roar of sea, of
blood-pounding life in the ear. I feel the roar a little, too.
(Junglebunny leers near nowhere out of sudden space and we are dead.
Then his slope-shouldered grinning back disintegrates, and we are alive
He tells me about his woman comes to see him.
He wants to go to bed with her but cannot because he is here, because
there is no aloneness with her, because Gastro is looking or Shorty-eye is
eyeing. He waits until he thinks
Shorty-eye is not looking, then he touches her breast, and he goes all crazy hot
inside. Shorty-eye is looking, and
Chico can see him smiling.
"Eet ees no fooonny, no Toemmee?"
"No, it's not funny." I
think of Shorty-eye thinking it funny and laughing over it.
I think of him laughing when Chico and his woman are crazy-hot inside to
be oneness with each other, and Shorty-eye laughing, and Junglebunny leering.
Why can't they let him go home to his wife and his seashell-roar-loving
kiddies? If he is going to die, why
can't they let him die in floating-down one with his woman?
He is still talking. "Eeet
ees no foonny--I like play kiddies games weeth my kiddies.
Play Gian Steep: Leetle Steep. I
go to kiddies: You-Kiddies may take
twoo gian steps foowad. They geegle
all hoppiness. I like my woooman to
kees een my ear. Yooo like that? I tell kiddies: You-Kiddies
may take twoo leetle steeeps backwud. They
go cry-cry een no hoppiness."
Chico is thinking about Giant Step, Little Step, when he suddenly is the
other Chico, the no-membering Chico. He
walks away grenade-legged, as if he has not been talking to me, and goes over to
the window. It is raining, and I can see by the way that he looks out the
screens that he has never seen it rain before.
I can see that he wants to be let out in it suddenly, to feel it newly
running down his child-face and into his wooman-keesed ears.
"Hey you-Toemmee, eet rains."
Now he is Chico-under-the-bed again.
He is the director with his child-blues going:
You may take two giant steps into happiness, Tommy.
You may take one giant step into remembering yourself, Monster.
You may take two baby steps back into hurtness, Junglebunny.--I am sorry,
Junglebunny, I do not mean it, but you break up my tree---Coooorpsman, you
cannot play because you do not understand the game.
Chico was to me all this leafness and all this tree.
He was the sudden hopping inside of me.
One dark I was sinking on the hard of my bed-forgetting, sweat-crying on
my forehead. He says to me: "Hey you-Toemmee... you sleep ...no?"
I can hear his whisper crawl-stumble through the night.
"No. I'm not sleeping," I say, sweating, to him.
"Thaas baad," he stumbles to me.
"Sooomday wee all sleeep. Noo,
Toemmee?" He is telling me he
will die down floating soon. I do
not want to hold it in my ears. He
is telling me that I will forget him when he is die floating down.
I tell him he will not die, and I know I am lying.
He is going away sadly, nod nod his tired no-hair.
I know he is going to die down soon.
In the sunrise, I remember Specs calling me to his room.
I remember tight sit in the room, staring at the round flesh of his
face--the microscopic pierce of his thin sharp eyes behind his glasses.
The tight of that tomb room shone glare-white on the walls, stiff-lined
on the sharp wood of his desk. Specs
is hum-mumbling something to my forgot- conscious.
I feel stiffening in me. I
feel the daylight become hard glass.
He is saying, "You don't really think that Chico is Christ." He says it softly, understandingly with his complex rational mind. "He has flesh and blood just as you do, doesn't he? You don't really believe he's Christ?"
I stumble. "I guess
"If he were Christ, then he wouldn't be made of flesh or
blood,...and he wouldn't be here unless it were Judgment Day.
And if it were Judgment Day, we wouldn't be as we are now...sitting here
as we are."
"I...I don't know," I said.
"I didn't mean he is Christ.
I don't know what I thought. I
mean he is like Christ. He
is simple and...oh, God!!!...I can't explain.
I don't know. I don't
I talk with Specs and he makes me know that Chico is not Christ, that I
am all right, and I am not crazy. And
when I am leaving his office, I feel strange.
I feel as if I had been away from my body for a long time.
I feel strange standing there in the suddenly length of the ward.
I suddenly want to leave there. I
suddenly am ashamed I am there. I
can feel a stretching at my throat. The
other patients are out in the hot sunlight of the bullpen and I do not want to
go out there with them. I am
ashamed to look at them. I feel
funny about Chico. I am afraid to
look at him. I go out to the sharp
sunlight of the bullpen and I see Chico.
Chico runs human fashion up to me and says, "Hey yoo-Toemmee.
Toemmee ees here. Toemmee cooms
back from Doctor. How you, hey-Toemmee?"
He looks like a jiggling tired idiot.
Except I know that he is not. But
I am not sure, and I do not know what to say to him.
I am ashamed for his jiggling and his no-hairness.
"I'm all right, I guess."
That is all I can say, and I go and sit down by the fence, feeling the
hot steel wire through my pajamas, feeling very fatigued.
Chico looks hurt and puzzled for a moment, then he smiles sudden-brightly
white in the sunshine and goes to talk to another patient.
I do not know what to think. I
am all mixed up, and I am ashamed I am there.
I can see two soldiers talking as they walk down the road past the ward,
and I turn my face away from them so they cannot see it.
(I am sitting in the sunlight, steel hot fence on my back, and feeling
Chico run out to the stretch end, then back and out, and I am a little
slate-faced. I want to forget him.
I want to feel soldier-talking down the road.
I look up at the wax sky melting in the sun, and want to be outside.)
That night Chico died. I was
lying on my bed in the dark, smoking a cigarette, feeling the smoke of it go
down into my lungs, feeling it go slowly out of my nose and mouth.
Chico gave a call from under his bed to the corpsman.
They pulled at his arm and leg, trying to get him off the floor.
He resisted them. I did not go near him, because I did not want to see him die.
I saw the doctors standing over him, and the rush of the corpsmen back
and forth, like little white bugs devouring something.
I saw Shaky sitting afraid in his bed.
I saw Monster looking down questioningly at his large strong fingers.
I heard doctors talking among themselves, not quite saying loud enough to
hear what had killed him.
They took him out on a cart, covered with the white grave of a sheet.
I watched the whiteness move past my bed--out through the heavy steel
door that closed after him with a dead click.
The next day, I saw the doctor again, and I felt better.
He told me they would let me out pretty soon.
I was glad about that. I
didn't want to stay here anymore. I
went back to the ward and couldn't talk to Rubberjaws or Shaky.
Three days later, they had a funeral for Chico in the hospital chapel.
I didn't want to go, but the corpsman offered to take anybody that wanted
to go. Shaky and Rubberjaws and
Monster and Professor and even Junglebunny wanted to go, so I fell in at the
back of the line.
We stood in the chapel, and I listened to the priest saying something in
Latin. I was watching Chico's wife,
and she was crying softly. I was
feeling the walls, dark-pressing in on me.
After the priest was finished, I went up to look at Chico.
His face had the waxiness of dead flesh, but I was afraid to touch it.
I wanted to touch it to make sure, but I couldn't.
Suddenly I could feel him glowing. It
was he floating out of his skywards body. I
could see him hopping in front of me. He
is smile-smiling in his child-blueness down into the deeply red-hot-riveted
inside me. I am catch-quickening
his sudden laughter. I want him to
say: "Hey-yoo. Hey-yoo-God, I coom to play seee-shell and Gian Steep weeth
you. I coom to say, --take twoo
gian steeps eento world. I coom
flap-flap jig-jiggling. Hey-you-Gooooood!"
Then there was nothing.
(He ran out and snapped the elastic.)
I was standing there, looking at the dead body of a man, the dead flesh
of a blind face. I did not know what to do.
I was sorry I had doubted him. I
could still feel him a little, moving in and out of that coffin.
But I know now that it was my imagination, that I was only crazy for a
(I felt solid and well, brick plaster up against my once-flimsy ribs.
I felt as if the something of Chico in my mind was soap-bubble burst.
It was a hazy stinging film in the air.)
We went back to the ward, and I lay on my bed, and Chico and Junglebunny
and Specs, Shaky and Monster, all bounced in and out of my mind like round balls
of glass--brilliant complicated marbles. I
played with them, and finally put them into my pocket.
I laughed, not sure whether I had won or lost, and passed through the
And now that I have left, I have almost forgotten about it all.
But sometimes I think about the past and about Chico, and I turn around
sometimes in the bright flowers of sunlight and see him hop-happy smiling into
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