Friday, September 17, 2010

Army Crawl, A Short Story.

                                                          Army Crawl

He said he army crawled out of the womb. He said that when he came out he did it hands and head first; his elbows out, arms in alternating flapping sequence like a chicken or someone climbing a ladder. He demonstrates for me. It looks like he is stretching. When the nurse put him on the table all crying and reaching desperately for warmth and covered in scraps and afterbirth he said he flipped right over and started army crawling his way to the edge. That nurse just looked away for one single second he said and he was belly faced down and on the move. He almost crawled right up to and over it onto the floor, and he would have too if she hadn’t turned around and caught him just in the nick of time. I asked him where he was headed. He said he didn’t know. He didn’t know then and he didn’t know where he was going now either.
Casper Wyoming is the perfect place for an army crawler really. There is enough room to go anywhere and enough nothing around to make it pretty interesting to get to. Most people’s lives in Casper take after the landscape. Their days are like the road that runs up into town from Rawlings, 111 miles of barren flatlands, fenced off on either shoulder for seemingly no reason at all, with no rest stops or conveniences and two lanes scattered with wandering passers by on their way to someplace from somewhere. Coming into town you first hit the Walmart. That’s how you know you’re in town really, no matter what town your headed into. Just look for the Walmart. Everything else was just as typical. A Ford dealership. A Quiznos. Further down was a public school with its baseball field and adjacent student parking lot. After we picked him up we headed back the way we came and I guess its not surprising that looking out the window at the scenery we didn’t see anything new that we might have missed on the way in.
He was a liar. Everyone knows you cant crawl and you especially cant flip over when you’re a baby until you’ve been working at it for some months. There were other things too. He said he knew and loved one of the songs I was playing from my Ipod, Paul Simon’s Graceland, but when I looked in the rear view I could tell he was just mumbling and mouthing trying to predict and match what Paul was saying as he was saying it. He could usually only catch on to the last syllable of a word as he copy catted the melody. He ruined one of the best road trip songs ever for me. He would pause from his predictive sing alongs to ask random questions like “Do you know where the jail is at in Rawlings?” How was I supposed to know that?

If you’d be my bodyguard I can be your long lost pal. I can call you Betty. And Betty when you call me you can call me Al.

We pull off in Green River. The snow is less white here but more quickly falling. The roads are covered and its getting late. You never know when your going to see another Subway sign so I decide to stop for a five dollar foot long. He doesn’t want Subway. He wants McDonalds so we go. We go through the drive thru but as we circle around the building I glance inside and notice the inside is really nice and must have been newly redecorated. I have noticed all day that all the McDonalds in Wyoming have been remodeled. They are beautiful really. Why is that? After a few minutes of the typical sighs, the ahs and oohs that come with indecisively staring at a fast food drive thru menu he knows what he wants. I let him order because its less confusing that way but also because I, for some reason, think it will make him feel responsible and grown up to have the ability to order his own meal. He knows exactly what he wants.
“Yeah. Can I get a cheeseburger. With cheese. And a coffee.”

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