Caution: Do Not Touch Grounded Bats

Rich Ives

     Austin, Texas

And you know something else? The man that stood by the river beneath the bridge, he died. Soon after he learned something important. His wife died too.

But I have to say that he was like me. A normal. An ordinary. A Gomer. And before he died, he went to visit what was left of his mother. She didn't seem to notice he was nearly crazy and half wall-eyed.

"Are you dead yet?"

That's what she asked him. While a clutch of birdwatchers hovered near the willow tree outside the rest home window. He couldn't imagine what they were seeing and he didn't hear the question.

But he noticed her roommate. He noticed the rounded bow of resignation. A vacant-eyed cowl of a face dreaming from its own lost history, the eyes set deeper than the head could comfortably accommodate.

Outside, the color of his aging DeSoto began screaming through its grill, the desert heat wavering like his resolve.

Let's take a closer look at this friendly monster. He's not really cruel. He's not evil. He's not wielding swords of righteous destruction.

But diseased he might be. He might be acting this way because of a tiny bacteria or a somewhat larger infectious thought. It might have been living with him a long time before he gave it too much attention.

What was left of his mother was different. You could see that coming. You could try to act like you were ready. You could tell yourself that you knew this. Even if it was really something else that you knew. You could deny ever having had a mother. You could dismiss the wife. You could say you had never been there. You could say where. You could say you had never lived among yourself.

Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. His story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, was one of five finalists for the 2009 Starcherone Innovative Fiction Prize.