I will die soon, I know that for certain. The same summer will come, the same fall and winter, wrapped up violently in the same half-spring (as I’ve come so reluctantly to call it), will, without fail or deviance, come, I’m sure. It’s been 17 hours since the 13th beginning and in writing, for the first time this Year, I can’t help feeling a tumultuous trembling surging through my insides, a dizziness, a thought that grips me, that slaps me in the face, drags my eyes to the wall clock shadowing the typewriter intermittently, and a hundred times an hour tells me that I am wasting time. I will die soon, I know. I will die April 13th in a death, which in my most morbid lapse I’ve determined will last 7 minutes and 6 seconds. My story is a story of numbers, of faces, and metered movement. And yes, the allusive nature of my life (if you can title such a beginning and end[?] as so) kills me. That most stable of certainties, above the seasons, TV cycles, and the contents of newspapers—the dart-sure affirmation that this is all a joke, that someone, somewhere, is pulling the strings and never gets tired of the same show, still gets me. Even in the brightest pockets of the Year, the knowledge—that He is a child pressing the life from his crying creatures—sucks me into a morbid humor I never knew to exist. And that laughter that echoes up from the world’s bottomless wells can cocoon me ‘til half-spring in its blackest madness.
My homework was my job, my father always told me. While he worked for the family’s well-being, it was a privilege, he said, for me to be blessed with a good set of words to learn, picked by teachers of rare quality. I understood. He was right, but I still resented memorizing such an arduous list of words—words that I might never use anyway. My homework consisted of looking the words up in a dictionary, and writing five complete sentences for each of the twenty words assigned that week. My father would always make a point of seeing my completed homework each night, but he never really studied it. A simple flash of marked paper would do and occasionally he would remind me, upon seeing my completed homework, that incomplete assignments resulted in one of his signature spankings. However, in the face of such a monotonous task as learning vocabulary, I began to learn some shortcuts. Without anyone to read my assignments, I could get away with half, and sometimes almost incomprehensible, sentences. On weeks that I particularly wanted to shirk my work, I would even write gibberish and squigglies in place of words, knowing that a few missing points here and there wouldn’t have any real effect on my grades. One day, returning from rough-housing in my neighbor’s yard, I found my slapdash homework in a pile on the living room table, where I accidentally left it, with my father reading a book on the far couch. Carefully, I flashed my homework to him and stuffed it into my schoolbag.
“Finished already?” my dad asked without looking up from his book.
“Yes, sir,” I replied walking toward my room. At the doorframe, I saw he had taken off his glasses and fixed his eyes on me without any trace of tension in his face.
“If you’re not going to do something well, why would you bother doing it at all?” he said, returning to his book. I didn’t move or speak.
Homework was my job, my father told me.
I push back the waist-tall gate guarding the shade-granting hedge’s center, kneeling in inspection. I had never seen the door before and a curiosity took grip of me, while infecting my mind with a brand of unfairness. After all, such an unspied gate nested itself on my property! In the heart of the overgrown garden’s tallest hedge no doubt. My insistence on dispelling the mystery of such a hedge-tunnel’s destination grabbed hold of my wrist, pulling me with an impatient jerk through the black, yet porous burrow.