Into the Wild Blue Yonder by Doug Bond
Into the Wild Blue Yonder
Somewhere in Indiana they started up again. I’d been counting the time between mile markers when he grabbed it from her. Ma had been folding and refolding the map, trying to answer his question about the Skyway and the Dan Ryan. The car swerved, just a bit, not much, not the way she reacted. I knew he was really a good driver. He’d flown jets in Vietnam, back for good now, just as things getting bigger there too.
Then it got quiet again, the kind of quiet that fills a car even with the radio on and the highway ticking away and the corn flying past regimented and silk tasseled. There was a long way yet. We still had stinky Gary to get through. I remember Ma telling me they just needed some time to get used to each other again.
Joan Baez came on the radio. My Dad bent forward, fiddled the dial, then turned it up, singing along with the music, “Third boxcar midnight train, destination Bangor, Maine.” I relaxed, looked out at the clouds rising in columns way to the south. He caught my eye in the mirror, smiled, “Thunder coming, Billy. Big rollers.”
I stretched out sideways and tilted my head back so all I could see was blue sky and clouds, my chin sticking straight up. I tried not to blink. The clouds became mountains and long curvy beards and canoes skiffing through icebergs.
When we stopped for gas somewhere outside Portage, Dad went in to talk to the attendant. Ma handed me the bottle of soap bubbles from the glove compartment. I kept dipping and dipping and waved my arm into the warm air.
Final Resting Place
The realtor’s office has turned a minor miracle, a quick sale in difficult times, the lot adjoining the Holy Trinity Cemetery and my estranged father dead a week in the upstairs hall.
There’s still an hour before the limo leaves for the airport, and the tender lightness of the spring air has me on edge so I head up the short path, a communion of sorts, for a glimpse of a place I venture hasn’t changed much in the 25 years I’ve been gone.
He and my stepmother closed escrow on a June day nine Presidents ago. We were moved in by Fourth of July. Little flags of red white and blue filled our eyes the first time we peered through the tree line into the rows of rough edged stones, chiseled names, fresh cut grass and flowers.
Later that summer the older neighborhood boys called me out of the woods. Told me I couldn’t jump from the top of Cribari’s Crypt. It was an easy climb built into the side of a hill, but the leap off the front roof ridge was twelve feet straight down to the ground. I hunkered in above their silent stares and finally let go, my kneecaps slamming into my chin as I hit ground, a bloody lip the only cost to join their club.
As I push through the web threads and newly lifted leaves to the boundary, I feel a strange elation seeing it’s still there, and follow the green grass climbing its flanks. I take off my suit coat, my tie, my shoes, and bend again at the brink of the wide-open sky.
Up at my Grandma’s for the holiday break, she asked about my studies, other things, said she wondered what it was I had been busy scrawling away at. “Oh just a letter…to a friend.”
“Is that your girl…you still seeing that girl…the one from high school?”
I was surprised she remembered. I guess it was all pretty transparent.
She got up and told me to go on with what I was doing, went upstairs and returned holding a small dark wood box. She opened the clasp and leafed through some buttons and things and pulled out an old yellowed letter folded up in a square. Attached in the center were the petals of a small flower pressed in wax paper. Uncreased, she read it out loud:
“Oh sweet Elipha I think of you dear
I yearn for your face in the light
An end to the darkness spreading the land
Your laughter with mirth and delight.
I fancy that you might fancy me….”
A catch came into her voice, and her eyes lowered with her hands. The silence felt strange, so I said I had no idea Grandpa was such a romantic old fool. “A poet no less!”
“Oh, no, goodness no, this was just a boy that loved me once.”
She folded it back into a square taking care with the brittle paper and dried flower. It was a poppy I found out later, a red one, she had picked years ago in a field when she was young.
Doug Bond has endured life in Manhattan, Michigan, and along the Western fault lines, most recently in San Francisco where he occupies his non-compensated time as a writer, runner, husband, father, and sometime singer of songs. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in numerous publications online and print, including The Northville Review, Metazen and Camroc Press Review, for which his story “Why Aren’t There Fireflies’” was nominated to Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2011.