oscar’s ninth chapter: change is hard and sounds like velcro.

Oscar was not awake. Yet.

A warm, musical voice whispered in Oscar’s ear, “Between slumber and wakefulness is where you’ll find me. Always.” Which set Oscar’s sleepy mind to thinking: this voice sounds female; and then to imagining: this female – a rather attractive one at that – sounds curvier and juicier than I’d expect from a fairy tale. But the surprise is a pleasant one, and he smiles a sleepy little smile and rolls out of bed and into the kitchen where his mother is baking a pound cake.

“Oscar, my little hip-hop-hurray! What’s bouncing ’round your brain pan this beautiful morning?” She’s wearing a large terry cloth man’s bathrobe and her favorite red cowboy boots. “I’ll bet something wild and beautiful is going on in there, eh?”

“Well, I think I just figured out why men wake up every morning with erections.”

“And?” The beater whirs.

“It’s Peter Pan’s breath.”

“Well, at least it’s nothing naughty. Your imagination is infinitely more virtuous than any dribble of reality. Tell me more, hon.”

“There’s not much really, only that she waits for me between my being asleep and awake. In tights. She whispers in my ear.”

“Peter Pan’s a she?”

“Oh yeah.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m quite sure!” He didn’t volunteer any more details except to say, “It feels like she breath.”

Oscar’s mother laughed and started the beater.

“What’s so funny?”

“Oscar, you’re a dear.”

“Why?”

“The conviction you maintain to your perceptions and beliefs are precious.”

“What do you mean?”

“I read that story to you every night right after fluffing your pillow, and, well, more often than not, you were fast asleep long before I finished the story. In there, between being awake and being asleep, you heard the story but got the characters into the wrong outfits.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes, hon, but it doesn’t matter.” She stops her batter beating to place a powdered, white hand on either side of Oscar’s head, and kiss him firmly on his forehead.

Oscar blushes and sits quietly staring at the robin’s egg blue linen table cloth. Finally, he asks, “Well, what did I get wrong?”

“Dear, wrong is too severe and mean a word. Inaccurate feels kinder.”

“Okay, so what’d I get inaccurate?”

“Alright, my little love dumpling, I’ll tell you: Peter Pan is a little boy — just like you –and the little, luscious, juicy (How’d Mom know! blushed Oscar) fairy is Tinkerbell, and she is the one that blows promises into your eager, naïve, male-bound, rose petal ear.” And she bops Oscar on his sleepified shaggy dog head with a dough-padded spatula. “But I’d have to agree with you: Tinkerbell is a cutie.”

Oscar, quiet with mild embarrassment, sips his orange juice and watches his mother grease the inside of the pound cake pan, which she does with slow, steady, circular, confident, buttery caresses.

My mom knows a lot, thought Oscar.

oscar’s seventh chapter: drool doesn’t lie.

Oscar woke up from a nap in which he was dreaming about his mother and a snail to discover that he had inadvertently used his sketchbook for a pillow. On one of the pages there was a little, shiny pool of spittle that had waterfalled from his mouth and smeared part of his last entry so that it now read, “I am except …,” and disappeared into a wispy, watery, inky cloud.

Now he wonders who his father was and why, every time he and his mother go anywhere, she stops in the doorway, turns and yells inside, “If anyone calls, just take a message!” Then she starts jingling her keys.

He looks down again at his last entry and remembers. He had written, “I am exceptional.” He blinks. The watery cloud takes the form of a bruised beagle wearing a sombrero and scuba gear and drifts across the page.

oscar’s seventh chapter: how big does an ocean need to be?

Oscar’s mother lay in the hammock, softly swinging back and forth, dreaming on a daring but absent-minded drop of sweat grazing between her breasts. Slowly. Slowly. Slowly it moved lower and lower toward the watering hole of her navel.

“Surf’s up,” she breezed lightly, eyes closed.

oscar’s fifth chapter: the high and low, new-morning tides of a brain.

Oscar shuffled into the kitchen. At the stove, dancing slightly, was his mother, wearing a wildly floral bathrobe, red cowboy boots, singing folk songs from the twenties and thirties in an exaggerated Broadway manner. She was also wearing a poorly applied mask of pancake batter as she sang lightly, to an audience of one, and flipped pancakes with a short but happy sizzle. This is what Oscar woke up to.

“Bon dieu, my beamish boy!”

“Good morning, Mom.”

Flip, sizzle, sing too-rali-oo-rali-oo-rali-AY!

“Hey, Mom…”

“‘… Sweet Betsy from Pike.’ How’s your book?”

“Oh, okay… I read one sentence over and over and over last night before I fell asleep, and now I can’t remember anything about it.”

“Oh,” she said pointing the spatula at Oscar’s head,” It’s in there, dear. And when you pick up your book and find that sentence, you will be instantly, intimately familiar and cozy with that sentence and all it’s meanings – if not more. That sentence will probably mean more to you than any other in the book, and you should write the author a little note telling him – or her! – which of the sentences you slept with. They’ll be very happy to hear from you, I’m quite sure.”

“Well then, are the other sentences wasted?”

“Oh no, dear, absolutely not. Someone somewhere will fall asleep to one of those other sentences, so they have to be there.”

“Can there be a book with just one sentence?”

“Oscar, there can be anything you can imagine; and once you’ve imagined it, it’s there.”

“Then would all those other maybe blank pages be wasted?”

“Honey, when you talk about an idea and creation, there is nothing more meaningful and rich with possibility than the blank page. Well, except maybe an empty wall.” She poured out two more pancakes to sizzling applause. “It’s bigger.”

The pancakes bubbled and Oscar started. The moon lay sizzling on the grill, and it was just as flat as he remembered it last night. His mom shuffled the spatula under one of the moons and flipped it over revealing its dark side. It was very smooth.

Flip sizzle. More applause.

Oscar was waking up. He wondered what Captain Crunch would taste like in the pancakes.

The moons on the grill showed their appreciation for Oscar’s mom’s Broadway interpretations of the old folk tunes.

“Hey Mom?”

“‘I can seen by your outfit that you are a cowboy…’” his mom sang.

Oscar sipped his grapefruit juice and considered a new purpose for his life: he was going to write the sentence that could be buried somewhere in a big, fat book full of smooth, white, whispering, infinitely dense nothing.

He ate four sides of the moon – all dark but rich with melted butter and sweet with real maple syrup – then retired to his room to contemplate his sentence.

oscar’s fourth chapter: night doesn’t mean dark.

When Oscar woke up and lifted the book off his face, it was very early in the deep damp morning and he was wide awake. The moon was full, heavy and he was nearing the reputed hormonal peak of his day. He had no memory of what the book was about, but he recalled with perfect clarity a sultrily ethereal gypsy fortune-teller claiming that his female side was nearly as well developed as his male side. As she read his Tarot cards, he sat on a wooden crate sucking on a ball of frozen orange sherbet packed into the hollowed out half of a blood orange and stared at her lips. That’s what he really remembered: her lips, and that they would make a wonderful sofa. His blood pulsed with warm, little sonic booms the more he relived the firm, fluidly muscular movement of her lips and the cool, tangy citrus of the sherbet on his lips and tongue. The little sonic booms in his inner ear got stronger the closer it got to four in the morning and the zenith of his male hormonal power.

Meanwhile, incidentally, but, coincidentally, dutifully, rhythmically, and after all, the moon was full and to Oscar it resembled a bowl with not much cereal and too much milk. He padded to the kitchen and got a box of Captain Crunch, walked outside and threw a couple of handfuls of cereal at the moon. He knew exactly what he was doing. He and his hormones were wide awake.

He went back to bed and tried to remember what he had been reading before falling asleep, the book settling again, softly, maternally, reassuringly on his face.

oscar’s third chapter: sweaty metaphoring.

Oscar remembered a woman he used to be involved with who had a large, dense pink azalea bush at the end of her driveway. There, mounted on a large white spring in the middle of the azalea, stood her mailbox, painted like a loaf of Wonder Bread. She collected brooms. Her house was very comfortable, but ultimately, Oscar determined, he did not want two mothers.

Oscar made some brooms for her. He was remembering some of the brooms he had made when his mother first popped the question about attraction and repulsion. Well, actually, he started out thinking about brooms, but that lead him to thoughts about personal symbols: his would be either a big beachball or a cloud. Then he thought about his mother’s symbol – what would it be? Solving this puzzle would keep him awake deep deep into the humid, cicada-ing night.

oscar’s second chapter: too much or too little?

“So, Oscar, what is it – that subtle quality – that separates attraction and repulsion?” Oscar’s mom queried.

She had told Oscar one day over vanilla ice cream and fresh, crispy okra that she would rather hear someone tell a story – any story – than eat, sleep or work. And, she reminded Oscar, she’d heard some whoppers. Oscar thought it would be interesting, since his mom sometimes sold real estate, if she would go into some of the empty houses on her listing and cover the walls with some of these stories. Oscar chomped on the strawberry seed still in his mouth.

“I thinks it’s a matter of saturation,” he said as they passed a huge bank of blooming, pink azaleas.

oscar’s first chapter: sunday.

Oscar drove his mother to church. It was a beautiful spring day, and Oscar chose not to tie his shoes. He chewed a strawberry seed that had been stuck in his teeth and thought about how if it really did rain for forty days and forty nights, it would have to rain really hard to cover everything on the earth, from the highest mountains to the grandest canyons, and Oscar didn’t think it could be done. The math just didn’t work, and he had seen hard rain but not hard enough, he thought, to flood the whole earth.

Oscar’s mother’s perfume was slightly citrusy and rosy and made him want to whack all the budding day lilies with a badminton racquet. He used to be able to send a bud a good thirty yards on a Sunday morning; waiting. They looked like his fluttering goldfish, but airborne. The crowd went wild til the screen door slammed, and his mom yelled something to someone inside about somebody calling on the phone, and then she started rooting around in her purse for the car keys. The jingling was tingling.

Oscar imagined that one day his mother never found the keys; she was forever shaking her purse; the keys just out of reach, and the anticipation of something happening – a big adventure – would keep Oscar on the brink of a big chill. And it was a chill that, once it happily shivered, was centered somewhere in his testicles.