From my place on the grainy preschool linoleum I spied Barry Johnson creeping over to Thomas. He carried a straw plugged at each end by his thumbs. The straw had a red line worming around the plastic where you put your mouth, like a thin tongue. He had ticks in the straw, having gathered them from the playground woodpile, I suppose. The straw fit nicely into Thomasís ear, he was sleeping, it was nap-time, teach was smoking, away. Barry blew into the straw, blew the lot of ticks into Thomasís brain. (Later they used a curiously large pair of tweezers, I wondered what they used them for besides ripping ticks from a childís skull, and still, hell, you yank a tick and the head stays in there, nasty things that they are, did they get them all?) Thomas awoke and swatted Barry, the straw fell from his ear with three ticks, like little drops of chocolate, onto the cold floor.
In a childrenís bug book I read that ticks infest man. At the time I didnít really know what infest meant, so I looked it up, but I was distracted by homologous; years later I was homologous with a woman who told me everything rested in detail, which I understand to be wrong now. Show me the detail of pain, loneliness, love.
On the veranda Thomas and I played dominoes until our ears rang with cicada-buzz, evening. Weíd line them up and down the stairs and zigzag across the lacquered wooden slats, Thomas so steady with his hands. I always insisted on tipping the whole affair, and they fell, like the balance of our youth, laboriously.
I turned adult. Infest means to be parasitic in or on. I am insured, I sleep with ear-plugs, I am terrified by raisins, I disappear when you arenít thinking about it. I go to McKinleyís Wharf when I have time, now. Iím there listening to vulgar boatmen, my head infested with opinion. The sky, sea, etc.; all blue. A pal of mine mentions that it is his ambition in life to die penniless in a desert. Heís been drinking, and I order him something sweet because that sounds all right. Sand and sun, empty sleeves, empty pockets; unflinching everything.
I recall a game of Red Rover. Everyone was there, Thomas and I held hands, I was on the end. So happens Barry Johnson was called out (he had an enormous head like a plum). He came at Thomas and me, meaning to break through our chain. Something moved between us, we werenít letting go, not like that. It mattered and it didnít because that son-of-a-bitch ran into me full-tilt and half the line toppled over onto the sun-blanched grass.