duct duct duct DUCTS.ORG Issue 12 | Winter 2003 the webzine of personal stories   duct
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Following My Shadows and Menopause

Richie Smith

Following My Shadows         

  I followed him by bike.
          I followed him because I was sure that he was my second grade teacher even though I knew it was impossible.
          I followed him because I wanted to relive the year I learned to write in script, starred in my first school play, and learned to wear a catcher's mask.
          I followed the man because he was my orthodontist and he reminded me of wiry beams, of rubber bands and enameled tattoos, nocturnal cervical torture devices, caked with pizza and bite plates fermenting with chocolate chip batter.
          I followed him because he was my barber pounding his weapon on a leather strap, lathering my earlobes with heated menthol, towel snapping, basting the faces of overgrown grey haired men, introducing me to the bazaar world of serpentine baldness and misplaced hair parts, twisted in Picasso-like side weaves, mutton chopped, wind blown coiffures portrayed on decades old and unbleached advertisements, hair swept across the floor like in concentration camps.
           I followed him because he was my baby sitter. The one with the glass eye, who helped me peel off Colorforms. He told me the story of a boy trapped in a well, tickled me with yellowing fingernails that smelled like sardines and finally said goodnight. Then he snuck in my room an hour later and slapped my bare ass hard over his lap, the punishment, he said for being awake after the theme song to Petticoat Junction.
           I followed him because he was my gym teacher and encouraged the others to slam a rubbery red ball into my delicate face or dared me to bloody my eczematous palms from chin-ups, or encouraged me to run another frigid loop until I coughed a tickled wheeze.
           I followed him because he was the surgeon who removed my mother's breast and left his signature underneath her padded brassiere then waited patiently for her annual return until she was gone and I was alone.



16 steps
bring me closer
to the daughter I never had
in the empty womb
rocking from the lax
cords my wife calls
of freedom


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