I leave the bathroom door open and shave, shooting foam from a miniature red and white striped can of Barbasol, pulling a Costco razor cartridge across my face, going sideways to get the stubble from the pits in my chin. I look, I think, young for my age.
Every few strokes I look to the left, over the king bed in which I had a nightmare last night, over the glass table where I take my arsenal of vitamins and minerals and prescription drugs, out the square cabin window to where the sun is shining on the rolling waves.
I think of William Carlos Williams, his oval clean-shaven head as it appeared on the cover of one of his books of poems. He was from Paterson, New Jersey, close to where I grew up.
There was a bog I fell into trying to cross on a downed tree. I was with a few friends my own age, seven or so but, when I looked around for help, I found that they had abandoned me. Those were the kind of friends I had in New Jersey. I managed to extricate myself from the bog and, covered with mud, trudged home to where I knew that my mother would have a hysterical fit.
Those friends, much later, when we were adults, apologized for abandoning me. I could see that they still felt guilty but I absolved them, saying: We’re not responsible for anything we do before age 18. Even the law recognizes that. They were relieved.
I went back to thinking of William Carlos Williams and wracked my brain for a while, trying to remember why so much depends on a red wheelbarrow.
In our cabin, my wife ties me to a chair and makes me watch the same movie five times, about a man who takes credit for his wife’s artistic work but is eventually exposed and dies broken and bitter, never having produced a single painting. My wrists began to hurt from the rope.
What is my wife trying to tell me? Is she suggesting that she is the real creator of all my poems and stories? That can’t be. I’ve been a writer all my life, long before I met her, and work hard at my craft in the evenings after I’ve washed and dried the dishes and she’s in the den watching reruns of Law and Order and Criminal Minds. Perhaps she’s suggesting that my work lacks artistic merit. But what does she know?
The ship’s intercom crackles on. Stretcher Team, please proceed to deck five aft.
There’s a lot of very old people on this cruise. I hope no one’s vacation has been cut short by death. I feel the beginnings of acid reflux from eating all the rich food they serve in the dining room. I need to eat more yogurt.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over a thousand of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, The Best of the Net, and Queen’s Ferry Press’s Best Small Fictions for work published in 2011 through 2015. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.