Methods of Escape
By Lucas Church
Waiting for the doctors to tell you everything went fine with your father’s surgery, a woman your age says she’s got six months left. She’s in her hospital gown, clutching her IV in the waiting room of the urology center. She’s got red painted nails, chipped like yours. When you ask what she’s got, she says a rare kidney kind that chemo doesn’t work on. You look away, but, with her eyes stormy, you see she wants a cigarette, though you don’t know if she smokes. You want to give one to her, partly out of pity, partly to justify never having to think of her again.
Delve into a soft bed, empty bottle left on the bathroom counter. Leave your mind, the animals that demand to be fed, the dreams you always forget to write down. But the winds pick up, the telephone rings, and before you remember why you even did it, some beautiful young thing is pumping your stomach.
At work, your cubemate, as you spoon honey into your tea, regals you with the story of the mellified man. A volunteer, usually a tribal elder at the end of the comfort in his life, would eat only honey for months, until he was bursting, until he bled, pissed, and shat honey. Once dead, encased in a honey-filled coffin, the elder's borders became permeable, until he and it were one, the prized liquid then doled out as medicine to the sick.
There is a memory, so offhand you aren’t sure if it holds meaning, but: After returning from a neighbor’s funeral you did not attend, your father, taking off his coat, said he still had to go to the burial. Confused, you asked why they hadn’t buried the neighbor then and there. He loved the water, your father said of the neighbor, and he’s going to be buried at sea. They put your ashes on a little boat, he continued, opening his Glenlivet too early in the day, and the little boat is fashioned with a bomb that explodes when it’s far enough from shore. That’s how they bury you at sea.
A little gunpowder, a little boat, and boom.
Your mother calls. You talk while walking, pretending she’s talking to a stranger. She says the doctors were wrong, your father's cancer is back and is aggressive. Like in the movie when Cujo terrorizes that kid from Who's the Boss, you say, and there is silence on the other end of the line.
Rattle off clichés until they fall apart, make no sense, and function as erosion does to stone: The call is coming from inside the house; it’s always the last one you suspect; do not pass Go, do not collect $200; blink and your whole life is gone; really makes you think, doesn’t it?
In the doctor's office you play a board game with a boy whose mother has non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The board is linear, the paths easily plotted. The boy says he doesn't think his mother will make it to Christmas. It’s two days until Thanksgiving. In your life, outside of Candyland, paths flank you, up and under. There are no cards, no dice, no paper. Ages up and up. Who decides that age, how old is old enough to lose?
Your father pisses in a bag now, only wears a robe unless he has to go out of the house to a doctor's appointment. The prodigal daughter, you get back home and all the food has turned. Go back four spaces.
You max out your credit cards at HoneyDirect.com, Honey2UrHive.net, Honey4Money.tv, and delivery men begin to stream to your front door. The jarred honey lines the walls, up to the ceiling; the light from the windows turns a rich and gauzy amber, casting everything in a thick gold.
Because nobody is going to ask if your five-year plan worked out.
Everyone lives in the same beige apartments; every boy with a beard and fancy glasses. The dark settles over you, a definable path, a comfort in a sea of broken glass. Your mother calls again about Dad. It's like everything, a matter of time.
You've eaten only honey for five days and fainted once in the elevator. A nice neighbor, the girl with the faux fur and voice like your aunt Cathy, makes sure you get to your front door. You say you're fine, don't invite her in, because the explanation of all the honey, what would come of it?
An old waterbed procured from Craigslist; a few books checked out from the library. Hours and hours of pouring and you think this just might work. The spices, through research, were possibly anise, cardamom, maybe some powdered human skull. You have these in your pantry. Except the skull.
Your division manager wakes you from a recurring daydream in which you bravely teach life lessons to blind children from a wheelchair. Oh god, he screams. Why are you sitting there? Why are we all just sitting here?
You concoct a zipper you can seal from the inside but can’t reopen. Half in the mattress, honey up to your belly button, your mother calls again and again. You surrender.
Another daydream: A big rock you’re barely strong enough to lift, its surface smooth from a million years of history, and you slip it and its nearby sisters into your pockets and, when the water eases past your ankles, you give a shaky prayer to whatever god you think of first.
The funeral was scheduled for this afternoon, but you begged her to put it off one more day. Your phone never stops buzzing with condolences. You want to cry from the thought of your friends crying for you. As you get comfortable, letting the honey edge past your ankles, knees, stomach, a slow moving ocean resting just underneath your chin, you marvel that, just if the timing had been right, you could have become the salve for wounds you surely must have caused.
Lucas Church’s work has appeared in numerous journals, including West Branch, Booth, and the Nashville Review. He holds an MFA from North Carolina State University and is the editor of PINBALL, an online literature and comics magazine. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his wife and daughter, and you can reach him at lucaschurch.com.