by Rick Claypool
Bert broke his tooth on a noodle. He was eating instant ramen when it happened. He spit in the kitchen sink and blood and little tooth bits came out. He put an ice cube in his mouth and curled up on the couch and put a bag of frozen corn on his face and passed out watching cartoons.
Rose found him like that. She poked his face with the remote control. She replaced the frozen corn with frozen peas and stuffed a wad of paper napkins in his mouth to stop the bleeding.
Weeks later, Bert was putting on his work shirt when his right arm broke off.
He’d thought the shirt had felt too tight and he yanked it hard over his head, and then snap. The arm twitched on the floor, then stopped moving. It looked like something for sale in a Halloween store. There was blood but not as much blood as you would think.
Rose put the arm in a cooler with some cold pop cans and drove Bert to the hospital. In the waiting room she helped him hold a magazine. They read it together, drinking pop.
The doctor failed to save the arm. In the recovery room, she told Bert and Rose the diagnosis. “Root vegetable,” the doctor said. “Maybe yam. Maybe potato. Too early to tell.”
For almost a year before losing his arm, Bert sold lotto tickets and cigarettes behind the counter at a gas station. After losing the arm he didn’t show up at work for weeks.
The day before he was supposed to start work again, a truck hit Bert.
He lost both legs and the other arm. There wasn’t any blood at all. His wounds were starchy and white. He swelled up and the swelling never went away.
Rose provided water and soil for Bert. Some mornings she trimmed the roots that sprouted from his eyes.
There’s this other guy Ned who was Rose’s manager at the grocery store.
Ned was secretly in love with Rose. She knew. He wasn’t weird or creepy about it, so she didn’t mind.
One night Rose met Ned at a bar. They drank beer and complained about working at the grocery store.
Ned invited Rose to come with him to the beach for a few days. He was leaving the next day.
Rose told Ned she needed help digging a hole.
Rose and Ned left the bar and dug a person-sized hole in the courtyard of the apartment complex where Rose and Bert lived.
In the morning, Ned and Rose drove to the beach. They arrived in the afternoon.
They sat under oversized umbrellas and played in the sand. They walked barefoot in the hot sand, then cooled their feet in the ocean.
In the evening, they decided to stay forever.
They found jobs selling brightly colored frozen treats out of wheeled carts they pushed along the boardwalk.
After one bright long day in the sun, Ned’s face was scorched.
That night it was pink like a flower. The next day, it was red like raw beef. After a week, it was purple.
Rose took Ned to the hospital.
In the hospital waiting room, Ned’s face sloughed off. The surface underneath was smooth and purple.
The doctor examined Ned. “Eggplant,” he said.
Bert meanwhile had reached a little green sprout up and out of the soil in the apartment complex courtyard.
The sun was shining on that hot summer day and he could feel it.
BIO: Rick Claypool is a writer and digital rabble rouser living in
Pittsburgh. He has a super hero / dystopian novel in the works. For more
about Rick, follow @weirdstrug and visit www.rickclaypool.org.