by Greg Gerke
THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH SVEN
I want to tell you about the time I met my ice queen. We were high, high, high in the mountains. I yodeled from peak 824B and she responded with a mirror refracting sun from 977F. Right then I knew we had something special, something lasting that would bowl the whole world over in breadth, zest and divergence of wills. See she wanted the universe to end and I actually didn't. She thought the time was ripe and I insisted it might be better about one-hundred and forty years from now, seeing as us and any children we might have would be dead. Of course I'm not forgetting the grandchildren. As Father Wilhelm always used to say, someone has to take the fork in the ass.
So the third night together, as ma lady fell into a wearisome sleep I mounted her on my back and made way toward Sutter's Ridge and then into Beaver Springs. I did not stop but once to pizzle and check my pulse and as the light broke I knocked on Mum's door. Even before she opened it I heard her talking and with the splintery board pulled back she repeated, ‘There's something wrong with Sven.'
Sven would be the moth I had kept in a large, room-size jar for many years. In my younger days, when the little guy was just a larva I fed him leaves. Maybe it was captivity or the shock treatment my dead brother administered but his fetish for wool never subsided. As he grew bigger and bigger I threw five sweaters to him at a time. I find nothing extraordinary about a thousand-pound moth, hell Great-Grandpa weighed four times that and required the insertion of two extra hearts to keep ticking until he expired.
With the ice queen still lodged on my back and now in the throes of a dream terrible, I sped to Sven's room. He seemed kind of bloated and his wings were on the fritz.
‘I must to make oatmeal for your friend,' Mum said.
Not taking my eyes off Sven, I whispered, ‘She is a tad queer Mum, she doesn't eat oatmeal.'
‘Then avocado deluxe.'
‘Okay, okay,' I said, waving my hand, gathering myself to pray for the flight of Sven's soul to heaven.
The ice queen moaned and I ran my fingers through her bright red hair while focused on Sven. He opened his maw and I readied a pen to catch his last words. The old man stoically checked himself and softly sputtered, ‘Not worth it. Not worth a clothing factory in Malaysia.'
Mother crossed herself and ran to the porch to clang the village bell.
The ice queen woke and I pointed to Sven. ‘He's gone,' I was barely able to say. ‘He was one of the best. Kind but timorous. Amiable but tumorous.”
‘Was it Mr. Cancer?' the ice queen asked.
‘I'm afraid so darling. The distaff side is what did him in. All his mother's sisters went the same way. One by one he told me their troubled histories. I was so moved I gave him the shirt off my back.'
And so we went on. Mum returned to crocheting now that no one would salivate and sneer in derision. The ice queen stayed on. Come spring we planted a stand of Ponderosa Pines in front of the property. We talked of life and how it should be lived. Sven slowly disintegrated into ash but we kept his room his room. Besides at certain times of day we could use his glass jar as a mirror to shave or pretend the circus was in town. Sven would have wanted it that way.