- Shining City
In the front yard, Cole, small for his age, tried to run past his friend Cuss who, since the day he was born, had a big, square-shaped head with a body barely large enough to match. Cuss slammed his shoulders into Cole's chest, lifted him, and forced him hard to the grass. Cole fell back, absorbing both the ground beneath him and Cuss's solid weight on top. He could hear his own breath shoot out of him on impact and felt his bones burn. But he stood as quickly as he fell. He got up and waited for Cuss to get in his way. Today, they played like little boys. Cole tried to run past Cuss and to the fence time and again.
"Bet you can't stop me," Cole taunted.
Eight years from now, he would cut Cuss with a broken bottle when Cuss touched him too many times. He would leave his friend lying on the cement.
"Told you so," Cole shouted, sprinting past Cuss to the fence. Cuss shook his head, spat at the ground.
Behind them, Cole's father drove up in a car no one from their neighborhood had ever seen. It looked as long as two cars with curves at all its edges. The color was nearly pure black, catching the sun and spreading it out like oil. There was a moonroof on top and brand-new tires with sparkling spokes. Cole's father pressed against the car horn and held one mammoth hand out a tinted window, waving. Cole wanted to have his father's hands, even then. The hugeness of the things. The blackness. Inch-thick veins pressed under the skin like tunnels, ropes wedged with mud.
He ran up to his father but stopped a few feet away from the car. There was dirt on Cole's knees and hands, too much of it to come too close. His father looked at him and smiled in a way that changed his face. "Feel like a ride?" he asked.
Cuss came up behind Cole. He crept from one foot to the next like he was half-scared. Cole thought, some time ago at first, that his friend always moved like someone half as big. Cuss stared at the tires and all around the car, goggle-eyed.
"Later, Cuss," Cole said. He had the voice of an eight-year-old but a tone that made him sound like a chief dismissing some apprentice. Cuss didn't say a thing.
"Later, man," Cole said again.
Cuss looked up. "This your daddy's car?" His eyes opened wide. "What it look like?" Cole answered and took one step closer to his father. Cuss paused before turning away and heading down the street.
Cole's father looked up at the house and then back to the front yard, his face hardening. "Come on, son," he said after a beat with a voice that always boomed. Cole ran to the passenger side and pulled the door with both hands. He brushed himself off before getting in.
Inside, the car seemed as gigantic as it had from the street. Cole's father wore a suit and tie neatly. This was the first time Cole had seen him in two days, though they still shared the house where evidence of his father's existence dwindled each day. When Cole asked his mother the night before why his father had not come home, she had said, Your daddy chauffeuring, as if it were a simple fact to which she was not entitled an opinion. Cole imagined then his father disappearing, an invisible man that walked the world and revealed himself only in clouds of dust. Now, his father wore a suit Cole had never seen before. When Cole sat down, his feet didn't touch the floor. Through the moonroof, the sun set slowly, stepping across the sky.
"Where we going?" he asked. His father's face relaxed again. He looked over to Cole, winked, and faced the road. [End Page 157]
Beyond tinted windows the neighborhood looked muddy and muted. Cole saw a group of boys, bigger than...