BOMBlog’s Word Choice features original works of poetry, fiction, and art. This edition of Word Choice, selected by Peter Moysaenko, features a collaboration between author J. Robert Lennon and artist Lou Beach.
He came to our town around April, I guess. I was ten. Nobody knew who he was—he was just some guy who appeared one day, juggling in the park in his tuxedo. I don’t think anybody in our town even owned a tuxedo. I mean, you could rent one in Litchburg, but that was ten miles away.
Anyway, he cut quite a profile, I must say. The adults all hated him immediately. They thought he was some kind of agitator. But the kids adored him. He told them to call him “The Great Zombini,” but pretty soon that got shortened to Zom. He didn’t mind. You called him Zom, he kind of smiled this small, tight smile, and kind of took a little bow. We loved it! Nobody bowed to a child, in those days. Or now, either, come to think of it.
It was birthday season, starting in May. All of us had birthdays in May, June, July, at least everyone I knew. So we all asked for Zom to perform at our parties. And since we were all friends, you know, all of us went to every party. So we got to see him perform over and over. The parents, well, they just stood in the back of the room with their arms folded over their chests. You know. Disapproving. But even a few of them had to admit, afterward, that he was pretty good.
He did the usual stuff, you know. Doves turning into smoke, card tricks, rabbits out of hats, what have you. It wasn’t that he was original. He just had that special something. You know, the patter. The way he moved. He was a funny looking fellow—his face was strange, like an inverted triangle, he had a sharp chin and dark eyes and thick pomaded hair that looked like a toupee. Maybe it was a toupee. Anyhow, he was so smooth, it looked effortless, it was mesmerizing. He created this trust. That’s the only way I can explain what happened later. Or how it was allowed to keep happening.
Word Choice features original works of fiction and poetry. Read “Window,” a short story by J. Robert Lennon, selected by Fiction Editor Rosie Parker.
After the absent father, after the diabetic mother with her motorized chair and velvet Chivas Regal bag of weed, after the high school boyfriend with the knife collection, after the drunk driving without a license, after the best friend’s suicide, after the only remaining friend’s betrayal, after the dropping out, after the flight to the city, after the failed attempt at prostitution, after the vagrancy and solicitation charges, the commuted sentence, the halfway house, the social worker, the job-skills exam, the placement, the train to the suburbs, the motel maid job; after the Craigslist ad, after the meeting in the public library reading room, and then the strange friendship, the speech, the plan, the sourcing of materials, the setting of the date, the preparation of the spaces, the scheduling, the promise, she calls him at the agreed-upon time and he answers with the words “I am very proud of you now, Juliet, very proud.”
“I don’t know.”
“You called. You called when you said you’d call, that’s something to be proud of. Do you have everything ready? Are you ready?”
“No. Yes. I mean, it’s all here. I’m scared.”
“There’s nothing to be frightened of.”
“There’s nothing to be frightened of. Everything that has come before, that was frightening. Not this.”