Locus Focus

What did you do in the Service, I asked. I was the bugler for the division, he said. I never played the same afterwards. What made him put his body between a platoon of men, he said, and the guy they’d decided was guilty, he didn’t know. He just had to do it, and took the beating until, exhausted, the men went back to bed. His nose, he said, it didn’t used to look like this. I wanted more: how did it happen, what did it feel like, the questions rising in me like dinner gone bad, and it was none of my business. What could I do, he told me. They filled their pillowcases with boots; you know the kind: black, steel-toed. I didn’t know, but I could hear them thudding as they fell inside cloth, muffled, innocuous until swung, heavier than hands, he said. It was a story you want to hear and wish you hadn’t, and still you want more. I didn’t know what to say, but when I reached out and touched the scar he’d shown me, just out of the line of vision beneath the curve of jaw bone, I felt my own go a bit slack. Oddly, he didn’t move, just closed an eye, keeping the other cracked and staring as if at something just beyond us both, something outside our field of view. He turned away, finally, with a wave of his hand as if performing some magic for himself alone, but I’ve kept looking, though it eludes me, as if it were inside my blind spot, the center of everything I don’t understand and can’t pin down, a kind of legerdemain of the mind, a sin, a blown glass cracked and irreparable, a mystery cloaking a mystery, hocus pocus I can’t bring myself to disprove, but don’t want to own.

“Locus Pocus” has previously appeared in Conte

Laura McCullough | Mudlark No. 32
Contents | The Price of Light