Hotter Than July – Robert Libbey

The stock room guys at the Crazy Eddie’s store call Paz “the human calculator.”

“You should be in that book of records.” Paz shrugs it off; laughs good naturedly. At least they’ve stopped staring at his hands. He tries to imagine the entry, his name, his picture, but then he worries they’ll place him next to the Elephant Man or a bearded lady.

All Paz has to do is scan the shelves and the number rises in his mind: a perfect count of inventory. But he’s learned (the hard way) not to show off; to fly under the radar. When he got the perfect score that got him into the Bronx High School of Science the Daily News wanted to do a feature story: come out to the house; talk to his family; take pictures. It took a lot to get out of it. Now he’s super careful.

Luckily, most of the guys don’t like to hang out back cause it’s so stuffy—they’d rather cruise the aisles and harass the ladies. Paz contents himself to thinking about his brother, Ya, and smiles. Ya, too, has special powers.

Paz says, in his head, “I’m thinking up a number…” Ya blinks four times. Paz nods and raises all four fingers on his right hand, as if to say: Ya, you’re right!

Paz’ shift on Sunday ends at three, so he heads-up to the Paradise Theater on the Grand Concourse. The poster for Ordinary People’s not his taste, so he ambles over to Poe Park.

Even in the cold weather Paz likes to linger at Poe’s Cottage. The house juts out of the ground at an odd angle. He imagines Edgar Allen by candle light writing his stories about disembodied hearts still beating underneath floorboards and death-bed patients hypnotized to keep their brains alive after their bodies die.

A beer bottle shatters in the playground, snapping Paz out of his trance. Once the sun sets, the drug dealers move in: so, he foots it home; fast.

His mother’s chopping the makings of a salad. The cutting knife looks like a cleaver in her tiny hand. Without a word Paz rinses the greens in a colander.

His father had called her his little doll. She said his heart had failed.

A rap on the door is Dr. Bag, an Indian doctor who lives in the building. “How’s our little miracle?” he asks, meaning Ya.

“You’ve got to keep him warm,” the doc advises, his eyes unable to hide a hint of pity. The cheapskate landlord’s chintzy with the heat so it’s pointless. His mother’s eyes are vacant; she’s lost all steam.

Ya’s legs gave out this fall. Bed bound, he hasn’t walked since.

If we can make it to spring the warm weather might loosen his legs; maybe we can make another summer. Paz imagines crazy things: Ok like in the story, the movie where they shrink the guys to go in and fix the scientist’s brain. So, I’ll get some gadgets from work, use the lab at school…I’ll put Ya in my pocket, let him get fresh air, take him to the Paradise—I’ve already digested the stares—I don’t care…

It’s a race against the clock…

Ya smiles as Paz sits next to him on his bed. Twins, Ya can read Paz’ thoughts and Paz feels Ya.

Ya knows how to make Paz feel better. “Put the album on,” Ya says to Paz in his head. Their favorite, the new one, by Stevie Wonder.

“As If You Read My Mind” ends. Ya tells Paz: “Master Blaster (Jammin’)!”

Paz lines the tone arm to the cut and lets it drop.

From the speakers come the rhythm.

Barely bigger than a baby, Ya dances with his arms: rising into the vision.

Taken up into the music, Paz meets him in a place of warmth.

Robert Libbey lives in East Northport, NY. He has work upcoming, or recently in: Ligeia, Spelk, Hoot, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction + other places.

Cabinet Of Heed Contents Link 26

Image via Pixabay

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