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Diary of Tadpole the Dirtbag
Rob Cook

LETTER TO MYSELF AT TWENTY-ONE, 1990

Dear Tadpole,

Today you will ride to Promised Land State Park with Ed Glory. A Monday when no one else exists away from their coffin-desks. Both of you unemployed, turned down by Manpower because they didn’t like your typing and couldn’t decide which of you was more afraid. Turning the key in your station wagon, the engine will cough and make the sound of horses and then die. This is the only way to get Ed to drive. He will give his Oldsmobile a bath before leaving, the car strong from him calling it his brother, the maroon Oldsmobile he raised from the time it was an egg that he carried in his pocket. This afternoon the sky will be blue as the best day of your life, clouds drifting in tribes that you and Ed will follow into Pennsylvania, moving past the September moodiness of Stroudsburg and Tobyhanna, Mount Pocono and Canadensis. Driving on a road of loose gravel, Ed will feel the pain of the tiny stones licking the paint off his car, and he will curse you for this, and pull over and make you look at the damage he’s suffered, though not one spot of color is missing.

When you arrive at the park, you will be the only ones there but Ed will lock the car anyway. You never know with all the deer in these parts, he’ll say, putting the keys in his jacket and then shutting it in the trunk. You won’t know this for hours yet, after the two of you feel good about yourselves because you’ve been hitting and catching a baseball. If another person were there to watch, you’d forget how to use your hands and your eyes, the sky dark, vanishing behind a hawk or the brief aftermath of an airplane. Ed will drop your fifty-dollar glove in the grass on his way to the restroom and forget where he left it. Searching, you will find only crickets growing out of patches where the ground’s been torn. Ed will decide, after ten minutes, that it’s time to go home. And then he will remember where he put his keys and curse you again, pointing at the locked trunk.

He will refuse to call the police or a locksmith. My Oldsmobile does not need to be hurt any further, once they cut open the lock I’ll never be able to drive again. And he will believe this because he doesn’t have a mother or father who will go searching through Pennsylvania for their son. His mother, who doesn’t set a place for him at the table, who lurks outside his bedroom muttering loser, worthless, and calls the police about the wrinkles in her neighbor’s drapes, this mother who makes Ed afraid to turn off his television and listen to what she’s left for him in the walls, she loves her Lincoln Towncar more than any of her children and will not risk its life by driving out of New Jersey. Ed will make a fist and force you to call your father who will come out to save you from the deer starting to gather, the animals lured by the holes in Ed’s voice, the two of you standing there helpless with a baseball bat, Flight of the Griffin dying on the boom box, Ed hiding behind his glasses whispering Don’t worry, I’ll protect you, I’ll protect you. Ten years from now, waiting for your generation to happen again because you couldn’t find it the first time, this is what will show up in your mailbox, something you wrote the morning Ed agreed to drive, when you were already missing, when you were already a permanent part of that day, and that day only.

 
 
 
 

 

 
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