The ‘v’ was bleeding. Almost into a “y” before it dried. That’s what I’d say, if you asked me. But why should I tell you? Tell you about the dark red letters painted on the side of the white truck: Sam Sheep’s East Side Movers. Under my breath I practiced my s’s: “Tham Theepths Eathed Thid Moverth ssh th ss.” Funny, the things you remember. I remember my seven-year old body wanting to bounce. Sometimes it did, but mostly I kept it in. Start agains. That’s what me and Butch called our moving days. The scent of opened paint cans, the shafts of uncurtained window light, the steps of something better walking in and out of egg-shell white, empty, unsorted rooms. Only thing was, Butch was saying start agains different. It wasn’t just in his voice; it was in his whole body. A turn to cold. A mean cold that would slip in from under a trapdoor.
On moving day the van appeared from out of nowhere. Its motor rumbled, ready and eager to get a move on – a beast on a leash. Me and Butch sat in the square open mouth at the back, thrown in with the luggage and the boxes. Told to stay put. Butch climbed a small crag among the cardboard’s mountainous range.
“All our worldly possessions right here under my ass!” he shouted as he lifted his body up with his arms and dropped down hard on the precarious edge. I sat on a brown vinyl suitcase below him. He bit his nails and spit white semi-circles down at me.
“Stop it or I’m gonna tell on you!” I whined, waving my arms trying to deflect bits of nail.
“Ha! Who ya gonna tell?”
I didn’t turn to look at him. He just thumped his feet hard on the boxes and sang songs I didn’t know.
Butch leaned back heavy on our laundry basket stuffed with winter coats, almost toppling it. I remember my army green snow pants and a pair of red mittens fall from above and land near my feet. I looked up ready to say something but he was busy reaching his hands into the basket. They emerged with a set of bongos he stole from the grade 9 music room. “Fuckin’ A,” I heard him whisper.”Fookin’ A.” I looked away to watch the outside. A marmalade cat tucked herself into the shade beneath a parked car. The only other traffic on the curbless, sun-filled street was some hanging laundry from the low rise balconies catching an occasional breeze, and the cicadas’ singing, piercing through the summer heat. Then from inside our darkened cavern ever so lightly with his fingertips (oh, so lightly), I heard Butch tap out a rhythm. Skin on skin. Tilting my head up, I watched him from below. The smooth wood of the instrument was clamped tight between his legs. His long thin back curved over the double-hided spheres. His head poised to one side, his thirsty ear listening. As if he was looking for something far away. A darkness was lifting. I liked his face this way. Like the moon. One side always dark. Butch liked the moon. At night we’d walk around the empty streets with nowhere to go and look up at the moon. It was like a compass thrown into the dark ocean of sky. Like a spell, he’d rhyme off the moon’s seas: Mare Frigoris, Mare Imbrium, Mare Cognitum, Mare Crisium …
But they’re not really seas.
Oceanus Procellarum …
Usually he stood in its eclipse, but just then, the shadow turned away, briefly. He was a waxing gibbous. Luminous. A warm light.
“You two bandits okay in there?” From outside the truck came a raspy voice like a chase through loose grey gravel. Thick with debris. Followed by a long cough.
A man, telephone-pole tall, clad in faded blue coveralls, edged around from the side of the truck. Pant legs too short. Sam was written on his shirt pocket all fancy in dark blue. His eyes were set in a squint from sun and smoke. A tuque sat atop his head. A dollop of black wool. In the corner of his mouth a cigarette burned. Long ash doomed. He leaned his hands against the rim of the truck as if holding the sides open with all his might.
“Hey, is your name really Sam?” Butch asked with a wide smile, heels thumping the boxes.
The Moving Man looked steady – not moving. For a minute I thought he was going to reach in and throw Butch out and onto the road. Instead, in a single fluid motion, his cigarette ferried from one corner of his mouth to the other. The ash broke. The Moving Man adjusted his cap. “Just helpin’ out my brother.”
Butch shot back in disbelief, ‘Ha! You mean your brother makes you wear his suit? The thumping stopped. The two stared at each other.
“That’ll be enough outta you little man,” he said pointing, adjusting his cap “Just yous keep ‘er down in there.” A smile appeared across the Moving Man’s lips like a strange wave frequency. He flicked his smoke to the ground. Orange sparks.
The panel door scraped downward. Rattling chains to pitch black. The beast revved. A low rumble vibrated our bodies. The truck lurched forward and we both reached out into the darkness. In moving black, Butch drummed while I kept my unseeing eyes wide-open trying to sing along to songs I didn’t know.