Of all things keeping me up at night, the broken clasp on my boy’s supper bucket is the worst

Joel James Davis

We held a mirror up to lived back in those days. We waited for my boy to be born.

I keep telling my boy he is too skinny, too skinny this boy of mine, Federico. Two skinny? You’re sure, Mama? I’m not three skinny or four skinny? he says with that pre-slaughtered-chicken cluck laugh of his, the one all the little girls love. These girls are shiny charms on a bracelet, are fudgesicle sticks with a little breath of chocolate still painted on, still clinging. My boy is a few vertical lines tethered to the floor of our yellow world, this place where we seem stuck between day & night, sun & moon, breakfast & supper, milk delivery & paper delivery.

My boy is the color of dried eggplant rinds & his smile is a white fence at the churchyard. & he has wedged a thin nail in the clasp of his supper bucket. It creaks when he opens it, creaks like the moon when it shifts in its chair around eleven in the evening. Federico walks to work each afternoon because, he says, I like the yellow world, Mama. His churchyard fence smiles & throws white on us like paint & he grips the supper bucket & heads toward the sun & the moon because they are in my boy’s charge. They are his responsibility. He keeps them happy, polishes them & makes them the correct size for the time of day & year. He eats well, my boy, but he’s too skinny here in our yellow world & he says Mama, I love you. You, Mama, are the real sun & real moon. This is what my boy says to me all the time before he walks toward the sky with that smile of his & a firm grip on his supper bucket with that thin nail holding together the clasp.

But life here in the yellow world is not like it used to be. Back then, back when I was my boy’s age, we held a mirror up to lived. He was a boy whose family dwelled on my road, down a ways near the blue world and the brown world & he spoke often of the red world. My family always has been here in the yellow world.

We held a mirror up to lived.

When my boy is in the sky I think of his broken clasp & the things about him I cannot tell him. Other mothers, back when they talked to me, instructed me to tell him, to tell my boy.

He comes home in the evening & tells me lived has been stopping by the sun & moon, wants my boy to give up his charge, is hurtful.

Hold a mirror up to lived, I could say.

I like the yellow world, he says & and I say to him, I say I know. & I fix the clasp. Because it is yours, I could say. Because the world is yours.

Joel James Davis graduated from Binghamton University and has work appearing or forthcoming in Blood Orange Review, Redivider, The Portland Review, Pindeldyboz online, Black Swan Review, Anemone Sidecar, Paterson Literary Review, and others. A reader for Harpur Palate and an editor with The Cartographer Electric!, he lives in upstate New York with his two teenage children.