It was a Wednesday of all days. Smack dab in the middle. Everything was so sapphire. The sky. The sea. The ships orbiting the sea-foam spewing from Poseidon’s lips. Silver fish floppin like flapjacks on cream-colored sand, hives of jellyfish, flocks of feathers, buckets of crabs, blue and surf.
Then at noon o’clock, while I was building my third castle in the sand, there was a long green flash in the sky, then a pop and a boom chitty chang-chang with black smoke and everything. It was like one fat firecracker.
Next thing I knew everybody was running every which aways, all awkward like a baby giraffe looks when it’s trying to use its legs for the first time. When all the giraffes faded like a tan on the sun-blitzed horizon, I ran too. I ran with my heartbeat bu-bumping towards home, wet sand flying between my toes, sea oats and salt grass and seashells.
Took me twenty minutes to make it to the front porch with its yellow paint peeling. That’s when I saw mama and the Playboy. They were standin’ there with faces as white as the ghost of goblins and I was s-c-a-r-e-d. Scared straight down to the bitty bitty bones. More scared of them than all them other giraffes.
Mama’s dress was pulled all the way up to her ta-tas, disheveled, hair like an old birds’ nest, big black rock in her hands, dark purple bruise on her belly, the sweat, his palms, the space scattered grains.
“Mama, why does it look like an octopus has been suckin’ on your belly for seven years straight?” I asked with a head toss. They don’t call me Strawberry for nothin- I’m sweet and sour. Mamma started fanning herself with the cardboard of an empty frozen pizza box and she was shakin’ like a lizard does when it’s losin’ its tail. Then the tears came. Typical.
The Playboy was lookin at me and her like he was lookin’ at a puzzle that was missing a bunch of pieces. Also typical. Mama has a thing for weak men that look like Ken dolls. I asked mama once why she keeps the Playboy around and you know what mama said? Mama said, “’Cause he’s an attractive distraction – like any good TV show, Strawberry.” I told Mama that I think TV turns people into fat zombies and she’d be better off being with someone who felt more like a good book.
The Playboy was still starin’ at me like a dum-dum. Doesn’t he know that nothin’ ever changes if you stare at it?
I looked at Mama, “Did he do that to your belly?” All Mama could do was gulp air and moan and drip water out her eyes.
I looked at the Playboy, “Did you do that to my Mama. Were you tryin’ to put a baby inside her or somethin’?”
I don’t know exactly where babies come from, but I know they grow inside mama’s bellies and mama’s moan a lot when the baby is getting put in there and the whole things got nothin’ to do with a stork as all the giraffes would like me to believe. Babies don’t come from birds, birds come from birds and flowers come from birds. And you know what I thought about the other day? What if earth gets so hot that birds stop migrating? What would happen to all the flowers then? That makes me sad to think about.
Anyhow, The Playboy yelled back, “Strawberry this black rock flew through the roof, blazin’ like a fireball and hit your mama. It hit your mama! Outer space is fallin’ down.”
I opened the screen door and said to the Playboy, “Well if space is fallin, then I hope you get ripped towards the sun and melt like butter in a microwave,” then I let the door slam behind me because the Playboy hates it when I do that.
Inside there was a hole in the ceiling and I could see straight through to heaven. The house was a missity missity mess – dust and dishes, toys and trinkets, clothes and clouds, all broken. Snow was playing loud on radio. I turned the knob and found me some Johnny Cash, “I fly a starship across the universe divide.” I love Johnny and if I’m not bare-butted, then I’m in black underwear, just like Johnny.
I picked up the phone. I needed someone to save Mama. The only person I can think of to call was Sheriff Fishman, that’s who Mama calls for everything. One time there was a squirrel stuck on the ceiling fan and that’s who Mama called and you know what Sheriff Fishman did? He turned the fan on and that squirrel held on until it couldn’t, then it flew clear across the house and Mama chased it out with a broom.
Anywho, I get the 9 and a 1 dialed when the song ends and a woman on the radio starts blabbing about a media-orite landing near Cocoa Beech and she’s all hysterical. I dial the last 1 and it rings and rings and rings and then, “911, how can I help you today.”
It’s Ms. Tootsie Pop’s voice. Ms. Tootsie Pop is Mama’s best friend and I call her that ‘cause she always gives me candy and I like candy almost as much as I like Johnny. Ms. Tootsie Pop works for the sheriff, but Mama said she doesn’t need to work ‘cause her last husband was 50 years older and filthy rich and when he died he left her the golden keys to everything.
I said, “Ms. Tootsie Pop it’s Strawberry, tell Sheriff Fishman to get out here quick. Outer space is fallin’ like London Bridge is and either mama got pregnant from that media-orite they’re talkin’ about on the radio or from the Playboy. I can’t tell which, but she don’t want that baby ‘cause she’s cryin’ like a tea kettle and she’s got a big bruise on her belly and she doesn’t look like a songbird no more, she looks like a hot trash sinkhole.”
Then I hang up, without even waitin’ for Tootsie Pop to respond with her bajillion trillion questions. I hang up and twirl in circles until the big blue lights of Sheriff Fishman come to save my mama from that baby in her belly.