Featured Story for the week of 08/13/2014

Bigfoot

by Gary Moshimer

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” I said this to Sean, my beautiful ten-year-old with the unstoppable brain tumor. He laughed and punched my arm. This tumor, for some reason, made him constantly happy. He brought whoopee cushions to chemo. Everyone loved him, said he was so brave, that he’d win the fight, but he laughed and said they were full of shit. He had two weeks. He was half blind. He giggled and held his head, which he felt was cracking like an egg. “Something will come out,” he said. “A small Bigfoot. Put him in the snow, watch him grow, hahaha!” My wife, who divorced me, didn’t like him so happy; she wanted him to take death seriously.

He wants no MAKE-A-WISH. He just wants to go to the cabin with me in the woods in the snow and cold. The cabin was what I got in the divorce. He just wants to have the fire going so we can roast hot dogs and beans in the can, marshmallows and coffee. Stay up all night. Listen to howl of the wind, sizzle of snow on the windows; and of course for the sounds of the creatures that bump the walls, sniff at the cracks, claw and moan and cry to get in. Foremost of these being Bigfoot. We’ve seen him three times at the cabin. We told no one. For some reason (now we know) we had kept him secret. The first time was in daylight, in summer. His Hugeness was just sitting on a branch of a pine, looking in the window. When we finally went out, he was gone. Then one fall he was out chopping our wood for us, mighty blows that scattered the wood like a break of pool balls. He ran from us, loping in a guilty way like in those old videos. In spring he was on the porch, holding a briefcase and wearing a nice suit that could only have come from the Big-and-Tall shop. He had something to sell us, but lost his nerve and breathed loudly in a scary way, and then took off. Sean knew this would be it; that the last meeting would be the greatest, and it was all he wanted in this or any world.

“It’s going to snow!” Anne said.

“It’s always going to snow,” I said. “Just give me two days with my boy.”

+

The road to the cabin was not cleared, but the old GMC handled it. The truck was dented, so running into trees was something I tried to do. How we laughed. We should have done more of this. Why do we wait until the chances are almost gone? Sean drove for the first time and injured many saplings and rocks. He broke a headlight, the funniest thing ever. There were Bigfoot tracks going up to the porch, and to every window. We were scared and excited. We brought our stuff in and locked the door. “They’re not aggressive,” said Sean. “They have delicate senses, more attuned to our feelings.”

I threw a blanket around Sean and started working on the fire. He coughed and held his head. Any other kid would cry with the pain, but he was doomed to laugh.

Thankfully I got the fire going. Sean sat on the rug in front of it. I unpacked our hot dogs and beans, marshmallows; our water and coffee. Sean loved the antique percolator and the powdered creamer. “There’s a face in the fire,” he said. “I think it’s him. I think he’s god and that’s why he’s always been here. He always knew what would happen. Dad, that time in the suit, maybe he wanted to sell me life insurance.” He cracked up.

My phone buzzed. It was Anne. “We just got here,” I said, annoyed.

“Don says it’s going to snow a lot.”

Don was her new husband, a virtual repository of all knowledge and weather. She liked Don because he was my opposite, fact versus fantasy. He told Sean about numbers; I told him about aliens and closet creatures.

“Tell Don we’ll be fine. We’ll get back okay.”

“Don’t forget the seizure medicine!”

I turned my phone off. I sat behind Sean and watched the flames. The orange flickers did look like our Bigfoot’s orange hair when it stood straight up, in its more wild moments before the comb. And make no mistake — there was a comb. He sometimes parted his hair, or fur, in the middle. Sometimes bangs over the deep dark eyes. Those eyes were coals in the fireplace, ringed with tongues of fire like the sun. But they were friendly eyes.

We roasted our hot dogs on sticks, and beans in the can. Anne would have a fit. Germs! But it was too late. We took everything off the walls — the photos of all of us together here, over the years; and my creature drawings and Sean’s creature drawings; and Anne’s needlepoint of chipmunks and flowers. These walls were plaster, and it was time to throw melted marshmallows! It started as fun, catapulting them with spoons, but it soon turned to serious anger, using our fingers so they would burn, throwing with all our might, as if pitching to bean the creator. Anne would be proud. We were out of breath and out of marshmallows, kneeling, Sean holding his head. I knew he wanted to cry, but couldn’t. When we caught our breath we looked at our mess and laughed like hell.

+

He rested on the bed while I wiped down the walls. It grew dark but we used only the gas lamps. I turned on the porch light and saw it was snowing, blowing harder against the window. This storm would be huge.

I gave him some coffee so he could stay up. We had some drawing to do. I got the box of markers and started with my special creatures. When he was younger I drew a different creature every day on his lunch bag: aliens with many eyes and arms, smiling cats with wheels or wings and windows where you could see the passengers inside. He kept all these bags in his room. Someday I’ll make a huge collage on the side of some skyscraper. I thought of that as I drew an alien that was a tall building, and also a ship, with many windows that looked like eyes, and elevators going with tiny round aliens, and ramps coming out where the little round aliens are rolling in and out, grabbing human specimens.

Sean laughed and drew his specialty — giant snakes with wheels and human heads. The forked tongues shot out, snagging the jets that came to bomb them.

We were resting, sitting on the floor drinking coffee, when we saw the shadow outside. “He’s here,” Sean said. “He’s got to come in this time.”

Then four loud knocks on the door. We looked at each other. There was nothing to fear.

I opened the door. Driving snow hit my face. A mass of snow entered the room, ducking to get in the door. I saw only the dark eyes. “By the fire,” I said, pointing. He stood in front of the fireplace and the snow melted. He was polite — he didn’t stomp. He put a big black toe in the growing puddle. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. I saw he was wearing khaki pants and a belt, but that was it. I wondered where he’d gotten them. Swiped from a campsite?

His head touched the ceiling. Sean was standing on the bed saying, “Holy shit!” The Bigfoot smiled a little. His teeth were large and yellow like a horse’s; he was no carnivore. He looked at the walls and nodded approval. He sipped strong coffee I’d poured. He pulled the frozen mattes on his fur. “There’s a shower in there,” I said. “You can warm up.”

He didn’t talk. He nodded and ducked into the bathroom. The shower ran unevenly.

Sean jumped on the bed, getting way out of breath and then dizzy. He fell over and I told him to be still for a while. I lay next to him and thought, God, why couldn’t it be me?

Then we heard the hair dryer going; Anne must have left one here. That was something to laugh about. Another thing was that he came out all puffy. His fur, or hair, looked blonde, electrified. The skin of his face was dark, his nostrils large. He had a bit of a jutting brow. His hands were a foot long.

He took a marker and drew a forest scene, with deer and rabbits looking at him, as if for guidance, and himself sitting on a log with his face in his hands, like he had no answers. He was a great artist; he colored and shaded with subtleties of light and shadow, making it look so real. The sky opened and a tunnel descended to the earth. He looked at Sean, who said he understood. Then he opened the door and took a handful of snow, stuck bits on the ceiling, where the crystals glowed like stars. “Cool,” said Sean.

We lay back and stared. Bigfoot climbed in between us, and the king-sized four-poster bed crashed to the floor. He slid an arm around each of us. There was no animal smell about him, just Pert Plus shampoo and Old Spice soap-on-a-rope. In his arms we were at peace, listening to the crackling fire and howling wind. Cold was blowing through the walls, but we were warm. And the snow on the ceiling did not melt, just kept twinkling.

+

The two of them were sleeping, but I was feeling guilty. I turned my phone on. Sixteen missed calls from Anne, and two from Don. Fucking Don! I called Anne. It was one a.m.

“What are you doing?” she screamed.

“Sleeping with Bigfoot.”

“That’s not funny.”

“Oh, yeah it is.”

“Why do you do this?”

“It’s what Sean wants, remember?”

“The roads are impassable.”

“We’ll get home tomorrow. Or the next day. No problem.”

I heard Don muttering in the background.

“Tell Donnie that Bigfoot says hi,” I said, and clicked off. “And wants to eat him.”

I couldn’t sleep, so I sat up studying Bigfoot’s amazing drawing; in the flickering light it looked alive. The leaves on the trees changed color, and then fell. The animals ran off. The bare trees darkened and the sky turned dark gray and the snow began, eventually covering the Bigfoot on the log, all but a tuft of his hair which stuck through the snow like old grass. Just then the Bigfoot in bed sat up with a gasp. He clutched his head. “It’s just a dream,” I told him. And as we watched his drawing, the tunnel from the sky sucked everything up and made it spring again. “See?”

We paced and watched Sean breathe. We had some wine I found in the cupboard, but it made us sad and we cried. We sat on the bed and watched over him until daylight, when he started to twitch awake. He tried holding his head but his thin arms wind-milled, as if fighting an attack of bees, and the twitching became disorganized, reminding me of what I’d forgotten — the seizure medicine. I’d betrayed his trust and that of his mother. There was nothing to do now but keep him on the soft mattress and wait for it to be over. Bigfoot held one big hand over him, trying to heal him, and the look in his eyes told the story: he wished, but he could not heal, could make no real difference; he was alone as on the log, could only escort to the other side, could not make changes. I felt sorry for him.

After the seizure stopped, Sean was frightened of us; he did not know who we were, which was normal, but disconcerting. He stood and screamed with no voice, a nightmare voice. “I have to get him home,” I said, and Bigfoot seemed to understand. He opened the door; the snow was drifted to the roof. Bigfoot scooped quickly through the snow with those scooper claws of his, making a path where we could walk upright. It seemed impossible for the snow to be this deep. It made me tired, thinking about it, and Sean feel at my feet. Bigfoot scooped us into his arms and carried us for a while, then scooped, then carried. I was in some kind of dream state. I could feel his heartbeat, slow and heavy.

Finally there was light; the road appeared, and Anne’s house across from us. Bigfoot patted our faces and sent us wobbling to her door. We smiled when her panicked face appeared. “My god! How did you get here?”

“Bigfoot dug through the snow, Mom, and carried us.”

She hugged him, but I could see her right hand tense, and I knew she wanted to slap him, because he was laughing. A woman like that, I thought. I knew that soon she’d have him tucked into his bed. She’d have him dying with dignity. I leaned down and kissed his cheek. “See you soon, chief.”

I walked out, into the mouth of the tunnel. It grew dark but I was not afraid. I could still smell the Old Spice, and I smiled. I knew that when I emerged it would be a new season, a whole new life with my son.

+++

Gary Moshimer has stories in Pank, Frigg, Smokelong Quarterly, Word Riot, and many other places.