he coulda slipped them into plastic sleeves.
there were only a few – don kessinger, ken harrelson, and i forget the others.
but he left them exposed instead like his sun burnt skin peeling that summer.
he refused to take a bath.
he was afraid he would disappear down the drain, but he was no hide away score keeper.
he could do a wheelie on his dirt bike.
His mom wasn’t catholic and didn’t have fat biceps,
but she had that smile, not the white teeth stewardess smile,
but that invisible smile.
She understood everything – from the ants we tried to trap in empty mayonnaise jars to those cops chasing us so many years later.
He needed those cards at his side like a cigarette to burn later in life, to keep him company so he kept them and his mom never seduced him one way or the other so those cards never went out with the trash, but they did bend from humidity and started to look like hammocks.
his dad showed up once in a while and offered plastic and plexiglass as gifts to stop the ugliness, but he refused the plastic and so the cards became a bit yellow. the corners rounded. we stuffed them in sock drawers, did magic tricks with them. they wrinkled. we sometimes added mustaches to faces or put other things in the background. On one card, he turned a batting cage into a spaceship. I think it was a Toby Harrah card. He made it look really good with that space ship like it was real, like there were extra terrestrials taking batting practice and Toby Harrah was next. He loved to draw things like that. He was pretty good at it too. Anyway, we kind of forgot about the cards or not really. we just stopped looking at them, but they were always with us.
He had his first surgery, broke up with his girlfriend. There were suicides too, but he kept those cards – don kessinger, ken harrelson, toby harrah, and i forget the others. The cards became like dried roses for him, to remember something. i was never sure what he was trying to remember, but he was always the wheelie master and after i learned about mummies and egypt, i trusted him, his mom and those baseball cards even more.
we drank a lot as we got older.
he would sometimes slam down a beer when it wasn’t empty.
beer suds would splash out of the can,
maybe like a fish jumping out of the milwaukee river.
apparently people catch muskies in there.
anyway, he often drifted off into memories that became stories, oral histories i guess.
he became like a needle stuck at the end of record,
refusing to call it a night.