Back then, Frank Machetti made up his own alphabet with strange shaped letters, ancient ones that people understood. He strapped a frying pan, spatula, onion, harmonica, and rabbit trap on his back and rode a bike 17 miles per hour to where love couples waited for him to catch and cook a rabbit over a three log fire and play the seductive sound of a harmonica, blowing breezes into the endless starry night…….
But those days passed and he became like a mining town that ran out of precious minerals. His doors shut to the universe. He took fewer risks. He became a mummy, a ghost in his own life.
Frank Machetti took a job at a local print shop, a tad above minimum wage, enough to pay for a room at the local boarding house, 300 bucks a month. He tried walking to work a different way, but there was too much of the same. He was no longer sensitive to the miracle of trees.
Frank saw a butterfly get electrocuted by a bug zapper and that’s when he reached the end of all reason. How could a fluttering innocent beautiful butterfly get ruined, dead, and done! He air boxed, kicked, and then wandered, to the junkyard and sat in the front of a bulldozer.
He dreamed of being someone else, someone with the name Slip Mc-Fight-Again.
Frank imagined that this Slim Mc-Fight-Again fished on the Black Hawk River, casting a line from the Causeway Bridge and that sometimes he’d wander lower, under the bridge where water ran over rocks….a gurgle sound. That’s where he would meet Zeta Williams….amazing he would think, so many times under the Causeway Bridge, so many years and all that time, he’d never seen a thing or he saw lots of things – dented beer cans, used condoms, roaches, beetles, grasshoppers, pigeons, hawks, even a snake, but never a human and now here would be Zeta Williams, the one people called – the Love Doctor.
They would talk about the vacant baseball field overgrown with weeds and all the players who previously played there, from Motorbike Martin and his ability to lay down a bunt to Potbelly Perry who couldn’t throw that fast, but had no trouble painting corners with finesse, a little like left-hander Mike Cuellar.
They would play bingo at the Veterans Hall…..smuggle in a bottle of Bacardi. They would never win, but after the last letters and numbers were called, they would stroll to Ditwood’s Cemetery, climb the wrought iron black fence, sit on tombstones and talk and that would be like winning because they would hold hands.
They would listen to Dave Brubeck records in her basement. They would be the same height. Zeta would have short black hair and be kind of skinny, but would have enough fat so when they would hug, it felt warm. Zeta would wrap a towel around her head after a shower, and look like an ancient goddess Frank had seen in Egyptian books. She would have no brothers. He would have no sisters.
They would somersault down dandy lion hill and enjoy walnut days when Zeta and Mc-Fight-Again would crack open the walnut shell and before eating the nutty meat, they’d look up at the stars and down at the worms and then quietly, they’d make their own wishes, but they would both know what the other was wishing…..an open road.
They would play ping pong at the Pinbrooke Community Center, go to movies, but never kiss or make love or have sex or anything like that. They would, however, sit on their backs, side by side on the grass and carry on back and forth conversations about insects taking over the world and how great it would be to wake up tomorrow morning and feel confident and happy. God, how they would love to talk.
Meanwhile, this he, this Frank Machetti imagining he was Slim Mc-Fight-Again came back to reality and watched an old highlight reel of Kirk Gibson’s late 1980’s World Series home run. Frank limped around the room, impersonating Gibson, pumping his arm in and out, happy to know the universe created Zeta Williams, even if she wasn’t real…..not yet anyway.