Larry Walters Has Flown Away

by Rachel Richardson

april 2016 story of the month

there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California

Frank O'Hara, "Poem"

I was dancing along from the nook to the foyer and you put the baby down for a nap at last and you were already showing with the next one which is my fault because what we've done—what I have done to you—what you have done to me to make me want to do what it is I did to you: your eyelashes and hips and those earlobes of yours out of which studs sparkle, cubic zirconium but oh how they shone. I confess I wanted you now, now with the baby asleep and us finally alone. I had brought you this cup of coffee just as you liked it (half and half only whereas I take mine black) and set it before you as you took a moment to rest on the davenport that we'd bought at that awful estate sale—all our house a mishmash of everyone else's unneeded things. Except for the baby. That baby was ours and no one else had one like it except of course your sister but hers was not nearly as wondrous as ours because she had made hers with that beefy policeman she'd married. And here you were, so soft and sleepy against the ugly floral davenport—that davenport I was certain somebody had died on which was why it was sold to us so cheaply.

So I went to the window and looked out at our street in San Pedro with its many cars parked up and down the curb and all the brave palm trees and the fire hydrant and sidewalks where someday that napping baby would pedal a bicycle with training wheels and then without. I had once broken my arm doing such a thing but that was in Pittsburgh ages and ages ago before I met you and once you asked me as you touched the scar along my elbow how it had happened and I wanted to lie to impress you—a terrible knife fight! In a back alley! A treacherous motorcycle accident! On a bridge!—but we were already naked at this point and in your bed in North Hollywood and I told you simply I fell off my bike as a boy. Then you got up and went to the kitchen and came back to bed with an open can of beans which you ate with a spoon right there among the sheets and pillows and duvet cover and you asked what color the cast had been and I told you green, I think.

And you said, "Darling, the blinds," and I was only briefly saddened because we had this day together and how grand it would be but you wanted to shut it out, this day in California with the sun so bright above and tomorrow on the horizon and there above the power lines a man in the sky.

I exclaimed something and you came to look and we went outside still holding our mugs and we stood on the sidewalk and cupped our hands over our brows and it was a man in a lawn chair high in the sky with balloons above him and milk jugs dangling below. It was extraordinary. But then we heard the shouting from the house next door and the buzz of a radio and our neighbor Carol—Carol with her little yappy dog and her frequent FedEx packages and her sprinkler system that always turned on at odd times—our neighbor Carol was shouting, "Larry! Larry!"

So we went over and you asked what was the matter and Carol was in hysterics but she pointed to the tanks of helium scattered around the patio and we pieced together that Larry had rigged up this lawn chair airship and taken off into the sky. Carol said he planned to simply float about and then shoot some of the enormous balloons that kept him aloft and happily drift back down but he hadn't done the math and the force in the helium thrust Larry and his lawn chair into the atmosphere where his glasses fell away. Carol demanded he come back this instant but he was drifting further and further away and we asked what could we do and she said nothing, shouting all the while into her walkie-talkie for Larry to land, dammit, land. By then you were anxious about the sleeping baby so I went back to check on him and he was absolutely fine.

He would remain fine for the remainder of his life as he grew into a sturdy little boy who had more interest in his Atari than the bicycle we bought him but soon enough his brother came along and we would all four—mother, father and sons—go to Venice Beach and eat ice cream and look at all the punks and thugs and hippies and drag queens and jugglers and dogs on the boardwalk. The boys would inherit some ancient height and surpass us both and they would graduate and move away and find lovely people to populate their lives and they would all come back and visit and we would eventually replace that terrible davenport.

Later that night we saw Larry on the news. Larry in his lawn chair, safely returned to earth but downing a power line along the way that caused a blackout in Long Beach and therefore fined quite a bit by the federal people in charge of airspace. When the reporter asked him why he said, "A man can't just sit around," which may be true but I have sat around much in my life and never once desired to fly in a craft of my own making. I have never wanted to sail in a lawn chair into the sky. We saw Carol many years later sitting on her front steps with her graying little dog that no longer yapped and she told us that Larry had died in the forest up in the San Gabriel mountains and we said we were sorry and when you asked Carol how she told us with the shotgun he pointed at his head.

I think of Larry and I hear Carol calling him and I think if it had been me, if it had been you on the ground with our sons and me looking down from my high and fast perch as it zooms towards the clouds and the sun further away and further from your voice, calling, "Oh Larry, we love you, come down."

BIO: Rachel Richardson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and currently lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with a large dog, a small dog, and a mid-sized man. "Larry Walters Has Flown Away" is one of 50 pieces comprising her manuscript, STATE, currently seeking a home. Others have appeared in Fairy Tale Review, Barrelhouse, Monkeybicycle. and elsewhere. She lives online at www.rachel-richardson.com and on Twitter @pintojamesbean.