Current Occupation: English Teacher and Developmental Editor
Former Occupation: Bookseller at Powell's City of Books
Contact Information: RanRan is from Oregon. He and his mom and dad love to eat spaghetti dinners after long days working in the yard. There are jackrabbits in the yard. We watch. They dig holes in the yard. The jackrabbits are afraid of the streets and run through the gardens. We grow peppers and tall corn and pumpkins in our garden. RanRan's other work can be found here: roberteversmann.com
I work for the park, as per my degree and need to be away from people to the degree I need. I can hide behind trees, under park benches, etc. I can curse loud under the roar of our babbling brooks. Anything and everything is the bane of my existence. I hate the birds. I hate the trees. I hate the people. I hate balloons.
I was out cutting trees in the park. Dutch Elm. I’ve suicided many, plunging in so much death juice, trunk-by-trunk. I used to tell them prayers, now trees hurt me to look at them. You just need to go, I’d say. I have the degree. I know. I trimmed two down to stubs. I cut enough down I lost track and hoped I’d remember what I’d meant to do with my life. I went to another, the tallest of them, but heard a groan. I groaned to match, groaned murder at the crow up the tree. I settled. Here I was in my prison-orange standard-issue groundskeeper jumpsuit. I’ve never been in prison. I’ve never smoked a joint. I spit as high as I could. I asked the crow would it tell me how much I had left. Before I threw my clippers in my throat I heard a second grown.
I threw my clippers and my gardening gloves—striped tan and blue, my mother gave me—and there was a sick man there ten fifty yards down lying on the rocks beside the creek.
I asked him was he was all right. He was but his back was hurt. Did I have any medicine, he wondered. I did not but I would call a doctor. He was a doctor already, no matter, he said. No need for another one. He clutched my orange jump and seethe-shouted would I check the flow to his blood, would I touch him at least. I checked and told him sixty beats per minute. He pushed on his pants at his hips to get them down. It was sore there, could I check. He was bruised.
‘Can you walk if I help you?’ I said.
‘Do you work here?’ he said.
My jumpsuit, nuclear-colored, ‘No,’ I said. ‘But I just love nature and I am trying to reconnect.’
He said something I couldn’t understand. I said I didn’t. He said it again. He winked and gave me a thumbs up. He turned his mouth up to the right. I gave him a thumbs up back. He turned it up left so I just pulled him up over me, his arms over my back and he held me very tightly and I held him like a backpack. We had a so much park to get through, a long path through a forest, and to cross a small stream before we reached any doctors.
I had nothing to gain. But yet already I couldn’t escape. I get a paycheck every month but it feels like looking at a mountain frowning at me. He pointed at the stars.
‘I was a great man with a large house, a wife, friends, children,’ he said. ‘I have been to this many countries,’ and he, wheezing, covered my eyes and nose with all his ten fingers. ‘Don’t you have goals?’ he said.
He pointed down a hill toward the river I knew had killed visitors before. I walked, still carrying him on my back, to walk beside the river, the river I’d dredged for ‘the boy’ who went missing, who we never found. I met his parents and they were in a different income bracket than me.
‘I can help you achieve the same things,’ he said. ‘For instance, do you have your dream house already?’ He laughed.
I felt a ringing in my head. I had nothing in mind nor could I draw anything to mind. In fact, I had nothing of ‘house,’ nothing, I was completely incapable forming any image of any house. ‘House’ did not exist. I tried to spit and spit on my own shirt.
‘Do you know what is blocking you, what planet blotting out your setting sun?’ he said.
‘I think the hospital is this way,’ I said but was so disoriented. ‘I have an idea of what I want,’ I said. I know the trees here. I have walked over so much grass. I have spilled weed killer and I love dogs. I have put my fingers into the dirt so many times and unearthed so many patches of grass, for a time believing I was removing a living person’s scabs, undoing the earth. And sometimes, drunk, I apologized. Then, drunk, I have plucked up so many daisies.
The man on my back came very close to the back of my neck, his mouth a smile like PVC-tarp tearing. He kissed my neck. We neither of us mentioned this because I burned under his weight near the stream it was colder and denser. I could see what would feel better. I could dump him off and drown him but he was promising me so much and his chin was prickly the way a father’s is and the way he gripped my arms, though caring, felt waxy like he’d leave some residue was leaving residue.
‘I have one girl who loves me very much,’ he said.
The flowers blooming nor produced pollen like slow confetti indifferent to us, spreading like mist.
‘I have women waiting for me,’ he said. ‘Waiting in rubies, gems, whatever it is I ask of them. You could too.’ He looked distractedly along the horizon of trees like he’d seen this before, knew I’d carry him every time.
My body began to ache and my head felt hot. The stream and the grass lost color as we passed under a long cloud.
‘Do you want a girl? Do you have one now?’ he said.
I’d had many in mind. But now could think of none.
‘You want one,’ he said. ‘You have one in mind. I can bring you anything.’
He squeezed his legs under my ribs and asked to be let down so he might see the stream. I collapsed under his squeezing. I put my hands into the stream to try and refresh my face. It felt like a gel. And like there was no temperature to it, like I couldn’t feel hot or cold.
‘Did you make this?’ he said, pointing to the small stack of rocks I’d stacked on break, five or six stacked like a mini-tower. ‘Do you like what you do?’
‘I do. I love this job. I love to be a part of nature. I am confident in my abilities to manipulate the aesthetics of earth in a sustainable way. I have experience in digging up bulbs, replacing them. My favorite flower is the tulip. I love it so much because of my mother. I am a steward of the earth. I say this to myself everyday in front of the earth.’
I felt his old legs squeeze hard around my waist. I said to stop. He held his hands up for me but he was too heavy. I could not pull him up. I tried to bend him and get him onto my shoulder but I could not do that either so we walked together. Everything looked far away. The trees along the edges of the park looked painted on like a movie set.
We walked a little further along the stream until he told me to lie down. I couldn’t breathe right. Collapsing, I noticed all the shrubs I hadn’t pruned. I knew there were weeds I should have killed. The stream was choked. I tried to touch the man’s face but already he was standing tall. He made me, manhandling me face to look at the grass I’d planted, understand that I had made this for other people, that I could be happy that they came and picnicked, even if I only watched afar.
He told me to wait while he got another doctor, a second opinion. I was never going to own a home. I couldn’t if I didn’t know what one looked like. I wouldn’t find a girl. Not if I didn’t get a doctor. He went for the trees at the edge of the park. I couldn’t get anywhere. He was going to help me now. I had helped him and he was going to return the favor.
I took a small handful of rocks. It took me fifteen seconds to move my hands, to pick them up, to regard them as long as I needed to make them a symbol of my for-now position in life. I was paid maybe ten cents for that self-realization. Take that, you park bastards, albeit colors shifted, but I did notice a cloud in the sky from my vantage point of the park I was caretaker of, that it looked like a rabbit.