by Joel James Davis
Two things are certain: there is no happy ending & this girl was made of metal. This man was short & sad & profoundly lost when he turned down roads in his tired spare-tired truck. These roads packed with worn gravel & weeds & the weeds were just so robust along the sides of these roads, just bristly sage paper on funeral parlor walls. He smelled rain & his knee, this knee of his, it ached, which meant it would storm again soon. The ache, the ache told him this, like, just like this ache always did. When he found her, when he found this girl, thin rust orange rust dotted her skin like freckles, spotted like tiny points on a shiny map. She was at a yard sale along the road & he paid but a song, a song that was off-key & only two verses & a chorus & a coda, but he did get her for a song, this song. He loaded her onto the splintered truck bed & away this man & this metal girl went to his workshop. You see, this man was a welder, an artist, a giver of life to things inanimate, things suffering. At his workshop, this man assessed this metal girl. You need a name, he thought, because, as always, as was the case, there was no one there to listen to him. Another man, the other man, who had made her, called her only Metal Girl. She, this metal girl, was not fond of this name, but she was metal & she was a girl & it was who she was & that she understood. Yes, I do, she thought back. Will your friends like me? I have never had friends, never been around friends. I will need your friends to like me. The artist stopped, his welding mask flipped up like half a beak of a giant-beaked bird. You can hear me? he thought to her. Yes, she thought. I need a name, she thought & friends, too, she thought. Make it pretty, please, sir. She thought all of this. The man knew without doubt what her name should be. You, metal girl, are Petal, like a flower, like that part on a flower, like one wing from the endless round singing face bee-stinging face of a flower, you are Petal. Mine, my name, is Donald, he thought. It’s my pleasure to make your acquaintance, he said & touched her freckled face, this speckled space & he smiled & she & she frowned. Days later, Donald had removed all the freckles from Petal’s face & Petal’s metal body, her flat gray matte gray finish now lustrous. May I fix this? he thought, kissing sliding gliding his calloused index finger across this frown, this little town of weld on her face, where the two halves of her head met in its horizontal middle. Please pretty pretty please fix it, Donald, I’ve never seen it, but, for me, it is like staring into the blue for you, this, this for me is blue & unbearable. So all night the blue flames came from his weld, lit up the workshop, held up the light and blew blue life into this room. Never look into the blue flame, his father had preached because, boy, it’ll make you blind, boy. The next morning Donald flipped up his bird beak mask that had a flat & tiny, shiny like glass, black window. The new barrow of weld on Petal’s face arched into a long slow upward-facing letter C. Remaining from the blue light was a slight whisper from the frown, left over, a scar from the frown, an outline on the outskirts of sadness. Petal could not see it, but Donald saw it, this shiny line, every time he looked at her, and it made him, and it made him rub the aching ache of his knee. I’ve wanted to ask you, Petal, what’s this design, this design this sign of the times on your breast? He points, he points at this design. The man who made me, who forbade me from friends, tried to make something but could not & this scar, this squiggle of wiggling lines here, was his attempt. Donald smiled, knowing what to do & all night, again, all night the frightening blue blueness of that blue flame strobed like the bible’s Job into the blackness of darkness. In the morning a symmetrical heart shape adorned Petal’s breast. She awoke to feel it thrumming pounding strumming throughout the stream of her hollow body. Thank you, Donald, it feels extraordinary, but now, but now she didn’t want to think it, but now I need friends because you see, you see this other man, he could not give me that, could not give me friends. Why don’t you show me to your friends, your artist friends? He paused like that space that little click of time, that soundless place between tick tick ticks on a clock. Because, because he thought to her, because, Petal, they’d not find a lesson within my obsession of you with you for you. They, they’d not, they’d not get, they’d not get it. So, she thought, she thought this back at him & so & so it goes, two days later Donald returned home after a few hours away to find Petal, he returned to find Petal missing. His knee ached like before, like never, like never before. In town he found Petal on display at another artist’s shop. She was surrounded by women & men who smiled & admired & never tired of her & she, this girl, this metal girl named Petal was covered by something, a garment, a beautiful, flowing charming garment. A dress with waves waving like a wavy sea. It was a wedding dress. The young artist had proposed marriage & she & his friends & their sculptures would laugh & laugh & be friends & laugh, these new friends & through the clean sheen of this other artist’s window, Donald could no longer see the whisper of a frown, only the thick barrow the bone marrow of a smile & her lips were rusty from the moisture of kiss. This man, this man named Donald, stared so long, so long into that window that the night, like his sorrow, had fallen, fallen like a kid, a child on a bike. Home now, blown away now by what he had seen, the blue flame strobed in Donald’s shop, strobed & streaked about the room & the half beaked bird mask had no task just sat, sit, sitting there in the corner, like a sleeping coroner. He fabricated nothing, just welding the rusty scrapes of scraps to make that familiar bluish blue, but only stared glared preparing his eyes to stare into that blue & then this & then this happened. His knee, he reached down because his knee, this knee of his, it ached.