by Ron Burch
sit still, trying not to breathe. Danny thinks he sees a glimmer, but itís
only a rock shining in the sun.
Danny returns to
digging in the ground. We used to pull him away, but he always went straight
back, head down like a divine dowsing rod, intent. He says somethingís there,
thatís what he tells me with the dirt crusted on his lips, smeared across his
cheeks and face like warpaint, like a mud mask. He says something is there in
the central park to be found, a treasure of some sort. He doesnít know what
kind of treasure, but he swears it to be a treasure that weíll share, that
weíll lavish onto mary, that weíll change our lives with.
does not capitalize her name.
I believe him. Sometimes I believe that itís there, somewhere, under the
has impetigo, thatís what the free-clinic doctor said as he passed to her
medicine, samples in plastic that he had stuffed in his desk drawer, but even
after the medicine, the damn thing wonít go away.
digs until his body is covered with dirt, clods of it clutter his hair, the
dirt and sweat mix on his body. mary and I stand guard over him, we stand
alert and cunning in the park and watch diligently for the Park Police.
yeah, yeah, I sing to myself while Danny digs. Before I met Danny and mary,
my walkman was stolen when I was asleep on a park bench one hot afternoon.
Now I have to sing the songs myself. Itís not so bad, except sometimes I
forget the words. I always offer to help Danny dig, but he wonít let me.
on, Brady, he says to me. So I serenade him and mary, who sits a few feet
away in the shade of a tree.
is a word mary uses to describe him.
day Danny goes to the park to dig in its eight hundred acres, and heíll dig
until he gets so sore that he canít climb out of the hole. I have to lower
down one of my legs, and he climbs up onto it, and I pull him from the hole.
tells me to tie down Danny so he doesnít run to the park in the morning, so
he doesnít find the shovel heís hid the day before in the thick of a budding
bush, in the copse, but I secretly want Danny to find the treasure.
three live together in a room on the west side, in the back of the building,
a room without air conditioning so when the summer heat and humidity rides
you like a fat bloated beast, you crumple to the floor, faint. If the tap
waterís turned off, mary licks her fingers and rubs them hard against our
faces until we come to.
have a separate bathroom. In the shower hang the electrical and water meters.
You have to keep your back bent while showering, but you still can hear the
water meter click. We only run certain appliances, so as to not short the
wiring. The buildings around us are so inches close that no breeze can get in
our windows, close enough that we can hear the neighbors leading their lives:
making love, discussing love lives on the phone, talking to friends. We hear
them. We are close but they donít know us. Itís always dark outside even at
noon because little light gets in.
digs. He swears he will liberate us from this one room. He tells us it wonít
be long now.
we work for Dannyís friend to make some money. We pass out flyers on the
street. Flyers for beauty products or for newspaper subscriptions or for some
product. A product. Everything is now a product. Weíre probably products,
sometimes canít speak. Speak, mary, speak, Danny pleads. Sheís not always
like this but sometimes. She tries to talk, but nothing comes out. She
panics, but thereís not much we can do until the words come back. Danny
strokes her head and that seems to make her feel better. Itís a day without
words, Danny says.
own a TV, but the sound doesnít work. We watch the pictures and invent the
words to make ourselves laugh and then we fall asleep on the floor, bundled
up against each other, sleeping on penguin blankets and huge hot dog pillows,
covering ourselves with the long window curtains when the weatherís cold.
mary sleeps next to me, sometimes with Danny. Danny makes these boom boom
noises when he sleeps, his head deep down in the pillow like itís surgically
connected, his mouth moving boom boom, sometimes it keeps me awake,
especially when he screams and screams again, but he doesnít wake up, and
Iíve gotten more used to it. Couple times, itís bothered me when mary sleeps
next to Danny, but it doesnít anymore because she always, always comes back
morning Danny couldnít find his shovel. He said heíd left it under the flat
rock but it wasnít there when he went back. I tell him that maybe, maybe I
say, he put it under another flat rock and he forgot which one. We spend the
day looking under all the flat rocks in the park, but we still canít find the
shovel. Danny then digs with his fingers, but this hole is shallow. mary
spends the night prying the dirt out from under his blackened nails with the
curved end of a coat hanger.
first mary says weíre better off this way, even with Danny being bereft
without his shovel. mary says we need to face the way things are, but then
Danny starts talking in weird high-pitched voices, saying words I donít
understand, shaking his head a funny sideways way like one of those bobbing
runs frantically around the room and says itís a sign that we shouldnít find
the treasure, that we havenít earned it. Danny just laughs. I want the
treasure. I donít think we can go on much longer without it.
convince mary that, for Dannyís sake, we better get him another shovel. We
sell the TV. We donít miss the TV anyway, Ďcause we never really understood
gets a brand new shovel from the Amsterdam hardware store, a shovel with a
green handle and a green blade. The green quickly wears off after Danny
starts digging, but he likes the shovel and he hides it in the copse or the
thick budding bush, but never under a flat rock.
one night whispers a secret to me, puts his lips right next to my ear when it
looks like maryís asleep, that he thinks that she was the one who went back
to the park in the night and stole his shovel from under the flat rock in the
park and threw the shovel in the river and when it sank down into the dark
water, she made a glad noise and crept back home.
canít prove it but itís his belief.
also says hot tar is good for open cuts, but I donít believe everything he
says, even if he says he believes it.
donít think mary stole his shovel, Ďcause she was sleeping next to me that
night, and I donít remember her leaving.
says that if he digs enough, eventually he has to find something, although I
think heís becoming unsure. I tell him not to adopt such a defeatist stance
(I got this word from one of those Sunday morning talk shows). He eventually
agrees with me, and I wonder how we knew there was treasure down there to
tells me that he found out about it while in the main library. Heíd fallen
asleep in the huge room that had painted across the ceiling the mural of ďThe
Trip to the WestĒ or something like that. This room had about a hundred of
those long library tables, one after another, where people sit and read and
take notes. Danny had fallen asleep, his head leaning on his crossed arms,
and when he woke up, slowly opening his eyes, right in front of his eyes, he
saw this book sitting there, right next to his head. And he said heíd never
seen a book like this before, never. It was shiny and splendid, he said, it
was glimmering and he thought that maybe it was plugged in, but he didnít see
an electrical cord and then he thought maybe there were batteries, but he
couldnít find those either. None of the tie-wearing people who were sitting
around him noticed this special book that Danny had. They were content to
read their magazines and newspapers, their own thick books with statistical
charts and graphs, scribbling down notes, too busy to notice Danny and this
opened the wondrous book. It only had a few pages but each page was thick
like a piece of wood.
then found the illustrated glossy page.
the library table, he tore out the illustrated page and wedged it secretly
into his pocket so no one else would know, no one else would see. He even
changed the page number in the book with a blue-inked pen so no other reader
would notice something missing. And then Danny said he went to the rest room
to look at the page in the stall and when he came back, the book was gone. He
asked the tie man sitting next to him, but the man only shrugged and went
back to scribbling notes.
says that in the illustrated page is a code for finding the treasure and even
though he eventually lost the illustrated page -- he thinks it might have
been that day on the bus -- he still remembers it fresh in his mind like the
day he first saw it in the library. He says beneath that code thereís
something, like a treasure faintly glimmering below the ground, many colored
and splendid, waiting to be unearthed.
loses faith, this is what she says, she says she canít take it anymore, that
there needs to be something else here, something more here than having to
scrub down Danny every night in the bathtub after we return from the park.
explains to her that we are modern day explorers, that we are like the early
settlers, the pilgrims, travelling on our ship, while the others are content
to stay tucked away at home, in front of their crackling fireplaces and burnt
kettle pots, we are exploring new places, and that weíll be rewarded at the
end of all of this, maybe theyíll even make a movie about us.
donít think mary believes him. She keeps saying that maybe sheíll go away,
maybe sheíll go back and live with her parents again even though they are
thousands of miles away and Danny says thatís silly, what the hell would she
do there and she says that maybe sheíll be like the rest of them.
gets a job at one of the stores selling cosmetics. She says she doesnít want
to pass flyers anymore. She brings home sweet-smelling perfumes in heavy
glass bottles, and we dab it on ourselves at night while we watch the new TV
she bought us. With her 30% store discount, mary buys herself new clothes, and
she makes up her face and looks real pretty and her skin even clears up. She
doesnít get home until real late sometimes, midnight or after, sometimes
going out to restaurants with her coworkers after her shift, coming home
smelling like cigarette smoke. She never invites me and Danny to join her,
mainly I think, because Dannyís always dirty now since mary is too tired to
scrub him down after she gets home from work. Danny doesnít like me doing it
so he becomes more and more encrusted, even though he showers and tries to
scrub himself off, but he canít reach all of it. mary brings home nicer
clothes for us to wear, and we have better food too. She even cooks a couple
times, but Danny refuses to eat the food.
still pass out flyers on the street. mary says sheíll get me a job at the
store where she works. I can unload boxes of fancy merchandise and bring them
to the floor, so the consumers can frolic amidst the items that better their
lives. I tell her maybe later, that I like flyer passing. I get to travel and
meet people and sometimes people buy me a cup of coffee and a blueberry
stops going to the park. He stops digging. Says he doesnít see the sense of
it anymore, that heís dug so many holes in that goddamned park that it looks
like a piece of cheese, so many holes that the Park Police, who wear green
outfits and talk secretly into walkies on their shoulders, has issued
bulletins for our capture for being a general threat to the park.
nothing underneath, mary says.
for a time everythingís pretty quiet.
I find the illustrated page tucked away in the back of the closet behind
maryís shoe bag when Iím cleaning out the closet, looking for things to sell
show the page to Danny whose eyes get big and wide, and his mouth opens up
but doesnít spill out any words.
††††††††††† Danny takes that illustrated page
and leaves the apartment, and heís gone all day, and when I come back from
the flyer passing, Dannyís still gone.
††††††††††† When mary comes home that night,
Danny is still missing and I tell her about finding the illustrated page, and
where I found the illustrated page, and she doesnít really say anything, she
just kind of nods her head. She asks about where Danny went and I tell her I
sleeps on her own that night, wrapped up in her new flowered blanket.
doesnít come home the next couple days either. mary doesnít go to work. She
puts on, what she calls, her dingy clothes, and we decide to go to the park
to look for him.
visit the flyer-passing boss and tell him I have something important to do
today. He curses me for at least ten minutes and then tells me never to come
and mary enter the park, and there are holes everywhere. We find Danny
stooped in one of the holes, the shovel upside down next to him, Danny
leaning sideways in a pile of dirt. I look around, worrying that the Park
Police will find us. mary bends down and talks low to Danny and Danny just
points at the bottom of the hole. Dannyís so sore from digging he canít even
clench his hand to pick up the shovel or even stand up.† The illustrated page is lying nearby, just
glowing in the sun. I pick up the shovel in my hand, the first time Danny
ever lets me touch his shovel, cause now I see it, right there in the hole,
wets her fingers with her tongue and begins to clean off Danny.
Ron Burch lives
in Los Angeles.