The night was black as ice. And cold. So cold the blackness seemed darker than pitch. So cold cats froze to the pavement mid prowl. So cold Tommy P’s skin tried to turn itself inside out, starting with his massive forearms, which were the size of small hams. He heard a rumble to the south. Smells like thunder snow, he thought.
Tommy was no prize child. He was as pretty as a nail and as tough as two nails. Maybe even a half dozen nails. He was so tough that once he hammered a nail right through his thumb-flesh-pad just because his dad told him he wasn’t tough enough to hammer a nail right through his thumb-flesh-pad. Tommy liked to prove people wrong. Especially people who were his dad. And especially when people who were his dad said he couldn’t set his own head on fire. Showed him, Tommy thought, but the thought was a bit fuzzy like all thoughts since the head fire.
Man, were those forearms massive. Once he ate six baby bunnies. Again, showed him. They slid right down, smooth as hairless hot-pockets, their ears still stuck back to their tiny skulls, their tiny eyes still closed, with no tiny tails to speak of. If he were to speak of them, which he wouldn’t because he was the type that didn’t speak much, and not just because of the tongue accident. The type that freaked out his mother because he would stare from the back of the kitchen with eyes as cold as glassy tar balls.
And those forearms. I mean, really, where did they come from?
“What’s wrong with you?” His mother asked him once. Then she made a Jell-O salad. With those tiny goldfish crackers swimming in it like tiny little fish swimming in an orange gelatinous ocean. She told him not to touch it, that it wasn’t for him. But when no one was looking, Tommy poked at it with his good hand. It was soft like bright orange flesh. He wanted to bury his hand in it and feel it close back around him. He wanted the world to be Jell-O. He wanted to tell his mother this. But he didn’t say anything.
Truth is, no one really listened to Tommy anyway. Which is why he stood outside tonight, his skin completely inside out now, and waited. He couldn’t remember exactly what he was waiting for, but no matter. Damn, it was cold out. His head itched where the hair had grown back. He heard his father’s voice from inside the house and his liver began to beat in tune with his heart.
“Too goddamn cold outside,” his father had said, his tiny forearms sticking out from his flannel PJs. Tommy looked at the red can by his feet. Right, he remembered. Right.