Daily Palette Double Feature
Thoughts and Feelings at Twenty-Five
The weather came hard most days, but from where the clouds drew their water, it was impossible to tell. Tom hadn't seen the edge of an ocean since boyhood. He remembered the heat and the salt and the wind that blew his shirt away from his back. The sunlight came to him in long white lines.
These were a different set of days. At twenty-five, Tom let his life be half-lived. Drinks left sweating on the night stand were finished in the morning. On a long drive to see the Christmas lights he rebuked a calm and generous girl because her beauty was quiet and would never wound him. With her gone, his rooms darkened with his dust. Dark hair clung to the white porcelain. A fear in him deepened. Tom's skin slickened with oil, blistered and bled. He had seen pictures of babies born with their faces cleaved open. The bulldozers that pushed starved bodies into open pits.
Red-striped over-due statements were stacked on the far corner of his table. In the damp mornings, he arrived at his appointments out of a desperate sense of duty. He walked back to his car, down brick streets, past brick churches. He looked for some brother deep in history to light a guiding fire. Tom pulled his oldest texts from the high shelf, turned their thin and gold leafed pages.
He remembered his schooling: the denim and perfume, Friday nights, the grass lit green by high white lights. He remembered a time not long before that, an age when powerful men dressed their daughters for Sunday, when the upholstery of their Buicks turned fragrant under the sun. His cell blinked from the generous girl's calls but Tom let the phone buzz facedown in his bed sheets. The quiet of her voice reminded him of the first of his failures: his mother had given him an ivory-faced watch the day he moved away. A gold watch her father wound through two wars.
"You'll be fine," his mother said on the drive to the train station. The watch was made for a larger man and hung loose on Tom's wrist.
He sat next to a man in a long gray coat sleeping off a drunk Tom could smell.
Tom fell asleep far into the plains looking out through the dark at the abandoned factories, the tire fires burning on the edge of their lots. Tom only noticed his naked wrist later that night as he wheeled his luggage toward a cab. He told no one the watch was missing, and the gift had been gone for two hard years before shame had him to replace it. Tom went to a white-tiled mall where a teenager in a kiosk showed him three watches with a gold band and a white face. He decided on the least expensive. This watch's band held tight to him. The hands were impossibly thin. Tom watched it tick. Its precision was quick and terrible.
Daily Palette Double Feature
Dylan Nice is a 2011 graduate of the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program and a 2014-2015 NWP Visiting Assistant Professor. His debut story collection, Other Kinds, was published by Short Flight / Long Drive Books. He has very healthy gums.
About Iowa Writes
Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.
In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.
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