Scrap of Black
midnight tolling –
the acrid smell
In the frigid dark of New Year's Eve, we dance around ground spinners, laughing wildly at each boom and bang of cherry bombs and Roman candles, until Jack Vickery explodes his right eye.
The next time I see him, Jack's right eye is a perfect blue match to the left, but it doesn't move at all. His mother cries while she tells mine how lucky they are that Jack lost only the one. When I ask him if it still hurts, Jack laughs. "Naw. It's no big deal."
A few months later, Jack is a pirate in the school play. He wears the black plastic patch from an old Halloween costume. Afterward, he keeps it on and tells me he's going to wear it all the time, even to bed. He's still wearing it the next day. His mother says it sets her teeth on edge. While we're in the kitchen having a snack, she nags him to take it off. He scowls and shoves in more pie. She goes on, "I don't know why you want to cover that eye, Jack. It looks so real. Your daddy's going to speak to you when he gets home."
I watch as Jack's fantasy crumbles – we both knew it was flimsy as snail bones – and he throws the scrap of black at the garbage pail.