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Serge Bielanko Headshot

The Pilot on His Frozen Cloud

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SERGE BIELANKO
Monica Bielanko
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The other day when my wife handed me an armful of tiny blue jeans and summer shirts that any elf could fit in and said, "Take these up to the attic with the rest of the stuff," I knew what she meant, but I had no idea what I was in for.

I wrestled and struggled with the door that seldom gets opened, trying to not dump all of those clothes, and then I bumbled up the attic steps past last summer's spider webs, not stopping to consider all of the super-skilled craftsmen/women who had spun those gothic masterpieces while I was downstairs in my bedroom dreaming the dreams of an under-sexed, overweight man. Nor did I think about how they are probably mostly dead by now, entombed inside the walls of our house, or wherever spiders go to die.

No, I was concerned with just getting up there in the wicked cold attic, untying the knots I knew I had tied on the trash bag full of outgrown toddler clothes, getting new ones in there and then re-tying the bag before I froze my ass off. So, I wasn't really expecting to smash open a dam I didn't even know I'd ever built.

But, you know how it is. And that's how things went down.

I undid the trash bag and used my knee to spread out the hole in the top so I could just plop this new bundle in there when a pair of plaid shorts caught my eye.

Everything whooshed and I could hear the blood in my veins blowing through my ears like a thunderstorm river.

Oh snap, I though. Oh hellfire.

They had been Violet's, my daughter's shorts. They had been one of our go-to pairs, too; a pair of cheap Garanimals whose pink and yellow and orange little squares had decorated my kid's diapered summer butt so many times last year that just seeing them lying there on the top of the blob of stuff whose future was all thrift shop mystery unhinged something in my guts.

Dropping the stuff I'd come to deliver, I stared at these shorts and slowly picked them up as if they might be alive, like a fallen bat in the attic corner, and right away, as cheesy and bogus as it sounds, I'm telling you the damn truth: As soon as I picked them up, I could smell the way Violet's bedroom would smell on bright July mornings last year, a whiff of chilled-out 7 a.m. humidity all mixed in with the ghost of some carpet milk stain somewhere, the faint sourness of some forgotten spill.

The shorts had been up here for months now, and probably no one in this solar system or the next ones had even thought about them one time. It's a ridiculous notion, of course, I mean, who the hell would ever think of something so fleeting and dumb? Yet, here I was, clutching them in my hand and hearing the sound of my own voice calling out Violet's name loud and slow and clear just like the two or three days a week last summer when I would sit there on her purple shag rug, all by myself, calling her name and trying to convince her to pry her eyes away from "Diego" and come let me get her dressed for the day.

Hmph, I grumbled under my breath. You must be getting soft, dude.

But as I looked at the shorts and then down into the trash bag at a pair of small, suddenly familiar pants, their knees worn away to dime-sized holes, and then, as I spotted the black Beatles t-shirt from Target my little girl had once worn at least a few times a week, to the point where it had become so familiar that I think I unconsciously looked forward to seeing it on her tiny frame, the guys all crossing Abbey Road/moving across that freaking crosswalk for the zillionth time in the dragging afternoon of pop culture history, but crossing it the best they ever could in my eyes, the fast fast train I had been riding on slammed its heavy brakes and took a good country mile or so of smoking and squealing to finally come to a full stop in this weird, cold, cob-webby place.

Jesus, I thought.

Time is gushing by me.

Every moment is already in the past.

There is something epic happening right this second, right here and right over there.

And these kids of mine, of ours, they are our life's work and in a lot of ways they are traveling due East or due West from us even as we stand there, running our fingers through their freshly shampooed hair. Moving ever so slightly toward the front door even as we stand there clenching a pair of outgrown Garanimal shorts on a frozen cloud hanging above our world.

serge bielanko