Around the Bend

About the Author
  SELECTED STORIES by Laura Beausoleil
The Fawn
Around the BendJessieA Happy ChildA Loss of Memory
HairA Deep Purple Beauty • Poor Frank • Meeting Henry MillerLes Mutiles
What Can We Do For You, Mrs. Ross?I Was Here But Now I'm Not
The Moustache HouseMexico

Poor Frank

I spend a lot of time thinking up improvements on God. When Frank thinks I’m busy typing letters, I’m actually preparing my list. Frank is my boss, the pastor of a large church. He is rotund, and endlessly talkative. A week ago he came and stood in front of my desk and told me how when he was 15 he had heard God’s voice call his name while he was running in a forest and he had answered and the ensuing conversation had brought him to the very spot where he stood. Actually, I had wondered why he was standing there in front of me, and although the story did not adequately answer my question, it was all very intriguing. Then Frank went back to the inner office and I continued my list.

My list is varied. It does not include thinking up clever new animals, which has never been a strength of mine. Although other people have done it quite well by simply transferring already designed parts like arms and legs from one species to another, God does not seem to need any help with evolution. That’s one of His strengths.

Frank has a peculiar laughter which is all his own. I can hear it in the distance when he talks on the telephone and nearby when he comes to stand stolidly in front of my desk. He takes it with him when he goes down and gets in his new car which is parked in a special spot marked with his name next to the garbage bins which are next to the alley where the drunks sleep. One day from the window I was watching him get in his car. I don’t remember why I was watching him or the man sleeping on the ground next to Frank’s spot with his head resting on a large bag of rags. The man looked almost as if he were dead. Frank backed his Mercedes out and the car curtained the man for a moment and when it drove away the man was gone, like magic.

I will have to ask Frank about disappearing people. Perhaps he can shed some light on the subject. Frank thinks he can shed light on any subject.

There is something else I want to ask Frank about. Appearing people. For three days now I have been hearing a squeaky voice from nowhere talk about death. The first time this strange voice spoke to me, I answered, but now it babbles on not caring if I am answering or not. And I can’t shut it up even when I yell “Shut up” at it. Sometimes I even yell at it out loud. Then Frank comes out to see what is wrong. It’s nothing, I say, my own death is not its concern, but that of someone very close to me. Do you want this, or are you just worried, I ask the voice, but it is too busy talking to answer. What I really want to know is, will this happen?

Frank might know. If I tell him I’m obsessed, perhaps he will describe the devil to me. After all, if he is familiar with the one voice perhaps he is familiar with the other.

Frank is an easy-going man and well-dressed. Today he wears an autumny brown suit and a shirt with little blue squares on it. He always appears free of any questions of good and evil. He hums a tune as he walks in and calls himself “Poor Frank” because, he says, he is perfectly content. I have never seen him be other than Poor Frank or fail to laugh at this irony he has concocted.

The first and major improvement on God on my list would most certainly be to have life mean something. And the second would be that He would periodically make appearances to remind us that it does. Frank argues that such visitations are made, that he is a living example. But Frank does not seem to understand that I want God to make one to me. It does not seem fair sometimes when I watch Frank rolly-polly his way down to his car that he can hear a voice that I can’t.

Just last week I was walking along the beach. It was a perfect night to hear the right voice. The moon was up and it was quiet but for the waves rolling in incandescently blue. When I stopped to look at a crab running into a hole in the sand I came up with improvement number three, a way to eliminate killing anything for food. Of course it can be argued that murder takes place on every level of the food chain and that such murders are necessary for its endless spiralling. The squeaky little voice asked about overpopulation, but I know, I answered, that with a little further thought that problem too can be solved. And besides, shut up, I told it, it is not you I want to hear from.

The day before yesterday I got on the elevator to go to our office on the 6th floor. Frank stepped in at the same time. Between the 3rd and 4th floor he suddenly reached over and pulled a lever to make the elevator stop. It halted with a thud. What’s wrong, I asked him, and before I knew it a surprisingly strong arm was around my shoulders and his thick torso pushed up against mine.

“I’ve caught you,” was all he said, “and I won’t let you off.”

“Frank,” I said, “I’ve thought up a way to eliminate sex as we know it. My plan will not require heavy breathing or any of the other discomfitures of the body. It will be a vast improvement on God.”

His lips stopped in mid-projectory. He looked at me for a moment, not saying or doing anything more, and reached for the lever to start the elevator. We got off on the 6th floor and he disappeared into the inner office and I went to write it down, number four on my list.

Improvement number five may take more research. It will be easy to ask Frank because since our meeting on the elevator he spends less time in his inner office and more in front of my desk. What I want to know is whether the incessant desire for happiness is the real enemy. Perhaps watching him more closely can help explain this problem of human disynchronization. Already I am charting the dwindling of his laughter. I notice that when he comes out of his inner office his eyes slide to the sides to watch me closely too and he suddenly wants to know everything I am thinking.

“I must talk further to private,” he whispers in a sweat, and begs me to please go for a ride with him in his Mercedes. He describes how big it is and with its plush seats how comfortable I will be. “And while we ride along,” he adds, “we can discuss your strange notions of sex.” I suppose that if I do go with him, if I can’t shed some light on his growing problem, he will try to shed some on what he hopes is mine.

  © Laura Beausoleil, 2010  

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