FathomOnline

 

 Fathom 1998

Cover

 

Inside Cover

 

Poetry

J. Lapointe
Colleen Shea (2)
Michelle Banks
Maud Alexandra Arthur
Jacqueline Martin
V. Combden
Mary Kate Arnold
Neil Dauphinee

Prose

Mary Kate Arnold
Michael Catano
Kirt Callahan

[PDF]

Michael Catano

 

 

Benbennybenjamin

Benjamin sat on the floor, his eyes focused upwards, his facescrunchedup into a tight fold. Hands were bugs today, they crawled (even when he didn’t think to make them), but feet remained feet (how could he walk without feet?). The question was a cruel one, even if no one knew it yet, and Benjamin ­Benbennybenjamin - was upset.

     ‘I don’tknowdon’t know...’
     ‘Do you want to be like your mom or your dad?’
     ‘... ontk n owdo ntkno wido...’
     ‘Do you want to be a fireman or a policeman?’
     ‘ ... tkn o wi dontkn owid...’
     ‘Stop that.’ Then a pause. Benjamin had to decide whether or not to be upset by this. He decided not. The bugs crawled up his thighs, then under his shirt and began to caress his stomach. ‘What are you good at doing?’ If the first question had been cruel, this one was sadistic. It made the bugs stop dancing. He could only stare blankly.
     ‘I       don’t       know,’ the words came carefully measured, his slight voice always made statements sound like questions.
     ‘Everybody has a talent, Benji. Everybody has something they’re good at and like to do. Do you have anything that you like to do? Maybe you could do it when you grow up. I like to read, so I study books in school. Do you like to read?’
     ‘humh unh hum,’ he replied. Sometimes he just made sounds if he didn’t like the question. People never gave him trouble for it. He liked to be read to, but he didn’t think that this was what she was asking. His mind was racing with images of people doing, talentslikesgoodats. He decided he really didn’t have any goodats that he would want to do when he grew up. He didn’t like to be called Benji, and she was making him confused.
     He went to bed without fuss - such a good boy - and let the bugs race for awhile, but soon they didn’t feel like bugs anymore and just looked like hands. He rested them on his thighs, so he could feel them. A kiss on the cheek, big smile above him, hand on forehead. dark room, lights off.
     ‘Hello, angel,’ warm.

* * *

Benjamin began to intently watch peoples’ goodats to pick one for himself. He saw men and women and boys and girls who could sing and dance and use computers and walk on rope and throw things and hit things and run and fly planes and shoot and pretend and kiss and he still didn’t know what goodat he would have.
     ‘What’s the matter, angel?’ She always knew when.
     ‘No goodat.’
     ‘Of course you are, my angel.’ she was the only one who could tell questions from statements.
     ‘What do I like?’ He could be very clear when he felt like it. It made her happy, big smile above him. makes Benbennybenjamin warm.
     ‘You like lots of things, angel. My Benbennybenjamin likes to sing songs and go to school and play with his friends and swim and run and listen to stories, and so much more, too. You like lots and lots, my angel.’ She was the only one who knew his name, and it made Benjamin smile brightly. She left (only for a little while, she would always come back and he didn’t worry about that anymore), and Benbennybenjamin began to think about the goodats he had. He liked them, but he didn’t think he was very goodat them. The people on television ran faster, sung better, and after awhile nothing he liked seemed anything like a goodat. He stared at the wall that hid his room, and wished he could be in his bed, big smile above him, hand on forehead, dark room, lights off but the wall was there.
     He was hungry, and didn’t feel like playing today, even though the sun was drifting through the open windows and curtains, making the television invisible to him. He could use his hands to see a little at a time, but it wasn’t worth it, and the sounds were never very good without the pictures. He looked at the wall once more and then wandered into the kitchen, where she was.
     ‘Are you hungry, angel?” She always knew when.
     ‘Yesunhuhyes!’ She smiled the warm smile and he ate. He thought about the goodats again, and decided that he would have to make a whole new one for himself that would be his, because there were so many people who were better at things than he was. He thought hard, but couldn’t come up with anything that seemed very interesting. If no one else was going to have thought to be goodat it. it would have to be very interesting, and very special. Everyone liked to sing and dance and play - ­even the bugs (in fact, as for as he could tell, that’s all they did) - ­so what was he going to do?
     After he ate, Benjamin crawled into bed for a nap, but didn’t sleep. The sun didn’t like to come into his room during the day, and seemed to like the television room much more. He wished he was back in the television room, not watching television (because the sun wouldn’t let him), but the wall was still there, separating one room from the other. He stared at the wall long and hard and wished he could just go right through it. Benbennybenjamin decided immediately that going through the wall would be quite a thing to have for his goodat, but it didn’t seem likely that he would be able to do it.
     ‘No one walks through walls.’ he thought, ‘So if I can do it. I would be very goodat it.’ He smiled pleased with himself. This had to be it. He got up and walked over to the wall, he put his hands on the cool, smooth surface and pushed. Nothing. He took a step backwards and drew in a deep breath. Gently he moved forward. Nothing. This time he started further back and moved quickly. Nothing.
     ‘Are you alright. Benjamin? I heard a noise.’ That was the word she used when she seemed worried, or anxious, or mad. It made him anxious, too.
     ‘Yes.’ He climbed back into bed and sang to himself. ‘Yes yesy esy es yesyesy es ye sye yes!’ He liked to sing, it made him feel the same way as when the bugs raced around, the same way as when he put his hands on his thighs when it was timeforbed. He liked to know that he still there.

* * *

     ‘Can people walk through the wall?’
     ‘No, of course not. Benji. That why we have walls: to keep people from walking through them.’ She was back, and she called him Benji. ‘Time for bed.’
     Benbennybenjamin had been thinking about the walls for months now, quietly trying to walk through them. He had learned to be quiet about it, because no one seemed to understand when he explain his mission. He figured that this was okay, maybe even a good thing, because in school he had learned about people who had been good at things that hadn’t been invented yet, and people were always trying to make them stop doing things that they were goodat. Benjamin figured that if they were trying to make him stop then he was probably on to something good.
     ‘Benbennybenjamin,’ he said to no one in particular, and to no one at all. His bedroom was dark (it was always nicer in the dark, just like the television room was nicer in the sun). He liked to say his name, and he liked the fact that he could say it three times when he said it once. It made him feel good, the way singing did, in fact, he had found his name when he was singing a song. Normally he forgot his songs, but this one - because it was about him - had stayed.
     In bed, he put his hands on his thighs and stared at the wall for awhile, like he always did. He wanted to go through the wall so badly, but he couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. The only people he could talk to about it were his toys, and although they had proved themselves to be fine listeners in the past, advice was not one of their strong suits. ‘Benbennvbenjamin,’ he repeated. In doing so he felt his whole body, his hands on his thighs, his back on the bed, the sheets on his stomach, his head on his pillow, his hair on his head, his eyes blinking. He knew that this feeling, his being there, was why he couldn’t get through the wall, and this was a problem. Benjamin really liked being there. He liked being able to feel his whole body, and to sing and say his name; those were good feelings, like when she always knew when. He didn’t want to not be there, but he so wanted to make his goodat walking through walls that it seemed to be the only way.
     He would be the boy who walked through walls.

* * *

Benjamin managed to get very good at walking through the walls. He had figured out how to make himself disappear, as it were, to forget about himself, and then it was easy. The hard part was getting over the bad feelings that came with not being able to feel himself; when he forgot he was there, he felt awful. It was like when she called him Benjamin, instead of his real name, except about a million times worse.
     Before Benjamin would be ready to show anybody his goodat, he figured he needed lots of practice. He had learned that people who become good at things need a lot of practice before they are good enough to make people impressed and to be on television. A lot of people on television were very old, and had goodats that were very impressive, but there were also people not much older than Benjamin who seemed to have practiced a lot, so Benjamin had hope that maybe he could be on television too.
     He practiced walking through walls all the time, when no one was looking. He started with the wall in his bedroom, but then moved on to walls all over his house, and then walls outside of his house. Soon he felt comfortable going through just about anything. He was proud, and felt like it was time to show people.
     ‘I have something to show you.’
     ‘What is it, my angel?’ Even she seemed unsure if it was a statement or a question. ‘Oh my...’ was all she managed to get out.

* * *

Years passed, Benjamin grew older, and people got used to seeing him walk through walls. No doubt, it was still his goodat, and nobody else’s, but people didn’t seem to faint or scream as much as they had when he was small. He was a very rich man now, having used his goodat to the best of his advantage: starring in films, personal appearances, participating in government studies, writing books. He had tried his hand at a lot of things, and been fairly successful at them, not as successful, however, as he was at his goodat (although he didn’t call it that anymore).
     His talent was his life, it seemed, and more often than not, he had the feeling of forgetting himself that he hated; this was who he was to the extent that he was who he was not, and that made him anxious. He had been poked and prodded and studied and stared at for most of his life, all because he had this ability, as they liked to call it. People had given up trying to explain, which seeemed like a good thing because they generally left him alone, and assumed that it was some sort of mass hallucination, mind control or illusion. There were theories, but only Benbennybenjamin knew the truth.
     She had stopped calling him by his real name a long time ago, and stopped putting her hand on his forehead in the darkened room. All the good things had stopped, and all that remained were the walls. Walls were easy, he knew what to do with them, but the feeling of passing away that he felt was hard. Sometimes he visited her, expecting to feel the warm feelings, again, but they never came back. She was gone now, but she had been for ages. Benjamin, a grown man, felt foolish calling himself Benbennybenjamin, and had for awhile, just as he felt foolish singing his songs or racing with the bugs on his stomach. He still did, though, especially at times like these, when he was going to be on television. He was lying in a dressing room, trying to remember,
     ‘... wallswa llswalls wallswallsw all swa...’
     ‘Benji,’ she called him Benji and he hated it. He thought thoughts about her, she continued, he stopped listening. Dreaming about her body, hisfacescrunchedupagainsthers. A boy entered the room. Benbennybenjamin embarrassed, caught, red.
     ‘Hello,’ (statement?)
     ‘Hi,’ (statement.)
     ‘Who are you?’ (question.)
     ‘My name is William” (statement.)
     ‘Hello. Billy.’ (question?) He called him Billy, he hated that.
     ‘I want to see it. What is it?’
     ‘I can walk through walls, Billy. That’s what it is’ He did it. It was never for himself. What do I like? No goodat.
     ‘Me too.’ WilliamnotBilly opened the door and left the room.

 

last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul