Critical Thought: Ricky

Ricky is a person I have been trying to kill in my life for at least the last 47 years, he is still not dead.

Blake Butler lives in Atlanta and edits HTMLGIANT. He is the author of Ever and Scorch Atlas. In Spring 2011, Harper Perennial will publish his novel, There Is No Year.

Ricky’s Index Fingers

Another year, which was every year now, and next year also, etc., etc., Ricky had gone into the space between the wall and the refrigerator to hide the pictures of the woman getting ripped apart by dogs. Ricky had accepted the pictures from the child who had appeared inside the bus that day on the way home, the child was across the aisle from Ricky. The child had never ridden on the bus before, this child would not appear on the bus thereafter, in all those days of to and from in all those beaten years: a very old child with black hair and black teeth and black earrings and all white everything else. The other children would not look upon the new child—Ricky would get used to seeing this—this was the first day of days in which Ricky would begin growing fatter—in which when he’d begun to take on size. Among the light inside the bus the other children’s heads formed luminary columns. On its path the bus would not make turns. Ricky watched the new child stand up in the aisle and open his mouth wide and the child reached down into his body. The new child came out with the pad of pictures and put the pictures in Ricky’s hands. The pictures were dry, pictures of women with the hair all over their bodies. White hair. The women getting ripped. Some of the pictures were taken so close up you could not see beyond a color. Some of the pictures were empty rooms. When Ricky touched the pictures with the women the women in the pictures sometimes would move, they would turn their heads just to the side a little, or their noses would gush blood, or in certain instances the women would look at Ricky and then they would close their eyes. Ricky had tried to give the pictures back to the new child but the matte of the pictures stayed stuck against his hands, though when he moved his hands to see the next picture in the stack they let him go. Ricky's neck and wrists gushed sweat and itched while the rest of him stayed dry. Ricky noticed he was wearing a new wristwatch and a necklace. The new child watched Ricky through a tiny wedge of ice. Ricky and the new child sat still not speaking in the null sound of the bus. At Ricky’s stop, the new child also got off. The new child walked behind Ricky down the street, his movements motioned behind Ricky’s by fractions of inches. The new child followed Ricky across Ricky’s mother’s lawn up, he followed Ricky up to the front stoop where the door stood left wide open. The child came straight into Ricky’s mother’s house. The air in the house the same consistency as the air on the bus had been but wetter. The new child followed Ricky straight down the hallway past Ricky’s mother’s door. The door to Ricky’s mother’s room would not come open. The new child listened at the crack while Ricky knocked. The new child followed Ricky straight into Ricky’s room and came to stand with Ricky over Ricky’s bed. The new child climbed into Ricky’s bed with Ricky and would not move or get up when Ricky asked him. Ricky had only had the breath to ask once. In the morning the child was gone.


Another year, all 31,556,926 seconds, asleep and waking, Ricky wept.

by Blake Butler