By Mike Andrelczyk
The phone rang. It was Donnie. He thanked me for dropping off the mail and wanted to know if I would bring him four Burger King cheeseburgers, two fries and two Dr. Peppers and said he’d pay me back.
I agreed mostly because he had one leg and lived with a parrot named Mr. Whistler and his wife was dead and he just sat in a chair and watched the weather channel all day.
I went into my room, got some money, packed my one-hitter and picked up my keys.
Grandma was still napping in front of the tv. BET was airing one of those daytime courtroom shows. I heard the tv judge say “guilty” as I walked out the door.
I took the long way to Burger King through the rich development and smoked and noticed how pretty much every cloud looked like a submarine. There were five big clouds and they all looked like submarines. Slowly gathering forces and moving to attack. I swerved to miss an SUV parked in the street, made a right and went down a street that took me out of the neighborhood.
The weed made me hungry. Soon I was staring at a menu with pictures of hamburgers, onion rings and chicken tenders and telling someone I couldn’t see how many cheeseburgers, fries and sodas I wanted to buy. I bought some cheeseburgers for myself and one for Grandma too.
I paid for the food and took a handful of Donnie’s fries and ate them. They were so salty that I needed a sip of one of Donnie’s Dr. Peppers. I merged into the traffic.
I passed the outlet mall and I saw a woman walking down the shoulder of the highway holding a leash with an iguana on the end and pink umbrella above her head. It wasn’t raining. The iguana on a leash made me feel anxious and suddenly remembered that Sebald died of a heart attack while driving.
I reached into the Burger King bag and unwrapped a cheeseburger and ate it in four bites.
The weather channel was blasting. The screen displayed a satellite image of a hurricane swirling over the Bahamas. For a man that never left the house, Donnie was obsessed with the weather. It made sense I supposed. His parrot Mr. Whistler squawked and scrabbled around his cage when I walked in. Donnie smiled seeing the Burger King bag.
“Delivery man!” he said. He pointed to a $5 bill on the table. It didn’t cover the cost of his food but I picked it up without saying anything.
“She’s good. Napping. Hi Mr. Whistler!” I said approaching the cage.
The parrot took three quick side-hops along his perch and pressed himself against the cage bars. I stuck my finger near his beak and he sort of bit it a little.
“Could you microwave those burgers for me? I do them for one-minute. But pause it at thirty seconds and open the door to let the hot air out. Can I have that soda?”
I handed him the Dr. Pepper and went into the kitchen.
“Could you wash my leg before you go?”
Every once in a while Donnie would ask me to clean his leg. He’d remove his prosthetic leg and then I’d take some disinfectant spray and wipe it down with a paper towel. Sometimes I had to help him out of his chair and into the bathroom if he was struggling to get up.
I put a burger in the microwave and went over the kitchen table where he had a basket of various medicines. I looked through the pill bottles like I was perusing a magazine rack. There were a lot. I found the Percocet and carried the bottle over to the microwave. I waited for the microwave to beep then twisted the cap. I put another burger in and spilled about ten pills into a napkin when the microwave beeped again. I folded the napkin and put it in my pocket and placed the burgers on a paper plate along with some fries and served them to Donnie. He ate.
Then Donnie removed his leg. I cleaned off the prosthetic while we watched the weather channel. A radar image tracked the hurricane as it moved closer to the tip of Florida. I thought about what it must be like to lose a limb. To not be whole. To know a part of you is gone forever and to accept there would be things in life you couldn’t do anymore. It seemed like some sort of early death. Or another life. I thought about losses and gains. The front side of a coin is called the obverse. I didn’t think I’d deal with losing a limb very well. I wasn’t really a strong person. Some people seemed to adjust pretty well though. Acceptance was the key I supposed.
I finished with the prosthetic leg and helped Donnie put it back on.
“All set?” I asked.
That was it. Donnie was the one-legged burger king reigning from his throne. Watching the storms of the world destroy everything.
I went outside. It was a beautiful day. A submarine was cruising through the sky. I crossed the street and went inside.
Mike Andrelczyk is the author of four collections of poetry including “!!!” coming out on Ghost City Press in May. He lives in Pennsylvania. On Twitter @MikeAndrelczyk and Instagram mike_andrelczyk.