My earliest memory of Carrot Man is from my Third birthday. I’d gotten this sailor suit from my Grandmother, and it had a white ceramic whistle on a leather thong. I kept blowing and blowing that whistle. Suddenly someone snatched it out of my hand. I had to look way up, because the person was really tall. It was carrot Man. He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me. Then he walked away. I kept thinking “If I ever get a whistle like that again, I’ll wear it around my neck so people can’t take it.”
The summer after Second Grade, Carrot Man lived with us. He was supposed to be finishing this back porch my Dad had started building at some point, but I don’t think he did much on it. He taught me how to cook pork chops in the oven. He used to smoke these hand rolled cigarettes that looking back I now realize were ‘joints’. He’d smoke them even if my parents were there. He told me I could try it. He held it out to me. A‘joint’. My parents were right there. They didn’t say anything.
Carrot Man was coming for Passover. I was really excited. I couldn’t wait for him to get there. He was pretty late. We had to wait for him and my Dad got angry. Finally he came. It was raining out and his cape was all wet, but he wouldn’t take it off. It was dripping on the kitchen floor. I really wanted to show him this picture I had drawn. I was really proud of it. It was of ‘Carotene, the Kid Carrot’. I made him up. I drew him all the time at school. I had to wait through the whole Seder and all I could think about was showing Carrot Man my drawing. I didn’t even care about the plagues. After dinner I showed it to him. He was holding it and looking down at it and it was trembling a little in his hand. He was looking at it like something was on it, like a bug or a tiny clump of shit. “Did you draw this?” he asked, “Is this supposed to be you?”
It’s the middle of the night. Carrot Man is flat on the Kitchen table. My Dad is operating on him. He has three bullets in him. He’s biting on a belt. My belt. My Dad yelled I better go and get it so I did. Carrot Man is trembling all over, just a little, like he’s cold. His tiny little arms are shaking. His shirt is off, but he’s still got his mask on. My Dad didn’t take it off, out of respect. Mom boiled dad’s instruments on the stove in the pot we make spaghetti in. Dad’s cutting into Carrot Man where one of the bullet holes is. His inside isn’t much different than his outside. It’s just a little darker orange. His insides bead up where Dad cuts. Like he’s sweating inside. Like on a glass with a cold coke in it. “There it is,” says Dad, “There it is.” He’s holding up one of the bullets with one of his instruments. It’s about the size of a pencil eraser. He drops it in one of our soup bowls and it makes this little ‘clink’.
One time I came home from school and I went into the TV room and Mom and Carrot Man were already in there. I don’t think they saw me right away. They were sitting in the two chairs near the fireplace. My Mom was looking at the floor. Carrot Man was looking at her. They looked serious. Then Carrot Man sees me and he goes “Hey! Hey, Sport!”
I was in a bookstore. I was going up to the counter and I almost passed him and I stop and go back and it’s Carrot Man. I’m like, “Carrot Man?” He looks shorter. His skin isn’t so good. We talk for a while. I ask him for his e-mail but neither one of us has anything to write with or on. He looks at the book I’m going to buy and says “Is that what you’re reading?” like he doesn’t approve of my taste in authors. He tells me to say hi to my Dad the next time I talk to him. I keep thinking he’ll say we should get together for lunch or something but then it’s my turn at the counter and he just says “Listen, I’ll see ya,” and I’m fishing around in my wallet for my debit card and when I look up he’s gone.
I was visiting my Mom and I asked her if she ever heard from Carrot Man. She said “I didn’t hear from him for years. Then one night I’m about to go to bed, the phone rings, it’s him. And he’s just making small talk, hey, how are you, that kind of thing, like we talked last week. He goes on for a while about this and that. He’s taking longer and longer pauses. There’s these big long silences where he doesn’t say anything and I don’t say anything. I keep thinking, here’s where it comes, he’s going to ask me for money or a place to stay for a while or something. But after a while he just says, hey, good talking to ya and hangs up. I don’t know. I don’t know. I guess I never got that guy.”