We Deserve Applause for Normal Things

One of Many Possible Configurations

Born, 1968. Misunderstood everything, ‘72 to ‘86. Started pulling it together after that. Eventually I became the first in my family to lie in a field of clover and speak earnestly to cows. Then I fell in love and got married. When she asks if it’s cold outside, my wife doesn’t want to know the temperature; she’s asking how she’ll feel when she leaves the house. I try to earn her trust by thinking about her bare arms, her face. Now we’re on the couch watching episodes of “Cheers” out of order. Coach dies and then comes back. Then he’s gone again. I told my therapist I’m always bracing myself and she said she has a conflict next Saturday morning. We stare at our calendars. The next holiday is Flag Day. The next birthday is today but not for anyone I know. My next meeting is with the Assistant Director of Tomorrow. He has a message for me from the Director of Tomorrow. Before I can read it they both resign so I leave work a little early. Our daughter asks if the money in my pocket belongs to George Washington. Not anymore, I say. Years later we find the dollar tucked inside a small velvet bag which is inside a red purse which is inside a glittery backpack. Where does it end, I wonder? I mean our ability to shrink some things and enlarge other things. The gods never saw that coming. They thought we’d eat, and have sex, and sleep, then pass the time staring out at large bodies of water. I guess the answer is it never ends. I mean how much we love the ocean, always clapping when whales do something normal like breach the tension and take a breath.

Rules for When the Coin Toss Ends in a Tie

All players must immediately call their wives and beg forgiveness. The top scorers have to donate their statistics to the less fortunate. Team captains kiss each other on the cheek and say one thing they admire about the other. It can’t be about their physical strength or muscle tone. Something real. Fathers have to imagine who they’d be if they had better fathers. All the old-time greats are allowed to climb out of their graves. They get to drink a beer and eat a hot dog. Then they have to go back. Every fan gets a time-out to take home. Some use it when the world is too much, others when the world is exactly right. The roar of the crowd is bottled and saved for later, a day when we might really need it.

The Strange Lights in the Sky Are Not For Us

I can’t sleep so I watch the news. First they animate the weather. They play it forward, then reverse it, then play it forward again. Next, they interview an Air Force Brigadier General who waves away evidence of UFOs. We’re all alone here so get used to it, he says. But when pressed he gives a little wink. Then he flies away. I write a poem about what I’ve seen. I put the poem under the bed so it can be alone. The weather outside looks fine one minute and the next it’s made up its mind to darken our day. That’s normal, I say to myself. Tomorrow it will darken the day of those who live to the east of us. I call someone who lives to the east of us and tell them about the UFOs. The weather slips my mind. On the walls of the Air Force recruitment office are posters of jets. In the jets are people who have broken free from gravity so they can be alone. I wonder how the poem is doing. I look under the bed. The poem is gone. Then I find it under something else. I change the title. I call it The Brigadier General’s Big Adventure. I turn off the TV and get into bed. The poem is asleep. I can hear its steady breathing. My wife stirs a little so I tell her everything. The weather will be fine tomorrow, she whispers. Yes, I say, and the strange lights in the sky are not for us.

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