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It’s Tuesday. Around 1 in the afternoon.
I’m staring out the window above the kitchen sink.
Henry, my middle kid, is in the final week of his 9th year. No school today again on account of the weather. It’s been that kind of winter. Right now he’s out there in the yard all by himself and I’m watching him and he has no idea about that.
The yard is a mess. Ice. Snow. Dog shit frozen in time. Patches of yellow dog piss here and there, like melted corn/ like pineapple water ice. The trampoline has seen better days too. She looks banged-up/ a flying saucer that came all this way from some other galaxy just to pop a gasket out back of our place. Her riders are gone now. They must have ventured off into the woods out across the creek long ago.
I picture them moving/gliding quietly across our property some 3am. No one around. Bickering at each other. You didn’t have her serviced before we left? God, you’re a fucking twat, you know that? Now what? NOW WHAT?!?!
They cross the cold stream under a starry sky. Little wild brown trout dart away from their space feet.
Deer drinking on the far side stare before they bolt.
You did this!, the alien in the lead hisses at the guy behind him. Never again! I’m never traveling with you again!
They are soldiers in the jungle swamp. Scared. Edgy. Twitchy trigger fingers long and sleek. They push through the current/ bumble across the slick mountain stream stones on the bottom/ emerge on the far side/ one-two-four-nine/ maybe a dozen in all/ shadows in the night over by the Smith’s house but the Smiths are asleep. The whole town is asleep.
They look around, fix their beautiful bug eyes on each other. We’re fine, one of them says, matter-of-factly, with the mindfulness. With the knowledge.
He nods his head at the one to his right. That one raises his palm out in front of him facing the little hill where I sometimes think I can hear the wild turkeys in the morning when I’m letting the dogs out, but I don’t know. Either way/ this guy/ this intergalactic breath-taker who could quite possibly change our world forever just by appearing on the Today Show for a three minute segment around 7:22am on a Wednesday morning, he holds his palm out and slides it, sharply, right to left.
ASHAH!!! they all say at once, as one. Like they’ve practiced this or this ain’t their first rodeo or whatever.
And then. The silent swoosh. What is that? A portal? A gateway? Is there a difference? I don’t know. I have no idea about this sort of thing. I’m asleep in my bed a couple hundred yards away.
Look at me.
Jesus H. Christ.
Look at me.
Laying there beside Arle. Laying there beside her body/ her lovely mind all wrapped up in her milky skin, her red hair slashing down off her scalp like the fountains of Rioja where I rest along my weary road.
Her right there, my sanctuary, in dreams.
And look at me beside her. The big con. Pouring out of my bootleg Cure hoodie on the most magical night, oblivious to the symphony of wonder being unleashed out across the yard/ out across the church parking lot. I sleep all like Pandemic-y. Fits of flab and strange rage howl across my prairie.
I fell asleep drooling on a Russian novel.
I wonder sometimes-and I know this is far out, but, like, I wonder sometimes if the novel reads me too. I mean, it’s obviously way way smarter than me.
I wish I could know how the Russian masters read me.
Look at this guy. Fucking tragic sad bastard. Sriracha breath! Ugh!
It’s been a long day; I read one paragraph and then I’m toast. Zonked. Asleep a while then not asleep, alas, and what the hell. Now I’m up in the dark. Then I’m staring at my phone. Screen cracked in sixty places. I crank the Brightness down so I don’t disturb Arle. But maybe I disturb her anyway. I try not to disturb her, but everything has its limits, you know?
I scroll around.
Button/thumb/fingertip/swipe/fingertip/fingertip/scroll/scroll/scroll/Like/Unlike/No, okay, Like/ they might have already seen the Like/ I have to leave the Like/fingertip/fingertip/scroll scroll scroll and yeah. All this is happening while this freshly-landed UFO is just laying outside there, engine pinging.
Meanwhile the portal door thing slides open like a patio door and there’s this humming green buzzy glow.
One by one they move. Orderly. No visible panic. The last one steps into the light and the door slides closed and then it’s gone. Darkness. Cold winter darkness/ the sound of the stream gurgling slightly downhill/ the deer standing there freaked out, silent and still.
Henry spots me as he moves up across the slippery ice piss, right before he busts through the door into the summer kitchen on his way back in the house.
He smiles without pausing, without missing a step and I stand there with a dirty coffee cup in my hands, sudden sunshine crashing down all over everything.
I want to tell my story, someday/somehow, but I’m not sure, you know? The whole thing has been a disaster at times and I’m messed up in the head now. Maybe we all are. Maybe just me. Maybe somewhere in between. But I have always wanted this, to tell my story/ not for any specific reason. So much of me has been just gut feeling. That ought to have ended up okay, but truth is: no.
Things have gone up and down.
‘You like to live in the city/ Yeah, I like to live in my head.’ - ‘Spotlight’, David Allan Coe
I am a fan of being inside the poem, except it ain’t my poem and it’s hard to bring other people along for that, along for when you are straight-up train-hopping across a long high plains that may or may not even exist. There is a high price to pay for that kind of thing. I guess I ought to know, is what I’m saying to you.
The wind at night bashing the window panes. Over-caffeinated, I have lay awake. Wine-drunk, I have lay awake. Clean blooded, I have lay awake in a bunch of beds down the years. Lay awake scared. Offended. Glad to be here. So in love. Turned on and mad for it. Sweat-crusted and grinning in my sleep from the overdose of true freedom that came with running young and wild and free. And I have lay awake older, maybe sadder at times. Misty-eyed at the end of Schitt’s Creek. At the end of Breaking Bad. At the end of the school Christmas pageants. At the kids walking down off the stage in ramshackle rows/ hobos limping down out of the police station line-up/ back into the world/ it’s wonderful!/ so I cry and hide it.
And then I feel fat.
And then I look at eBay, for books about the Battle of Gettysburg. Or for birthday gifts for Arle. Treats for myself. They say you should treat yourself every now and then to help drive away your blues.
How the hell is it that I have made it this far? To his tenth. 10. Henry will turn 10 a couple days from now, on the 23rd of February. In the middle of the long bleak winter. The long sick winter. The blue confused winter is where he claims his day.
I go back and forth so much and I’m sorry about it but I want to tell my story, man. Even if no one gives a damn. When did that ever stop anything?
I won’t be stopped.
I can’t be. That’s what I’m realizing. Even if no one is listening, the story must be told.
Something settles on the woods/ a dusting of snow/ unseen/ we’re all asleep. The story is going down and it always was. And it always will be.
I just wrote that. Is it any good? I don’t know. I hope it is, but hope don’t pay for lunch, you know?
The story is going down and it always was. And it always will be.
It always will be. Most of it without me. I think I might be fascinated with that. I think I might be in love with idea of floating out across the yard, over the snow, over the dog shits, through the creek, upon the rocks, by the deer, into the portal. Like Bears in the Night. You know that one.. Bears in the Night? Oh man. That was my favorite book when I was a kid.
Jesus. Maybe that’s what’s going on here.
Maybe I’m Bears in the Night-ing out.
Oh my god.
I hope so.
(Take a breath here. Then take another one. Okay. Now walk me out of here.)
Wow. Alright. Hey, buddy.
I’m talking directly to you here, my man. Is that weird? Haha. I know. I know it is. I’m sorry. But I hope you read these words someday when I am gone and you understand everything beyond what I was ever able to say with the basic pebbles and twigs of any language out there.
Thing is: I have castles built for you, buddy. All across the land, I’ve got ‘em. You just have to close your eyes. You’ll know when. Close your eyes some soft summer evening a long way from now, a long time from now, and the maps will cross your path and it’ll all make sense.
I have so many castles for you that I have built since even before you were born. I built them with my bare hands, I swear. I bled/I threw up. I sweated so long and hard trying to figure out how to raise them up but I did. I did it, man. I sorted it all out.
I know. Castles: can you believe it? Hahaha. I know, right? But I made ‘em for the people I loved the most. I wanted to. Because of the story we made together. Is that lame? Sappy? Oh jeez. I know, I know, but you mean so much to me. What could I do? It was all I had. Now they’re hard to find. You’ll find them though. I know you will.
But look, forget all that tonight. We have a long way to go, so it doesn’t matter just now anyway. The castles are for down the road. That’s what they were built for.
Anyway. Blah blah blah. I’m sorry! Look, just have some Dr. Pepper. You want some cake? Arle made it for you. I’m going to maybe have some wine/I don’t know/ I want to cheers you. I want to hold you in my eyes tonight. Sing to you. People know what I’m talking about. The castles can wait. And they will.
Man, all of this/ I just wanted you to know how much I love you. And to say Happy Birthday to you in my never-ending dumbass way, I guess.
Oh and I hope you dig your gift.
It’s a spaceship that landed in our yard long ago. It came from so far away. Fully occupied, too! But in all honesty I don’t know where the aliens got off to, buddy.
They heard you were turning 10, I guess.
It was all too much for them.
I get that.
I mean, how is any of this possible?
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