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saving grace

My neighbor wanted to be holy, but only knew religion through pamphlets. He used his bed for a table and slept on the floor to keep his dreams humble. One day he appeared on his porch in just his underwear, staring at the water tower, which made me unbelievably sad. I donıt know why.
       He had only one light bulb, which he moved from room to room. Finally, at the end of the year, I bought him a whole box. Walking with his gift, I found him in his bathrobe and a coat, run down by a car in front of his house. I pulled his hands from his pockets.
       In one hand, an unbroken egg. In the other, a gasping goldfish.


unsuccessful pets

It was the Age of Keeping Lively Skeletal Remains as Pets, which sounds more interesting than the usual pet-keeping options, but plays out about the same in the end. My family had a skeleton, too‹some kind of mischievous primate that may have been missing its tail or may never has had one. My dad wasnıt too hot on this skeleton shit at all; he kept kicking bones out of the carpet, saying, "Stupid fall-apart fucker." If it shambled out in Dadıs way, heıd kick it around or throw it in a cage with some ducks, thinking they might nibble it clean so it wouldnıt smell so bad. Dad called it "Olı Mobile Diarrhea." I laughed, but felt bad later when I saw the defeated skull gazing out from under a layer of relentless ducks. Wedging a stick between its ribs, I dragged it free and hauled it out into tall grass where it would have trouble following me back, but it always made it home, somehow no worse for wear. Thatıs when it began to resemble my little brother. Luckily for us all, it would soon be the Age of Shooting Airplanes Out of the Sky with Pistols, and I was already stocking up on bullets.


in september

We met in a place where retarded children were taught to be less retarded. I think we worked there, in some cartoonish capacity. On long night streets we observed strange pets, dug through leaves by lamplight to find lost things. We rarely sat on benches.
       She lived in a wooden shed on stilts that held the floor just above a shallow inland sea. The only way to reach her was a mile long rope bridge that sagged into the sea if more than one person crossed at once. Something like sharks understood the bridge. I walked her to the bridge many nights and watched her shoes kissing black water.
       She collected something small and glassy, and asked me over for collection viewing. The streets were chilled. From the bridgeıs end I watched her cross. Near the middle, she waved. A big dog ran to her from the other side, sagging the bridge. Something pulled them both under. Reflective coal. Night liquefied. I searched the water.
       I crossed to her house, which was unlocked. In the warmth, her parents waited, busts the color and weight of puffed corn. I saw no collection. Water groaned below the floor as I burned the parents. They collapsed in a silent rage of flame, billowing smoke that scorched the walls.


marcus and the bumpies

My friend Marcus took a winter job at a farm-like place in Northern Illinois, but it wasnıt a farm; it was a rehabilitation facility for amputee cattle. The budget was low, so the cows just had boards crudely attached where their legs had been, and some of them were trying to walk biped-fashion because theyıd been given only two boards (for the back legs) kind of nailed into the hips, but they were all pretty pathetic and tended to fall down everywhere. They would start from supported spots, leaning against walls or ramps, and then they would lean out, sometimes with a helpful nudge from a human coach, to take the first steps. Soon came the falls, the spasming in cold mud, the long bellows of pain and frustration. Marcus called them all "Bumpies" and seemed to hate them all. He made fun of their efforts and refused to help them when they fell down, but I think he actually cared a lot deep down, and what he really hated was the farm place and its constant confusions of hope and mere wishing.