Friday, May 26, 2006

The Baby - Reprinted From The Berkley Fiction Review

My wife became pregnant very suddenly. One night she suggested I put some pickles on her Hagen-Dazs. The next morning she looked ready to pop. What’s going on here, she asked upon noticing the basketball-sized lump that had taken up residence in her belly. Did you do this?


The doctor seemed unconvinced that the entire situation had sprung up overnight, and he looked at me more strangely each time I repeated the story. I asked if it might be a reaction to the pickles, or the ice cream, or the combination of both. He remained skeptical.

It’s not pickle related, he said.

But I made a mental note to throw them out, along with the ice cream, just to be safe. The doctor checked and double checked his tests and scans and declared that we were no longer eligible to receive the traditional nine months preparation time. In fact, he said my wife could give birth at any minute.

Well, she said forcing a smile, that really doesn’t give us much time does it?

We did our best not to appear blindsided as we rushed out and began to collect all the tools required for proper child rearing. While we were purchasing the crib, diapers, and high chair, my wife kept pulling up her shirt, studying her belly in disbelief, mourning the loss of the perfect abs she’d been religiously honing for an hour each morning before going to work.

While we collected the mobiles, music boxes, and pacifiers, my wife consulted the detailed calendar she used to insure a smooth and even flow to our lives. Normally she could say with certainty which cases I’d handle for a given week, or where we would dine on a Wednesday evening six months hence, but it was clear the baby was going to put her plans in disarray.
I’ll have to throw this whole thing out, she said, holding the little calendar like it a beloved pet someone had just run over.

Yet by the time we gathered the rattles, rocking chair, and stroller, we’d managed a rally, convincing ourselves that certainly we could triumph over something so small and round. We completed the shopping with eight coordinated outfits to allow the baby to ease comfortably into our normal wash cycle and a new calendar for my wife in which she not only rewrote our itinerary to accommodate our unexpected guest, but made arrangements for its first birthday party, still a year away.

We took everything home and unwrapped it, then folded some items and unfolded others, set some things out and put others away, and by late that night we looked at each other and smiled.

Not bad, I said.

For short notice, it’s not bad at all, she agreed with a little pat on her roundball belly.

We packed a little suitcase and set it by the door so we’d be ready when the moment came.

And then we waited.


A week later we were curious.

Any minute, the doctor assured us.

After a month, we were nervous.

It could be any second, he said.

Nine months later, we were confused.

This, he said finally, is a head scratcher.

Again I brought up the mysterious pickles and again I was roundly dismissed. Everything looked proper he said. Everything was ready. In fact everything had looked proper and ready for nine months.

So what’s the problem, I asked.

The baby… just doesn’t seem to want to come out.

My wife and I looked at one another.

Well, can’t we go get him, she asked.

We could, the doctor explained, but because of the particulars of my wife’s medical condition, any attempt to remove the baby could pose a serious threat to her health.

It should only be a last resort, he cautioned.

So what do we do?

Well, as long as the situation remains stable, I guess we wait.

So we kept the little suitcase by the door where it slowly collected dust and the items trapped inside began to go out of style.


On the one-year anniversary of the pregnancy my wife had still not given birth but the party had been planned for so long that we agreed canceling it might give the impression that something was wrong. So we pressed on. My wife bought a gorgeous new dress and cut a hole in the center to expose the guest of honor and we strapped a party hat around her sideways so that it stuck out from her belly where we approximated the baby’s head to be.

Our parents came (anxious would be grandparents) and co-workers and friends and neighbors and acquaintances and business contacts and clients and prospective clients. They came wearing perfection, driving cars we desired, saying things we wished we’d imagined. They patted my wife’s stomach and ate our food and inspected our home for signs of bad taste or disorder. Occasionally someone mentioned that the child was lovely, or incredibly well behaved.
Those who had babies of their own who had already emerged from the womb and were getting on with the business of utilizing all the tools their parents had purchased in order to raise them properly, began to compare notes. Some of the babies exhibited incredible musical ability, pounding out Beethoven on plastic xylophones. Others were reading various American and European classics. One of the babies could perform differential equations by merely shuffling brightly colored blocks around the floor. Another had begun fingerpaintings of such quality that her renderings had outgrown the family refrigerator and required a downtown gallery show of their own. The family was putting the proceeds away to fund her education at a prestigious pre-kindergarten art academy where it was virtually assured the baby would be accepted.
Amid all this startling news, my wife eventually laid flat upon the kitchen table and we inserted a single candle into her belly button. We lit it and everyone sang, and the musically gifted babies played along. By the time she blew out the candle protruding from her belly and swallowed the first piece of cake on behalf of our reluctant offspring, we were both painfully aware that we were allowing our child to fall behind. And after we’d smiled long enough to see our friends and their talented tots out the door, we looked at each other and felt ashamed.


My wife took her maternity leave immediately and we began the process of helping our poor remedial child catch up to its peers. I read aloud from the encyclopedia on odd number evenings and from the dictionary on even ones (the dictionary was slightly drier and tolerable only in smaller doses). We enrolled the child in a pre-pre kindergarten as well as music, dance, and swimming for babies. Our child’s ability to perform many of the exercises was limited by its reluctance to leave my wife’s womb, but we felt that if nothing else the experience of getting out of the house and being around its peers could only be good for the baby.

This thinking was largely backed up by many of the self-help volumes we purchased in order to shape ourselves into better parents. We discovered what seemed a very promising section in the bookstore dedicated to dealing with your inner child, and though the books did not, as we had hoped, pertain to our exact situation, we felt on the whole they were helpful.

We were thankful to see that though many of the experts and authors themselves had run into troubles with divorce, or adultery, or estrangement from their children, or lacked children altogether, it didn’t stop them from providing us with volume after volume of much needed advice. My wife and I each started to see experts independently as well as together for group counseling sessions once a week.

But because we’d allowed ourselves to fall behind and were overwhelmed with the tasks of catching up, and because we were in need of so much counseling and advice, and because the baby was so limited in the things it could do independently, my wife and I began to get tired.
After she’d run out of maternity leave my wife was forced to resign in order to keep up with the baby’s lessons and schooling. She’d always strived to demonstrate that gender had nothing to do with her abilities. So to leave her career because of a never-ending pregnancy was intensely disheartening. She began to walk with a pronounced slump and if I asked after her she responded that everything was great, that this was a miracle. Though I never requested it, she started to make me lunches for work. Usually the sandwiches were smashed and dry, and occasionally the bag bore the imprint of one of her shoes. I did not complain.

Her new job, taking the baby to vital classes and events, brought her little satisfaction. Being highly educated, she found many of the subjects simplistic and boring, but she was willing to endure for the good of the baby. Though she was eventually asked not to answer any more questions on the baby’s behalf (the teachers felt that my wife’s mastery of the abc’s was not necessarily representative of our child’s) she did enjoy having a school-sanctioned nap built into her daily routine. She told one of the teachers she’d been to Yale. The teacher let her be water fountain monitor for a week.

With my wife no longer working, I was forced to take extra cases in order to defray the costs of providing the right tools and environment in which to raise our shy, but otherwise healthy progeny. Good cases were fought over like meat, and quickly disappeared. Those of us in need, who had troubles, were forced to take the dregs. I had little interest in working till midnight on zoning cases or permit abuse, but I too understood that sacrifices had to be made.

For the most part we managed to follow every rule and heed every suggestion, even the ones that seemed contradictory. We listened to every expert and authority and generally gave ourselves credit for being the best parents we could be with the circumstances as they were.
But despite all the effort, despite all the advice, the baby did not come, and though the books and the experts would never have tolerated it, we secretly began to blame one another. The staggering amount of work that went into keeping the baby healthy and competitive was like an all consuming furnace, taking every scrap of energy we could give and then demanding more. When we ran out of fuel, we powered ourselves with anger. We burned inside over long unanswered questions about how exactly we’d come to be in this mess, boiled at the way our plans had been rewritten, and seethed at the idea that as we drove ourselves relentlessly ahead we might still be falling behind. The source of our power was invisible, because to show it would be to admit that something was wrong, that we’d encountered something that was somehow smaller and yet larger than us at the same time. Instead, we kept it to ourselves. For two years, eleven months, and six days of our child’s gestation we quietly used that anger to wake, work, and provide for ourselves. It was this invisible anger that kept in the race, our silent rage that kept us presentable. Then, one fateful Thursday, our couple’s therapist canceled our session to deal with his own divorce, and the dams that had held back our contempt began to crumble.

We’d agreed long ago never to argue in front of the baby, (all the books were against it) and since the baby was always present, our long festering marital meltdown was necessarily cordial. We let our words drip like honey and hoped they would land like punches.

My wife explained how she’d come to believe that I was at fault for our difficult situation. I was always rushing, always in such a hurry. She cited the way I often failed to wait for her in parking lots, walking five to ten steps ahead in my haste to get to the movie or the grocery store or the mall. The way I darted through traffic, and pushed through crowds, and generally acted like we were always headed to or from a fire. She remembered how I claimed not to be able to help it, how I said the need to rush was in my blood. Not only was it in my blood, she said, but it extended all the way to my genes. My sperm, according to her, were as pushy as me, and had gone in and rushed things just as one would expect my sperm to do. The baby had been spooked by all the pressure and hurrying, and was now simply afraid to appear. She concluded her case with an angry smile and stroked my hair softly as she repeated, this is all your fault, dear.

But I had my own theory, which removed all blame from my shoulders, and placed it back on my wife’s where, I said while offering her a massage, it truly belonged. I reminded her that she was an insatiable perfectionist, and asked her to recall our wedding day when she burst into tears over the fact that the bathroom floors had been paved with red rose petals instead of pink and again upon discovering that the cake cutter and the cake dispenser had gotten confused and switched jobs. That these errors were invisible to everyone else was immaterial. Because the day did not match her abstract vision of perfection, it was considered a disaster. I then reminded her of her precious calendar on which she’d organized to the day all of the major events of the next decade, the calendar she’d spoken about incessantly, the very calendar she’d had to toss out when we learned of the baby. According to her original vision a baby was not to be conceived until Thursday, March 6th, four years from now, and not delivered until Tuesday, November 8th of that same year. And though she claimed to have thrown her old calendar away I’d seen her sobbing and clutching it on numerous occasions. And so, my theory went, because the baby had chosen its own days rather than those pre-ordained by my wife, it seemed clear, though she’d never dare say it, she viewed the whole situation as a disaster. This was why our baby had not arrived. Either out of some incredible will to please its impossible mother, or through her own shocking determination to stick to her original visions of perfection. But certainly, I concluded with a kiss on her cheek, not through any fault of my own.

We stared at each other in the yellow incandescence of our bedroom, both of us having finally glimpsed the fury that propelled our endless motion. But a glimpse was all we could betray, because as much as we wanted to be rid of it, we feared that without it we could not go on. Without it we would quit, would give in, would lose. So we swallowed what we hadn’t shared and decided we should hug, for the baby’s sake. With concrete grins we embraced and each of us tried to squeeze all our anger into the other until we turned out the light and cuddled together in a big ball of hate.

The Baby - Part 2 - Reprinted From The Berkley Fiction Review

The Achilles’ heel of my theory was that it was testable. If the November 8th my wife had selected were to come and go and the baby had not been released by my wife, or chosen to appear on its own, then my whole argument would be discredited and blame for the situation would be laid at the feet of my overzealous and pushy sperm. I spent many a night in the office reflecting on this very weakness in my attack. In the beginning this was merely another source of my anger. Anger at myself for offering a proper and experimentally fallible theory, and anger at my wife for doing just the opposite. But as the days outgrew their hours and blossomed into weeks and the weeks passed all their days and graduated into months, my anger turned to fear. Fear that in fact I might be to blame. Fear that I alone might end up with the knowledge that something I’d done, something latent and internal, might indeed be the reason for the pain and torment that we, including the silent but loveable baby, had all endured. This thought was too awful to consider, so instead I assured myself that I would be vindicated. That the baby would arrive and would already know the multiplication tables, the backstroke, and the meaning of quiescent without ever missing a beat. I would follow the rules. I would heed the advice. The baby would be fine. My wife would be to blame.


Thus, we pressed on, trying to provide every advantage to our long overdue addition, while subsisting on our fury and the advice of people who’d failed in other situations, but knew best how we should handle ours. I kept up the work so my wife could keep up the classes. We put the baby in cub scouts where it attained the rank of Weebelo, and my wife spent at least three days a week at the park making sure the baby got its exercise and the opportunity to bond with its classmates. And on occasion, when our efforts to keep up and blend in appeared to find success it seemed that things between us might soften, that my wife and I might reach an understanding, find some other way to fuel our persistence. But these moments were rare. It was disappointment that was in abundance.

The play dates we arranged never seemed to work out. The other kids didn’t like playing with the baby and the other mothers didn’t like playing with my wife. Further, the burden of carrying a baby around for several years had not only robbed my wife of the graceful figure she’s worked to mold but had begun to severely tax her back. The doctors outfitted her with an outrageously comical specialized walker, which looked strangely like a rolling TV tray on which she could rest her belly as she moved. When she passed by people indeed stopped and stared, but for all the wrong reasons.

I felt for her, but could never find the words to say so. To preserve our veneer of marital and parental bliss we’d learned to smile when we wanted to scream, to profess love with our mouths and hate with our eyes. We became trapped in our own happy lie, and neither of us had the courage to let the other out.


As the birthdays ticked by we kept up our ritual, inviting all our friends and family over to celebrate, begging them to pretend our situation was normal, that our efforts to keep up had at a minimum allowed us to stay in the race. But each year as the number of candles in my wife’s belly button grew, our wish as she extinguished them became that much more intense. Please, we prayed as the fire was transformed to wispy trails of smoke, please let this end.


Years passed this way, the two of us doting on one another with unsatisfied rage as we broke our backs to keep our baby from falling behind until finally we found ourselves perched on the edge of that special Tuesday, November 8th, the one hand- picked by my wife all those years ago as the date she would deliver her first born. I felt an odd confidence that somehow we were only hours away from meeting the child who hadn’t left our sides in all these years. I dusted the little suitcase by the door and prepared myself for the impending drive to the hospital.
Though she’d always disagreed with my theory, my wife seemed strangely full of hope. If indeed she’d been responsible, it was clear she was ready for it to be over. If the baby didn’t come, it wouldn’t be for spite on her part.

Neither of us could sleep. We laid together in the bed and briefly dipped our toes in dreams that the baby had come, only then to lie awake in the knowledge it had not.

Day refused to break, sending only a lesser form of darkness in its place, a dull grayness that seemed poised to flatten us from above. The hope that had floated our spirits only hours before drained from the house with every passing hour. We waited in silence, until even the day got bored and went around to the other side of the world. Together we stared at the clock until midnight came, and with it the assurance that if the baby was coming, it would not be this day. This day that my wife had selected long ago would be like all the others she had not. She was absolved of all wrongdoing.

My fears were confirmed. Whatever had happened, it was surely my fault. With that realization all my contempt for my wife disappeared like that 8th of November, just faded into the past and became nothing more than history.

It’s my fault, I said. You were right all along. My sperm must have rushed. I scared the baby. I told her she was a wonderful wife, and a wonderful mother, and I assured her that there was nothing wrong with wanting things to be perfect.

It’s not you, she said. It was never you. It just is what it is.

For the first time in years we held each other close and refused to share our bed with thoughts of doing one another harm.


After that we burned the books, deciding that we could certainly do no worse on our own. We withdrew the child from classes and dropped any pretense of being a normal family with a normal child and embraced the idea of being a special family with an extremely special child. My wife went back to exercising, concentrating not on her abs but her back, building her muscles to support the baby without the aid of the rolling TV tray. I took some time off from work and we took the baby to see the sights. We did Disney World and the Grand Canyon, a little camping, a little hiking, and stopped the car every time the baby kicked, and gave the child a few moments to examine whatever happened to surround us, wherever we happened to be.
And pretty soon we just forgot to be waiting and moved onto enjoying our situation the way it seemed destined to stay. Our friends with incredible things and incredible children plowed ahead, but we never remembered to feel left behind. To others we were two people and a medical curiosity. To us, we were just a family, and that was enough.


After a decade of pregnancy we held a quiet tenth birthday celebration at home, just the three of us. We each put five candles in our bellies and from our backs we blew them out wishing not for the baby’s immediate delivery, but for its permanent well-being. We retired to bed and kissed our dodgeball shaped loved one good night, and promised that we looked forward to seeing one another in the morning.

At 2:58 the phone erupted from my nightstand. I grabbed it after a single ring and looked at my wife, who edged close to consciousness before slipping back into the comfort of her dreams.

Hello, I whispered.

Hello, came a voice from the other side.

Who is this, I asked.

It’s me. The baby.

I gasped for air, as if more oxygen were the key to understanding this information.

Where are you?

Where do you think I am?

I looked over at my wife’s inflated midsection and watched as it rose as fell with her easy breaths.

You can make calls from in there?



It’s complicated.

I see.

Well, look, I was just calling to say that I’ve decided something. You’re great people, both of you, wonderful parents, but I’m not coming out. I was really thinking about it, planning on it actually, and I figured tonight, after ten years and all, tonight would be as good as any. But I just can’t do it. It’s just not for me.

Did you feel I rushed you? I never meant to rush you.

Rushed me, are you crazy? I’ve felt quite welcome to take my time.

I hope you don’t think you mother didn’t want-

No, no, it’s nothing like that. I told you, you’re wonderful people, and I’ve been lucky to have you.

So, is there any particular reason you never wanted to come out?

It’s really comfortable in here. The best. The funny thing is that no one really has to leave. It’s sort of an unwritten rule that you get the nine months and then you’re supposed to hit the road, but most kids do it and then immediately regret it. As soon as they realize what they’ve done, that there’s no turning back, well, you’ve been there, they just start screaming and crying.

Then why does anybody leave?

Monkey see, monkey do, man.

So why did you stay?

Don’t know. Guess I’m a little bit of a maverick.

I like that, I said. I’m proud of you for that.

Yeah, but it’s bad for mom’s back, no matter what she says. You guys need a break. It’s time. So I’m going to be leaving.

Where are you going?

Back where I came from.

You can do that?



It’s complicated. But you guys are going to be fine, don’t you worry, I’m sure of it.

How do you know?

Well, it’s not like I have a crystal ball or anything. A telephone yes, crystal ball no. But I can tell. Please let mom know I love her and thank her for the ride. I’m going to miss you guys.
We’ll miss you. Very much. Will we ever see you again?

Of course.

When? Where?

It’s complicated.

There was a pause and then, I love you dad. Good-bye.


The line went dead and I held the phone to my ear and listened to the drone of the dial tone until the operator took it away. I dropped the phone in the cradle, and I went to bed.


When we woke the next morning my wife was skinny as a rail and the mere idea of anything with pickles made her ill. I told her about the phone call and she seemed saddened, but somehow able to understand.

For a while we weren’t sure what to do. We decided that what was required was a send off of some sort, something better than a late night phone call to say goodbye.

A funeral seemed too sad, so we decided on a graduation, though we didn’t specify from what. We invited all our friends and the baby’s now pre-teen contemporaries. My wife taped a mortarboard to her abdomen and we opened the thoughtful gifts of Cross pens and personalized stationary that our visitors had brought. Everyone was careful not to mention that the guest of honor was absent, that the graduate, had in fact, already moved on. They just smiled politely, and we smiled back.

Six months later, among the thank yous and other mailed pleasantries from all our invited guests, we found a folded note with no postage. On the front was a crude drawing of a kite blowing in the wind and inside, the paper revealed itself to be a piece of graduation stationary. There was no signature, no letter, no explanation at all. Just two words, Thank You, that appeared to be written with a fountain tipped Cross Pen.


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Monday, May 22, 2006

When Senators Get Into Rap Battles: Immigration Edition

Sen. Brownback:
Need a wall, build it tall, to keep the criminals out ya'll
Terror and drugs, gangsters and thugs
Stealing jobs from our slobs who can't find nothin to do
Takin up them services and sendin the bill to you

Ted Kennedy:
Land of the free, purple mountain majesty, fences and fences far as the eye can see
What happened to opportunity, chance to feed yo family?
Jobs from our slobs? More like snobs
They just say no way to hard work and low pay

Sen. Brownback:
No one even speaks English anymore
Driving cars so damn low they almost scraping the floor
They want to come over so bad, tell them it's fine
Learn to speak the language and then get in line

Ted Kennedy:
You want to make criminals out of people who work
Lets raid all the offices and throw out those jerks
Hey you, you been here since the dawn of time?
Or did your people just come before coming was a crime?

Sen. Brownback:
Let me sum up by puttin it this way
This country and yo children in serious danger today
Got Swiss cheese borders like we don't even try
We gonna let them bring down more buildings while learning to fly?

Ted Kennedy:
This has nothing to do with terror whatever they say
This about people afraid to change wanting everything to stay
Just like it is with them at the head of the class
Everybody else they want out on their ass

Monday, May 08, 2006

Questions I Did Not Think To Ask When We Started Our Relationship That Probably Would Have Saved Us Both A Lot Of Time

Are you or have you ever been diagnosed as certifiably insane?

When you're upset, do you tend to set things on fire and throw them at the person you're angry with?

When you have more than two glasses of wine in a restaurant, do you tend to sob uncontrollably and pull off your clothes while calling out the name 'Gary'?

Are you for or against sleeping with your significant other's coworkers?

What's your policy on taking unidentified medications to 'clear your head' before visiting your significant other's parent's for Christmas? If you took such medications and attempted to 'dance' with the Christmas tree because it was 'just so fucking classic' and then ended up in some sort of wrestling match with the tree, do you think you would be likely to start a small fire in the kitchen later while everyone else was cleaning up?

How many times have you driven a vehicle into a stationary object?

If you were pretending to be a graduate student, approximately how many years do you think you would perpetuate that, including paying imaginary tuition and going to fake study sessions that lasted until four in the morning and resulted in you being passed out on the front lawn?

Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being very happy with your appearance, and 10 being so unhappy you might end up in the hospital after secretly consuming nothing but diet coke for ten days.

Are you the sort of person who can look so beautiful and fragile, so utterly helpless and needy, that when you break down and apologize for even the most egregious of transgressions, that it's virtually impossible not to want to help you, to fix you, to complete you, to fall in love with you over and over and over again for approximately three and a half years? Do your kisses taste like lemonade? Do you have a special way of whispering 'I'm sorry' in someone's ear that makes their brain melt and the hairs on their neck stand up? Do you use sex in places like laundromats and elevators to intentionally cause amnesia in your partners? Do you look a certain way when you wake up in the morning wearing a significant other's shirt that makes it virtually impossible for them to leave even when they've sworn the night before amid a hail of flaming debris that this is it?

Would you call yourself a fan of country music?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Channel Surfing

It's 2:30 in the morning when I answer the phone to hear my father screaming at his television. His complaints are interrupted by painful tones that cause me to hold the speaker away from my ear as his fingers mash the buttons on his phone.

What the hell is wrong with BEEEEEP. Come on BOOOOOP of crap!

Lying here I can picture the scene in the darkness above me. My father, sitting in his recliner, aiming his cordless phone at the television, hopelessly pressing buttons, and wondering why the channel won't change.

Son of a BEEEEP. I ought to BLOOOP.

These are the conversations that have finally taught me what I need to know about my father's condition. When he knows I'm listening he insists he's fine. It's only when he tries to change the channel with his speed dial that the truth comes out.

Dad, I scream into the dark, though my wife has asked me not to. I'm sure she's right. I have yet to get his attention this way, and God only knows what would happen if he actually heard his remote control calling him Dad, but I have trouble hanging up the way she wants me to, the way I know I should. In the blackness I can picture that scene too, the moment after the operator has warned him to hang up and then sent him that endlessly repeating tone until he looks at his hand and realizes that his mind has betrayed him again, that he's suddenly lost in the house he's known for forty-seven years. I want to be with him at that moment, to tell him it's okay, to assure him I'm there even if I'm not. But I've screamed myself hoarse and so far I've never been present in that tragic instant when the remote becomes the phone. Eventually, I always hang up and the things that happen after that, my father and I face alone.

Goddamn it!

There are several loud clunks and suddenly everything sounds different. The blaring TV is now further away and there's a particular way the sounds echo through that house that almost makes it possible to picture exactly where my father has thrown me. I listen to the program for a minute, trying to imagine we're watching it together.

Would you just hang up already, my wife says finally. She rolls away from me and takes more than her share of the covers in case I've failed to note the displeasure in her voice.

Dad, I yell one more time causing my wife to yank my pillow out from under my head and place it over her own. But my voice has no effect on the sounds coming back. I hear a familiar jingle as the program goes to commercial and I lean over and put the phone back in its cradle.

In the new silence and old darkness I imagine how this particular episode will end. Probably he'll hear the phone beeping and go to get it, perhaps not even remembering having tossed it across the room. With any luck I decide that when he's up to retrieve it he'll spot the real remote somewhere and return to his chair and everything will be fine. Tonight, I tell myself as I lay my head back on the pillowless mattress, everything will work out.

Monday, May 01, 2006

How To Be Happy

Don’t be sad. Being sad never did anything for anybody. Sad people are hard to stand. They leak, convulse, make too much noise, and sometimes throw things they hope will break. And their problems tend to be contagious. It’s best to stay away. If you’re sad try not to get it on anyone else. If you weren’t sad you wouldn’t want it on you either.

Cheer up. Happy people tend to avoid sad people. Misery still loves company, but company has filed for divorce. Company is seeing other people. Company has moved on. You should too. Happy people can be found in restaurants and at parties, usually in groups. Happy people are also loud, and convulsive, and tend to be contagious, but unlike sad people they are not hard to be around. Unless you are sad. Then they’re pure evil.

What’s wrong? Nothing. That’s what. Anything other than nothing is something, and something is a messy answer to a nice clean question. Don’t make a mess, especially in public. Be clean and tidy and keep your somethings to yourself. If someone seems to be asking for something, have the decency to give them nothing. Nothing goes with everything. Nothing is the new black.

Feel better. Feeling bad is a choice, like being gay or republican, and you’ll feel so much better as soon as you decide to stop feeling bad. One easy way to feel better is to pretend. Chemicals might speed this up. If too much time passes and pretending to feel better doesn’t make you feel better you’ll probably just go back to feeling bad, which will bother the people who fell for your ruse, and probably leave them feeling bad, which will make you feel a little bit better.

Never give up. Because tomorrow is a new day. Different things could happen tomorrow. They could fall from the sky, or run you over in the street. Tomorrow might be a different shape than today, or the same shape, but in different wrapping. Tomorrow is a Christmas present from today and everyone loves to get presents. Tomorrow might just be a sweater, but it could also be a remote controlled car. And you. You could be a new person by tomorrow. You might not even be you. Tomorrow’s you might be today’s you with a smile and a remote controlled car, and you’d certainly want to stick around to see that. Wouldn’t you?