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And when old Cooney conked at first, and Burrows also sacked, A nowhere rumble bugged up all the cats who dug the act. A hassled group got all hung up and started in to split; The other cats there played it cool and stayed to check the bit: But Flynn blew one cool single, and the hipsters did a flip, And Blake, who was a loser, gave the old ball quite a trip; And when the tempo let up, like a chorus played by Bird, There was Cornball stashed at second and Flynn holed up at third. And when, to clue in all the cats, he doffed his lid real big, The Square Johns in the group were hip: Ten thousand peepers piped him as he rubbed fuzz on his palms; Five thousand choppers grooved it when he smeared some on his arms.

Then while the shook-up pitcher twirled the ball snatched in his clutch, A hip look lit up Casey, Man, this cat was just too much! And now the crazy mixed-up ball went flying out through space. Conventional niceties nowhere visible. Bulletholes peppered many walls. Alexanderplatz yawped wide and barren then, an abandoned military concourse, windswept and freezing, the infamous radio tower stabbing from it like a spear, its concrete emptiness a space we could too easily fill, in imagination, with platoons of goose-stepping, helmeted troops—or worse.

We wandered that day, confused: Canvas half-draped a gaggle of life-sized statuary huddled at the rear of a vacant lot behind chain-link fencing, like a crowd of refugees trying to shelter itself. West Berlin, on its surface, felt no more appealing or friendly, no easier to navigate or make sense of, than East. It was only more expensive. Never mind I had no clear idea why an evil cabal wanted to kill people bearing my last name. It had done so once; it could again, wasting no time taking over my country and the world. Thus, all people of Jewish background however dimly I understood that would, in my secret nightmare, be hunted down, rounded up and destroyed in ways I had read about or seen enacted in films—starting with The Diary of Anne Frank.

I remember, in those growing-up years, feeling dizzy with it, the blank non-comprehension: How could it have been real—how even conceivable? My little sister and I attended Unitarian Sunday school. Yet before that selfsame world, findable in any library, was The Diary of a Young Girl —breathing quietly beneath its shroud of reverence and fear and yes, titillation. All references to the diary, to the history inseparable from it, made the book itself seem transgressive, hot with controversy, unspeakable implications. Living skeletons, hollowed-out animals dying behind cage bars. Tall piles of bony corpses, great mounds of bodies shoveled onto one another by steam-shovel.

Arms and legs and feet and ravaged faces sticking out of these piles, mouths frozen open. Piles of gold teeth, wedding rings. Crushed humans by the millions. My ten-year-old eyes stared at that photo again and again. Their hopeful, pitiful gambit, hiding silently in an office attic for two years, is up. Their glances at one another in final moments, like the squeeze of a hand, telegraph their nod to the incomprehensible: Awareness is sharpened by the approaching sound, louder, louder, of the two-note German police siren: To this day the crazed screaming of European police-car sirens—that two-note wail, that high-pitched, frantic eee-aww, unchanged it seems since the war—still has the power to stop the heart, shatter thought, atomize reason like a lightning bolt.

Can never flush the closed throat, the adrenaline prickle, the bunched fists and stuttering heartbeat. Can never pretend I am co-existing calmly, indifferently, maturely, with that sound. We flew into Frankfurt first to visit my stepson, a wonderful young man stationed nearby as part of his military duty. It seemed the right moment for revising the dread that surely now no longer fit. I had rolled up mental sleeves, determined to sweep out biases, see things new. We had all lived—Germany and the world—into new news.

Twenty-seven years had passed since the end of the Wall. Meantime, in Germany, a full generation had come of age: But the young adults also seem determined to consider it ancient history, the kind discussed in textbooks. They publicly consecrate the memory of the murdered now the official word , pledging and repledging themselves, in monuments and speeches, to exemplify vigilance, to safeguard human rights.

Markers and museums of every aesthetic, insisting we never forget, crop up everywhere. In Mannheim our son led us to a glass booth on a busy thoroughfare, whose walls bore a kind of foggy transluscence. At closer glance this fog turned out to be inscription, in tiniest letters, of thousands of lightly-printed names covering every inch of the glass. A brief scan confirmed that most of those names were, like mine, recognizably Jewish. We walked the tidy districts and neighborhoods, seeing the young like their counterparts elsewhere absorbed by the daily, the necessary pleasures and tasks: These people looked smart, humane, preoccupied with survival, hoping like any species in progress to make things better.

They were parents, harrassed and proud and tired, pushing strollers or calling toddlers to their sides in parks, cafes, fast food outlets, sidewalks. They were self-styled bohos, smoking and chattering amid the litter of beers and coffees. They were musicians, painters, boutique owners, bookstore and retail clothing clerks, grocery checkers, museum guides, landscape and building maintenance and construction workers, teachers, researchers, drivers, waiters and waitresses, nurses, cops and firefighters, nannies and caregivers, highway repair workers.

They were tourists exploring palace grounds, forests, scenic lookouts, truck stop restaurants, patiently escorting aging parents, explaining, cajoling. They coached and scolded and laughed at their own kids. I felt no darkness from them. Of course I stood outside the culture, outside the language, but say what you will: I looked and listened. I cannot claim to have felt great warmth from these individuals, but courtesy and mildness ruled.

Sometimes strangers offered to explain a sign or menu, or clarify directions. Our son drove us through Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Nuremberg. I swallowed hard at the sound of that latter name, but the Nuremberg we saw presented as cheerful and handsome, oblivious to the day-of-reckoning thunder its name once evoked. The city has proudly rebuilt itself almost completely—even its cathedrals, which manage to look centuries old. We found wellsprings of charm and beauty in Bamberg: An aged man with thick white hair and patrician features leaned out a high window to prune his roses; the blooms were fat, round and velvety, peach-red.

Squinting up as we walked past, on impulse I called out to him that his flowers were beautiful. This was something my sister would have done, along with stopping to pet and croon at every dog and baby. The aging man nodded wearily as if enduring a stale gesture, as if he heard those words every day. At once my impulse felt smartly checked. Who might he have been, in a prior century? Who might I have been, as part of the population surrounding him? Might he have as wearily targeted me, or the family or compound that harbored me?

Might I have been but one of a steady stream of undesirables, as steadily and casually singled out for exile—or extinguishment? During the hours I strolled past the gingerbread homes and hand-built fences along the river, all of it covered with thick-twining roses—afterward sitting down to trocken , crisp white wine in an outdoor cafe packed with families, couples, students, shouting, exuberant—those questions pulsed below the more mundane concerns: I pushed the dark questions down before they could unfurl in pretty daylight. No point second-guessing is what lots of people told each other in the years and months leading up to , to Krystallnacht.

Thoughtful people, good, smart people counseled family and friends, Calm down. No need to panic; just wait a while. It will come right. It will sort itself out. People are good at heart. Life and objects may be trundling along having logical, discrete identities and trajectories unconnected with other matters. The Happy Story we tell ourselves can be a bully and a brute—something Americans do especially well. We do it best, in fact, while we are tourists. Was any of this grim internal tabulating fair to modern Germany? Did Germany know or care? What is Germany or any nation-state but an aggregate of individuals, each toting her and his aggregate of needs, touched inadvertently by pieces of common history and current culture?

Germany as a collective consciousness cares most at any given moment—like any other generalized group—about survival; as a close second, about a quality of survival. Each person in its fold, infant to elder, wants to feel well, do well, thrive and prosper. As noted earlier, weather still calls the shots. Whatever weather happens to be doing wherever we happen to be traveling, that place becomes that weather, in memory. Come with me into the present tense now. My husband and I have traveled here after visiting our son, to have a swath of time together in this city we scarcely remember.

Our venture seems blessed by weather. As if weather were the Pope in an extremely good mood, it has palmed the crowns of both our heads and declared, Guys, this is gonna be a bell-ringer. We know it the moment we step out of the train into the towering interior of the Berlin Hauptbanhof, a megalopolis of a station serving from the looks of it the whole universe.

Not least, the station serves as a multiplex shopping mall, whatever you may think of that—several levels of store upon store offering home decor, clothing, jewelry, pharmacy sundries, sports equipment, chocolate, crystal, groceries, booze. This is how we do it , the German sensibility seems to be declaring. Monolith of glass and steel: Hordes push through in all directions around the clock; people wend their bicycles through swarms of walkers.

Frenzied, roaring futuropolis—and once we manage to thread through the exit doors and step outside, the beauty of heavenly weather falls over us like silk. Because we have allowed ourselves certain occasional luxuries at this stage of our traveling lives, we take a cab to the hotel. Through its windows we gawk at clustered skyscrapers, thronged streets, motorbikes, babies, cafes, businesses, tourists—and everywhere against that sky for three-hundred-sixty degrees, gargantuan building cranes, moving with slow determination like some giant, benevolent aliens tending the expansion of their earthbound nest.

People zoom around on bicycles. We loved everything we saw. I can itemize highlights or you can read about them in Rick Steves. Streets and parks and buildings, historic and modern, almost always immaculate. Excellent coffee, bakeries, fish. The stocky, bright-red little man faces you, both arms stretched wide to indicate, unmistakably, no no, go no further! Whereas the walking little green man is silhouetted, mid-step, from the side, so you can appreciate his long, confident stride. Both men appear to wear a pork-pie hat. Except on Red Guy, who faces us, it looks more like a helmet.

It would be the helmet of civic duty: My new best friend. Ampelmann signals not just when it is time to go forward but—pay attention please— how. Do as he does, he seems to be urging. Set forth with resolve, with full-hearted expectation. Response to the unspeakable, the ineffable, the unknown. Ampelmann enacts a best-of-all-possible responses, one that recalls the late E. Call this state of mind, say, forwardism, a pre-emptive Yes: Perhaps the little traffic light men served in some tiny way as encouragement.

Unthinkable hardship and cruelty were givens. A shameless industry of tokens and goods has burst from these now-beloved images, from key-chains to earrings, T-shirts to beach totes. Even thinking about Green Ampelmann, his sprightly, roving manner—easy to imagine him to be whistling—never fails to lift me, a sturdy cocktail of relief and hope. And every time I lay eyes upon that sane, chipper, striding-toward-excellent-adventure fellow—something in me recalibrates. On the spot I resolve, willy-nilly, to do better, be better. A busker implored us in winsome sign language for contributions to an apparent charity for the deaf, putting his cheek to mine as a warrant of tender affection.

I gave him a couple of Euros. The busker had counted on receiving more than that. In an instant his Peter Pan charm vanished; contempt deadened his face as he turned away. But what right had I to ordain some candy-shell of unilateral cheer as the personality profile for an entire population—a population doubtless as needy and diverse and complicatedly fucked up as any other?

The vibe was trickier. You might call it a kind of girdedness: The message I absorbed from individuals we watched or with whom we had any transaction, was I do what I must. In short, they were earning a living, taking care of life and business. Perhaps the tightness I read was my own projection. But surfaces can mislead, or at least rarely tell the whole story. Some months after we returned home, two New Yorker articles appeared. One, by historian Thomas Meaney, focused upon the alarming ascent in Germany of a neo-rightwing movement which tended to scapegoat immigrants.

This piece gave the lie—unnervingly—to my breezy supposition that the country had once-for-all morphed into a model of humanitarianism by dint of sheer group will. They needed to hear those terrible old stories after all… Kriegskinder , they called themselves: In truth, one real trauma did occur in Berlin—the only one of our voyage.

Some people might reject that it qualifies as trauma. No one was injured—mortally. The ordeal was interior: We had just two days left in the city. Each pass cost about forty dollars, not a fortune but not nothing, and we were trying, as always, to control expenses. In the swirl of people pushing through the receiving area of our first museum—as we were puzzling out how to stash our belongings in one of those little lockers requiring a Euro coin deposited in a sticky slot—my ticket disappeared.

Next came a panicked fluster: My husband—a good, sane, generous, consummately decent but mortal man—got angry with me, incredulous that within mere minutes of its purchase I could somehow have managed to let that pass evanesce into air. Please now allow for a last, perhaps outrageously late disclosure, introducing the submerged monster in this odyssey—of personal grief. My beloved younger sister, Andrea, had died, suddenly and horribly, of apparent pancreatic failure, about a year earlier. The event could not have been more abrupt: And though my husband and I had eventually resumed life and travel, moving over the surface of the world in customary ways, I secretly felt as though I had to work twice as hard to convince myself let alone others that a world without her—lifelong co-pilot, witness, simultaneous mother and daughter, co-survivor of multiple early losses—was still making sense as a world.

Until the moment of the vanished ticket, the world we looked upon had been making a reasonable show of worldness—if never quite fitting together as it once had. To be sure, ghost reminders had whispered behind people, settings, objects. The names etched into the glass booth in Mannheim. The babies and dogs, chotchkes and weather.

During the months after losing her, I would hold my head with both hands to keep it from breaking open. My little girl, my baby wren, soft brown feathers for hair, sitting opposite me on the cool smooth concrete of our Arizona front porch, repeating my language lessons with eager, smiling, trusting brown eyes. It is a deeply strange experience to travel after the death of someone as close to you as your own skin. You regress in ways to a blank slate, almost needing to re-learn the most basic assumptions and practices of a modern society. You look around in bafflement at the colossal, intricate, bearing-down life of a world that has neither paused nor changed a jot; you gaze in wonder at the busy, rushed, full-tilt nonstopness of things.

In the next moment, like a hurled glass globe, it fell to bits. And so did I. So how do we measure loss? I have begged my little sister silently, every day since, to give me any sign that she still somehow, somewhere, is. No sign has come, except for dreams. They give the brief comfort of her presence, which may be all I or anyone can realistically hope for. Not travel, not art, not food or drink, not even my dear husband. Not Germany, not planet Earth. Zombified, tear-streaked, I stumbled back to the ticket cage and bought another pass.

We entered the museum. It was the Pergamon, I think. Gallantly, my husband now in triage mode tried to distract me, pointing out extraordinariness and sublimity in all directions. I could not respond—could not muster a straw of coherent thought, only sickened freefall as I cast my eyes toward magnificent pillars and priceless tapestries, jewelry, glassware, mosaics, weaponry, tools: I can still feel the bottomless cold abyss of it, the outer-space shriek in my ears.

What good to me, the riches of ages? What good was anything? What could, in fact, any longer be called good? My husband and I zigzagged, at careful distance from one another, through immense rooms. The Germans, to their unending credit, had arranged sarcophogi, statuary, bas-reliefs and sculptured busts so that there was plenty of light-filled space around each piece—each piece lit so artfully and subtly, the works themselves seemed to glow.

I tried to hang back, give my husband a long lead, make room between us to allow for my ballooning horror, which I could not seem to control. Corners seem to work best, if you face into them. Crave as I did to disappear, the thing that is me lurched on in its same, mute, faithful body: At last we entered a room in which a massive screen had been mounted on a base of console-height. A long bench was fixed at perfect viewing distance across from the screen. Then all at once we were seeing a semi-animated, computer-graphics-aided film, panning over a landscape of primitive Earth: Soon, swiftly, the camera homed in on a family going about its then-life: Our eyes were guided over tools and implements, weapons and eating utensils, crude clothing.

Yet the quality of animation softened the view, the panning camera almost smearing it so that the images came at us like a sequence of half-remembered dreams. Then, above the screen, a sort of chronometer time-ometer? And before we knew it we were watching a small tribe building shelters, fishing, dancing, eating.

Little kids scrambled; mothers called to them. Then the time-ometer pushed ahead again and we watched two villages, or townships, at war. We heard shouts and cries and horses screaming, clanks and clunks of metal and wood. A series of stills showed men struggling in combat; we heard them howl in anger and pain. Eerily, what separated this cinematic dream from other kinds were its sounds: Wordlessly, body and heart were absorbing some deep, cellular recognition: And the whole of my tired, grieving body recalled slowly, as if by granules through an hourglass, that we had always been part of that.

We were part of it—of all we were viewing. Nothing more nor less.


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We would fade as they had, this long line of forebears. The time-ometer showed generations blurring inexorably back into a ceaseless, mostly-forgotten past. Me, my sister, her children, their children. All of us sharing a fate stretched along an infinite continuum. At last, in a trance, we rose and left the museum; emerged blinking into the dusk-lit city of Berlin, the country called Germany, continent known as Europe, planet named Earth, the year denoted, for reasons now nearly forgotten, by the number People were moving, as they must.

We moved with them, waking yet still entranced, striding out into it with intensifying resolve to do, to be. Among them, amidst it. All that it is given to us to invent, to deploy, is response. Later I would think about the curious weightlessness of those moments, as we joined the surging cars and crowds—but also about how, at the same time, I felt the time-ometer pressing forward: And in truth it was not a bad feeling, not bad at all. She lives in Northern California. One could always feel the idle precision of the heavy lidded eyes of the townsfolk, like a trail of cigarette smokes filling their grapevine with words they could only whisper behind cupped hands.

Still, time hangs over, new prospects hum with the dichotomy of all the old obsolescence. A path to somewhere not here, you pooled in hollow through film of my vintage camera, a glowing wyrm spun and interwove, raised up the mounds of sand, shifting, always shifting, cast me finally over the spines of sun. I was inert, orchard-lit with breaths of baying horses, where you halted letting in discord, immune to my concert of shoulders above ribs, spilling of bones refused to keep. But still I coiled, shadows lie, imagining you smooth saline held in my invisible depth-strokes, fluttering gradations from periphery to bitten shins, as you broke pale into the embrace of vines, sent buds to sheath of red.

Knife-palette trees touched fingers to midnight, and how the cold hurt you into a break like throbbing. A collection of breaths closed in on the pour of sky, your mouth, red, agilely lithe, laughed away the firs risen tall on algal blooms, where bodies of birds laced through with a continent of shadows. Already you were bent with nightshade and fox- glove, where the slightest tremors may pitch you down the underwater lake, around which the fossilized bones of unnamed fishes silver the currents in slime-spotted hymns. Letters Platypus Mini Chapbook Series, She also has work forthcoming in Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3.

Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever, frolicsome imps. Her work can be found at: Marge likes to look in windows. When she does, she talks about the things she wants: Just inside the window, people are eating. Marge gets irritated by the way people eat.

Food is nice, but I like to look on the surface of windows. My reflection is on windows. I have a blue hat that I can rotate to shade the sun. My coat has a collar that turns up around my ears. I would have preferred a smoother texture. This material gets snagged easily and the stuffing comes out.

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But it has big pockets and I like green. Marge tells him to have sex with himself and starts walking. I turn my head, but keep my eyes on my reflection. Marge has a small nose. Mine is much bigger. I practice a smile. Smiles feel different than they look. I know all the definitions, but Marge knows the applications.

She knows the rules. She has command of her body, moving with ease, lifting her feet just enough to take the next step. Marge keeps her head still, shifting her eyes instead. She says I talk too loud. I catch up, dragging my heels. Marge turns down an alley. In front, you have to pay money for everything you take out. But in the back, everything is free. On sidewalks, you have to be in a hurry, but in back you can take your time.

I had time to repair the liver and fix the puncture. Get in there and get me those fries. I stand on my toes and look in, smelling for fries. Marge pushes me in. Give it to me. She snatches it from me and starts eating, talking about French fries and ownership. Since I am in the dumpster, I look around for anything useful. I find a flat magnet stuck to the side, a small battery containing some electricity, and a narrow cardboard tube about the size of my little finger. I put these tools in one of my coat pockets, find three loose fries and eat them before Marge can take them from me.

In the dumpster, I am taller than Marge. Look at all the stuff people throw away. Seems like there would be some old, used money in here.

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She looks into the empty bag, hands it to me, and walks away. I catch up with her at the sidewalk and remember to drag my heels. I want to surprise her. I manage to keep up, side-stepping while dragging my heels. Naturally it matured, outlived its usefulness, and ejected me. It makes me nervous and I know Marge is upset. I need money to build a ship. Okay, I am making progress.

I trace my memories back through trash piles and dumpsters. In a trash pile, I find something I can use. With both hands, I hold it in front of me and squeeze. The gauge registers pounds of pressure. I find an empty bottle and break the thick bottom out of it. I need some adhesive and a grinder, so I head back to the sidewalk. There is a good spot by an empty storefront. I sit down to build my gun. The bottle bottom was the key.

I hold it up to the light and calculate the angles. Then I use the cement curb to grind the edges into facets. I peel gum from the sidewalk and chew them together for adhesive. I break my magnet in half, connect it to the battery with aluminum foil, and use the gum to attach them, the crystal, and my small cardboard tube. With a nail, I bore a hole in the front edge of the scale. I line the tube up with the hole, pull a hair from my head and calibrate the gaps. Then I carefully reassemble the scale. I am concerned about having a weapon in public. When I stand up, I feel conspicuous.

Covering the gun with my coat, I hurry to meet Marge. Inside the soup kitchen, I find her hunched over her food like everyone else. I try to shuffle, but I am excited.

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My boyfriend here has a bathroom scale. I tuck my head and brace myself. But when I look around I see only the shapes of people eating. Still, I feel they might suddenly grab me. I back up to the wall, then slide along the side of the room to the door and out. I pace the walk outside. You pass out food, then do the dishes and clean up. We get five dollars and all we can eat.

It is going to be dark soon. I am walking backwards in front of her. Behind a building, I find a dumpster filled with trash. Looking around, I see no one, and pull the gun from my coat. A thin beam of light shoots out, hits the side of the dumpster, creating a small dark circle, which starts smoking.

Then it burns through, superheats the contents, and they blow up, splitting the sides of the dumpster and knocking it over. But now we have to go. The police might come. I aim at a garbage can and squeeze five pounds. It explodes, blowing the top off, sending shrapnel flying. I hear a siren, distant, but approaching.

I put the gun back under my coat and start walking. Marge hurries up beside me. I walk without my shuffle. Marge hurries beside me. The next morning, I pick out a nice bank and sit out front by the fountain. I am calm when the security guard opens the doors. I have my gun under my coat.

Marge has a plastic bag to put the money in. Well, not actually rob the place. But I did stand lookout while he got a whole case of beer out the back. I know what I am going to do. I know just how to do it. I lead us into the bank with Marge stepping on the backs of my shoes. I look up at the high ceilings, feel the spacious expanse, wishing I could convert this building instead. She is arranging paper, looks up and laughs at me. She puts both hands on the counter.

And take Bonnie with you. Marge has been standing motionless. She is beside me in an instant, takes the gun, backs up to the center of the floor, and carefully sets it down. But the security guard tackles her from behind, knocking her down. They slide across the floor. She struggles with the guard, but he twists her arm up behind her, grabs her collar, and starts dragging her to the door. I pick up the gun, and as I follow them, I pop the top off and removed the crystal.

I look at it sparkling between my fingers, then throw it in the trash. The guard is having trouble getting Marge out the door. She has hold of his pant leg. For thirty-seven years he raised cattle at the edge of the desert. He supports local bookstores and reads DeLillo when he needs a dose of humility. He has a large collection of stories. The well wounded atop a glorious black nylon pyramid Shorn by blades in want of new ways to be known With a cool-fuzzed back of the neck. Squeezed to a paste and brought to the nose.

Pungent green Death; who knew of its savory spice Until now? It bends, frustrates Against paper plate against checked cloth On top of grass abuzz and itching. Its mud-scalp sticks and peels, sticks and peels Beneath the lush wet earth, burgeoning. Ground drunk off winter lolls fat with it, belly up. Every year the burying of instruments in napkins The plastic clacks and snaps. It laughs As it watches one of us shout a great big word out into air And the rest jostle bridesmaid-like for it. It laughs like the great big rumbling body of parents at a school play A black and twinkling mass that waits out the years Till it seems near well enough understood that down After down.

Elizabeth Bolton is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto where she studies writing and its effects on the mind. In addition to poetry, she writes narrative nonfiction, though in truth she finds genre distinctions rather meaningless. This is especially impressive given there were only twenty episodes in each season. Bobby was brought in as a last-ditch effort when the once-popular show started tanking in its fifth season. When none of that worked, the writers brought in me, Bobby Van Camp, the kid from across the street. For me, it was my family.

Off set, I played in my room alone at home, but here I need only walk into the McMahon kitchen to see my playmates, Chris and Trisha. I had my growth spurt; my voice changed. I had acne and limbs that seemed too loose, too long. The last three on-air roles I played under my stage name, Ray Goodman, were junior high and high school bullies, one uncredited. With the gigs went the money and I dusted off my given name, Ray Carter, and enrolled in public high school. The money was so good I kept doing it.

I retained her as an agent and she booked me gig after gig on the touring circuit. Thirty-three year old Little Bobby Van Camp! I sign posters and say the line that made me briefly famous: I watch the line of impatient patrons snake back from the ticket stanchion into the lobby, where those entering the theater—shivering against the cold—must thread through a wall of people in their Sunday best.

Gladys is at the stanchion, fiddling in vain with the ticket scanner. Her brow is crinkled, her shoulders hunched. I watch from my place near the emergency exit and count to ten in my head. When I get to eight, I start to panic that I might have to step in and do something. But finally, mercifully, Gladys puts down the scanner, stubs the tickets and smiles cluelessly at the red-faced couple standing in front of her. The old bat has worked for the Broadline Theatre for over thirty years and refuses to be told how to do her job.

But still no one of any consequence. When I first started I begrudgingly signed a few autographs. The real world is put on pause. Something better than real is about to begin. Between takes, I would sit at the McMahon kitchen table. I reach the First Mezzanine as the two-minute fanfare sounds. Jodi, a Level Supervisor, walks toward the patrons standing by the windows, wine in hand, staring out on the park below.

They start to whisper out as I follow Jodi to the Center Mezzanine doors and the theater turns to black. We close the last door, locking the magic in with over three thousand people. But this is the moment before, the moment of greatest anticipation. On me, the pants hang a little low, my belly pokes out over my belt, accentuated by the obscene openness of the coat.

I could stand to lose ten pounds. This uniform reminds me of that every time I put it on. Jodi adjusts her radio, unclips it from the top of her skirt and clips it in a different location. I feel like someone should be feeding me a line. In slow motion, words and thoughts pass through my mind. My calendar hanging in my kitchen. Is there something written on tomorrow? In the glare of the light, behind the camera, I can almost feel the frustration of the director. I was only seven. I was bound to forget some lines now and again. Reunion episode will be filmed late next month with a Christmas release.

Then things get really crazy. I go to my wall calendar as my agent hangs up and look at the empty square that is today. Me in a bathrobe in my cramped high-rise with Flintstone, my tabby cat. With a heavy sigh, I flip the calendar to November. Flintstone rubs against my leg. Red on the calendar is for Bobby. On the stage, a table is set up with four chairs, two bottles of water at each station, labels facing out. Three years ago, StaticCon was sponsored by a denture cream. Last year, ValleyCon was sponsored by a drain cleaner.

Now, Valerie is old like me.

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She looks away, not just looks away, but physically turns her body away from me. I could say so many things. Like, how was the schedule for the incontinence medicine commercials you did? The bitch is actually right. I sleep until noon and go into the theater four days a week around two in the afternoon. The other two on the panel are Ms. Alexandria Deacon—mother Wendy—and Caleb Wilson, who played little Chris, the boy who got pressured to take a puff off a joint.

The little sociopath offered me a puff. Alexandria looks polished and dignified as always. She smoothes out the skirt of her grey suit and smears a dab of Vaseline on her teeth before she takes her seat. A gruff looking man in flannel takes the mic. Alexandria leans into her microphone and answers, smile absolutely gleaming. After the panel discussion, I wander through the convention hall past the 20 th Century Fox booth and a statue of the MGM lion. The voice comes from behind me.

I turn to see a man, maybe a decade older than me. I remember the day they took it. I remember the way the photographer looked bored, saying over and over, smile. The smile came so easily, photo after photo. I remember watching the show when I came home from junior high, every Wednesday night. My dad wanted me to join the baseball team but when I learned practice was Wednesdays I said no.

Inside the hall of the Broadline Theatre, three thousand people are tucked into the dark, watching the magic unfold. On the lit stage, for eighty-seven minutes before intermission, the actors sing and dance and deliver their lines seamlessly, something that stresses me out to comprehend. I have that to look forward to next week when we begin filming. This is our theater family. And Jodi has seemed off her game lately. I wander down to the Second Balcony and see Jodi sitting on one of the blue couches.

She has her legs crossed tight, this way she does where she can wrap her foot back around to the other side of the opposite ankle. I try not to think about it too long, try not to stare at her legs. Are legs the same? Right before I get to her, she flips the pages, held together by a staple in the upper left hand corner. I see a glimpse of it as the page turns. Like Jodi coming out of the shower, reaching for a towel.

Jodi on the toilet, turned slightly, caught mid-wipe. I shake these thoughts from my head and clear my throat, ready to deliver my line. The script would go something like this:. But I see those graphs and I can only imagine what they are—white blood cell counts, clinical cancer staging, insurance Explanation of Benefits—and I want to break from the script. Her legs are uncrossed now, both feet planted firmly on the floor. She delivers the line like a bad actress, her face flushed, her eyes dead.

She looks like she was given the line with absolutely no context and is now trying to look convincing. It was my idea of a distraction for Jodi, perhaps well-intentioned, but not well thought out. Turns out there was enough interest to make it into a three-night special. Each special is an hour long, or about 44 minutes of screen time. Each ten-hour day on set gives us an average usable minutes of film.


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I was in public high school. Her TV was blaring in the living room as we sat at the dining room table, A Separate Peace and notebook paper spread out before us. I glanced at the screen every few minutes, each word my classmate said drowned out by the laugh track. I pull my phone out of my pocket. I text my neighbor and ask how Flintstone is doing. He answers in pictures—Flintstone on the bed, Flintstone eating. Caleb is on his phone, pacing and talking too loud about funds and timing.

Valerie is in her makeup chair, reading a magazine. Alexandria disappears to her room and Oliver Thomas lumbers over to the table, struggling to breathe. He grabs the back of the chair and it groans under his weight. With a rush of air, he sits and stares straight ahead. Peter and Bobby sat at this table twenty years ago just as Oliver and I are sitting now.

But so much of my personal experience was here, at this table. I focus on the wood grain while I listen to his breathing settle to a low rasp. None of us has said an unscripted word to each other in two days. But I have the urge to say something to him now. I glance at the script, look at the wood grain, think of Jodi. There was an episode of Law and Order where Oliver played a grandfather who is wrongly accused of a crime, convicted and sent to prison. He dies at the end of the episode, right before they arrive.

Shanked in the lunchroom over a stupid argument. His dead body is uncovered just long enough for the detectives to see his face and shake their heads. I just want the old one to sound just right. Instead, he traces an imaginary line on the table with his fingernail. I brace myself for awkward work conversations. Or, worse yet, compliments. While I was in my red Bobby bubble, the real world kept going.

The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium

The Broadline is training new usher hires. Flintstone is happy to have me home. I got the mass e-mail from work while still on set. Please pass on your sympathies, it said. The crew of Wizard of Oz is loading out. The crew of White Christmas is loading in. The stage door is chaos. I wander into the empty auditorium and stand in the dark at the back of the Orchestra section. The stage is completely empty, the curtain is up. After a month long run, those actors know each blemish on that stage by heart. She was always broke and borrowing money. Never paid it back.

I need something meaningful, just that perfect line to make everything better. I dig deep inside myself, feeling this is my only chance. I call on the spirit of Bobby Van Camp, the little boy with the big heart. But then she laughs. I remember the reruns, though. I never told you when you started that I always wanted to punch that kid. And at the fact that yo. Leave you broke and broken hearted. It was more likely cleaned up and taken to storage to be picked out by another set designer on yet another sitcom where another father-like character dispensed advice and where another child sat between takes, practicing his lines, wanting so bad to make his TV family proud.

She looks over at me, surprised, but she holds on, then squeezes my hand back as we stand in the empty theater. Erin Smith is a writer, funeral director, and shiatsu therapist living in the Twin Cities. The Boston Globe article said some people think it has curing powers. The chalice is a replica of a sacred relic from the Middle Ages. An old man pushed a lady in a wheelchair up the ramp to the front door. I think God will understand. We crossed the street and entered the musty darkness of the church.

Motley Crue Kickstart My Heart

The smell of shellac, incense, and old-lady perfume permeated the air. Bright light shone through the stained-glass windows where Jesus was depicted in the fourteen Stations of the Cross. The freckles reminded me of the asteroid belt. We were four people away from the priest, who stood in front of the altar. He prayed over people, then lightly touched them. They fell into the arms of two old men with maroon suit jackets and navy blue ties. And can you say a prayer for my daughter, too?