Like most middle children, I operate best when fueled by the affection of the entire planet.
And I’m not just talking about the living.
I can’t stand the suspicion that the dead wouldn’t be into me. You’re right, that’s unlikely, but I’ll never know. I stand before judgy cemetery silences and think, “Remember that certain magic your life always lacked? I am that magic. Give me some sign that you adore me.”
They do their best: A few weeds rise.
But it’s not enough.
I asked my English 101 class the other day, “If a billionaire supported you for the rest of your life, what career would you choose? Also, if you don’t choose a career, this support disappears.”
ME: In other words, if money wasn’t in the way, what would you do?
STUDENTS: Excellent question, professor. You are wise and help us see the truth within ourselves. We would pursue our dreams.
After they admitted this, and tearfully, they would change their majors, stopping this communication, business, engineering, computer-science nonsense immediately.
By the might of my question, the classroom would transform from a…
Listen. I enjoy chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and birds, just like you do. I’m at the age where these guys really blow my hair back. But you know what I do when I see them? I smile and say, “Hello, critters.”
I say it. I rarely scream it for seventy minutes straight.
The love of my life in elementary school was Maggy Marston. I watched the lanes and roads for her mom’s red Dodge Caravan, and when I saw it, whether or not it carried Maggy, it moved me. To this day, Caravans of the late 80s stop me in my tracks.
How did Dodge know the shape of my heart?
The excitement of lighting a bomb is the excitement of lighting a birthday cake when you know for a fact that your most reckless wish is going to come true, in seven to ten seconds.
As a child, I knew this excitement well.
I lived for it.
That day, the day of the great bomb, I was in my room, imitating people from church and recording them on a tape player. My brother suddenly burst in. Somehow, I knew he would.
Joe was breathing heavily, his face red from running. And he was giggling. Diabolically.
“I need your help,” he…
I’d made up my mind. It was a time to kill.
All the other kids killed things with their BB guns — birds, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, the eyes of friends — but what about me? Did I even have what it takes to kill?
ME: Dear God, please let me have what it takes to kill.
For a brief time, a shining time, I was greater than my older brother.
It happened as soon as dad removed the training wheels from Joe’s bike and left mine in place. I couldn’t believe the drop in Joe’s skill level. It’s like God decided to love me by reaching down and de-evolving my brother.
The runner Eric Liddell said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
The biker Daniel Williams said,
God made Joe suck at bikes, and when Joe sucks, I feel God’s sweet sweet justice.
As an aside, when people quote a…
In The Shawshank Redemption, there’s a character named Red. He’s a prisoner who smuggles in special items for other prisoners for a price. He’s the Amazon of Shawshank. Red can get you anything you want, within reason, everything but outer space. That’s reserved for the warden.
Here’s Red’s rule: “Risk goes up, price goes up.”
In other words, if the item you want is something that could get him in trouble, like a pickax, he charges more money.
This makes sense to me, and I agree. If the risk is high, the price should be high.
Something else that makes…
There’s a Stephen King quote from On Writing that’s become as soothing to me as a psalm. King gets it:
If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all. I’m not editorializing, just trying to give you the facts as I see them.
My heart says this is true. My heart says, “Preach!” The trouble is, I don’t understand why it’s true.
If the quote was talking about trolls, I’d get it. These inhuman creatures make people feel lousy because that’s natural. …
Graveyards are everywhere. We simply cannot stay alive.
I can’t go to the store for milk and eggs without passing the dead.
This scares me.
Because these dead people used to be just like me: so beautiful, but also terrible at planning and therefore needing to pop to the store for milk and eggs midweek, and on the way, they passed graveyards. They thought, I can’t get away from these things!
And they thought, These dead people used to be just like me.