Saturday, September 04, 2004


On My Front Porch

I'm sitting on my front porch, my feet up, my eyes shut, a book flopped open on my chest. I was reading it just a moment ago. I'm sure of it. The setting sun lights up my eyelids, toasts my arms and shoulders. Just off the porch I can hear the drowsy hum of birds flitting from feeder to feeder, can practically see the cardinals, the goldfinches, the red-headed woodpeckers, the indigo buntings. Ruby-throated hummingbirds buzz around my head up here on the porch.

My wife must be inside. But she's been in there a long time. On the phone, maybe?

Lazily, as I lie here, phenomena line up in the desert, waiting to shuffle through from nonexistence into material reality.

There’s a place they come from and a fountain inside that they go to. They take their buckets to the well of warmth and acceptance and love sunk deep inside me, dip a bucketful and leave.

Finally they get to the gate and go “Okay, my turn, beat it.”

They sift through me like ideas through veils.

A son grows up and his father leaves home. A woman gets pregnant and her boyfriend gives birth. A dervish develops a rare bone disease in both legs and starts winning foot races.

Dervish? An image nags at the inside of my eyelids, begging to be let in. I smile and shake my head a little. It vanishes.

Where's my wife? Should I get up and go find her? She's missing a glorious sunset.

Wait: could that be her down tending the grill, poking at the coals, brushing more marinade on the catfish?

Uh oh.

The catfish?


I panic, go to open my eyes and sit up, check who the fuck it is down there grilling the catfish, but I can't. My eyes are sewn shut. I can't move. I'm still in the Falwell cyborg. It all comes flooding back in, the whole nightmare, the Mississippi rapture mud hot on my tongue ...

Then there are arms shaking me by the shoulders.

"Wake up, son. You're havin one a them bad dreams, I reckon ..."

And now I sit up, open my eyes, look around. I'm not at home, napping on the porch. I'm in a suburban back yard, sitting by a kidney-shaped pool blue as a baby's eyes. There is in fact a grill, a huge one, the size of an Escalade. On it does in fact lie a fifteen-foot catfish, roasting over hot coals.

"Where--am I?" I say, looking around at the strange-looking folks on plastic chaise-lounges around the pool.

One of them, wearing leather shorts and a football jersey and a plastic gold helmet, hamfists a Heineken in his left hand and some kind of toy lightning bolt in the right. There's a really fat bald man sitting in a lotus position, humming, with his eyes closed and his hands out in some kind of meditation pose. He's so fat I wonder where he got the loud Hawaiian shirt he's wearing. I doubt they sell them that big down at the Wal-Mart. Tailor-made? Another is a pretty young woman wearing a neon halo and suckling a naked baby boy at her right breast.

"Is this a potluck?" I say anxiously. "Did I bring the potato salad?"

"Never mind the potato salad, son," somebody says. It's a moment before I realize it's the baby talking. He's taken the breast out of his mouth with both hands and holds it there for a moment, still squirting milk. He's got a pleasant, rather bland voice, like somebody at a Rotarian luncheon. "Relax," he says. "Have a beer. You're in heaven."

And he goes back to sucking, giving me a friendly wink with his starboard eye.


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