It began when my mother’s goldfish died on the dining-room table. I was about to tell her how I lived; my girlfriend and I were about to see the Wauwatosa Thunderdivers. We were dancing on the beach; we were singing songs no one knew they had.
It’s still not official yet, but it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. When the tornado swirled around Buffalo in 2001, my brother was sixteen and working for a magazine. The bullet had been ricocheting around his desk from the previous day. So he got out and looked around. Lots of people were talking about knives and guns. About parents and children and work. And he saw you: a young, blonde, silver-tipped woman with a tattoo of a bullfrog on her ankle.
There were billboards for breaking into cars and throwing them crashing into mountains. There were vultures that drove all around the yard, searching for thunderclap. The sky was fake snow and birds were mere baubles. And there you were. Your dust and my air.
I was the senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. I was worried about communism, the infiltration of the West, their plan to make a permanent imprint on the earth. I was teaching biology to sixth graders. I was explaining that no one ever asks to see a Bible, ever. But one day, as I lay on the couch, I was thinking about a bruised-and-blemished memory: one about tornadoes, papyrus, a trinity of cigarettes, a box of peanuts, a photograph of you and my brother.
I tell my boss all the time: shave your head like a clam. I tell my clients: You have to sacrifice everything, man, to know the body of water you left behind. You have to sacrifice ghosts. I once saw a ghost bear down on a funeral pyre filled with clairvoyant visions of past pyramids. Come, let us sit by our children’s futures. Let us sing.
B.J. Best is the author of three books and four chapbooks, most recently Yes (Parallel Press, 2014). A fifth chapbook, Everything about Breathing, is forthcoming from Bent Paddle Press. He lives in Wisconsin.
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