A woman and her squirrel were escorted off a Frontier Airlines flight today. She said the squirrel was for emotional support. The airline said it was a rodent. Police were called in.
I never had an emotional support squirrel. I used to talk to my plants, though. Then again, I’d talk to anything, I was so lonely. Then the plants started talking back. Water, they said. When I’m done telling this story, I said. But I never finished the story, the plants died, so now I talk to the fish in the fish tank. They talk back. Food, they say.
Meanwhile one of the neighborhood squirrels skitters along a telephone wire outside the window, not giving a flying rodent’s fuck about my emotional needs.
So we were at a party once and Fyl was talking about some American Indian thing, I can’t remember what. But she said American Indian several times. That was too much for one guy who told her they are not American Indians, they are Native Americans. Calling them American Indians, he explained, was repressive and colonialist. Fyl looked surprised. But we say American Indians, she said. So who exactly are you, he asked, rolling his eyes. I’m this she said, pulling out her tribal membership card and handing it to him. Yankton Sioux it said on the front, with the Yankton flag. Her tribal number and the blood quantum and other details graced the reverse. He stared hard at the card for the longest time, both sides. Then he handed it back, utterly bewildered. So you’re Native American? You? Really? Fyl said nothing and gave him the Sioux Death Stare. Against its withering remorseless glare words are useless, just sound and air. He stopped talking and froze. I had to look away to not burst out laughing and Fyl began to talk about her recent visit to the American Indian Center downtown. We had gone down there to fill out some forms but were there just at the right time and got a free lunch, she said, and described the contents, a sandwich and fruit and chips and juice. And a cookie, I said. And a cookie, she said. They gave Brick lunch too since he’s married to an Indian, she said. The lecturing guy winced at Indian. His face bore an expression of humiliation and despair. You could almost hear him thinking so this is a Native American? The one he met at college had been angry and cool. He couldn’t restrain himself any longer and suddenly interrupted her story about the Indian Center. What do you think about Standing Rock? he blurted loudly, like a kid blatting through a trumpet. Oops. Fyl stopped talking and gave him another Death Stare, even more withering and remorseless than before. When are you white people, she said in a cold Amerindian monotone, going to learn to stop interrupting? Silence. After a stunned moment he stammered an apology and fled.
She had ancestors at Little Big Horn, I said.
Saw King of Hearts again last night. It’s from 1966. I hadn’t seen it since 1974 or 75, when it was eight or nine years old which was a vast stretch of time then, equal to half the span of my long life. I saw it in a hippie movie theater in Fullerton CA between two other flicks though which I don’t remember. I do remember being confused. So I figured I’d watch it now, more than forty years later, being that l’m smarter and more sophisticated and mature. Unfortunately I fell asleep. That seems to happen to mature people. All that sophistication in exhausting.
I flunked pre-algebra so they had me retake it in summer school and gave me a D Minus even though I’d flunked it again. It must have a requirement for graduation or something. And I was a likeable kid. It was the only summer school class I ever had, and certainly the only time I ever took a class with all the other summer dumbfucks. And I was the dumbest of the dumbfucks in that class. The only one who flunked, or should have. Not that it bothered me any. All those letters where numbers should be.
Then we moved across town to another high school in another school district and I seem to remember having to take algebra and flunking it there too. Utterly mystified by all the letters where numbers should have been. It made no sense to me whatsoever. All my friends were acing calculus and trig and I couldn’t even spell hypotnoose. Still can’t. I do remember being called to a counselor’s office and asked if I had a problem with the algebra teacher. I said no, I thought the teacher was really cool. So you just don’t like math? I guess not. That ended my mathematics career. I’m great at simple arithmetic, but am the stupidest person I know at mathematics. I can’t do a single thing beyond addition, etc. Not thing even percentages. I cheat and divide by tenths and then hundreds and add them up. I’m a whiz at addition. But start mixing letters and numbers and it might as well be in cuneiform. Though I could probably figure out some cuneiform. It would make sense. Except for the goddam Babylonian algebra. It’s their fault. They invented it.
Apart from math classes I got mostly A’s and a few B’s in school. I figured out back in junior high that you didn’t have to study much if at all to ace an essay test. Teachers love pretty writing. So I wrote as much as possible in school. Wrote and watched the girls. High school was a breeze as long as I stayed clear of the math department.
A couple years ago I was digging through a box of some mementos my mother had left with me before she died and came across a certificate with my name on it. Apparently I graduated summa cum laude in English. I didn’t remember that at all. But then I remember very little of high school. The certificate looked a little goofy with its Greek words and swirls. Embarrassing. So that’s what summa cum laude means, I thought, and put it back in the box.
Back when I was a teenager learning the fine art of smartassery, I decided it was time to see if you could really slip on a banana peel and if it was actually funny. Unfortunately it was not the sort of thing one could work out theoretically, So I dropped a banana peel on the hallway floor, took about ten steps back, turned round, and carefully calculating the number of strides required to reach the peel at a natural gait, I walked toward the banana peel, stepped firmly upon it and skidded several feet before falling in a humorous heap, twisting my knee. Wow, I thought, that really was funny. The three foot banana peel smear that the experiment left in the hallway carpeting was also funny. Rather than attempt to clean it up, I told my mom my brothers did it. Also funny.
All this came in useful many decades later when I was working downtown. I was walking around on my lunch break with a secretary from the office I probably shouldn’t have been walking around with when suddenly I skidded several feet and landed in a humorous heap, twisting my knee. A banana peel. Did you slip on that? the secretary asked. Apparently so, I said. On a banana peel? Yes, and I think it twisted my knee. Now that’s funny, she said. But I already knew that. And I limped back to the office awestruck at the universal laws of comedy where the secretary told all my coworkers I’d slipped on a banana peel and everyone laughed and laughed till I hated that joke.
But it was funny.
The zebra danios are in Brownian motion, roiling like electrons, madly dashing after one another through open water and into the mass of triffids through little courses only danios know and then out again in a silver blur. It’s like they never stop but they do and when the tank is dark they lie suspended and still in piscine sleep. Do they dream? Who the fuck knows? They’re so small.
I looked up at the television and it said mistral in big red letters. Mistral…and a gust of wind sent the curtains billowing across the screen and it was like poetry. Wow. The gust subsided, the curtains fell back and the screen said mistrial in big red letters, as it had before. Mistrial, with an i, and I cursed learning just enough French to screw up.