Monday, August 17, 2015


Greetings, WYMOP fans!


I’m forty-six years old. Going on forty-seven. I know you already understand the progression, but that’s my bid to stay youthful, like when I used to say things such as, “I’m thirteen, going on fourteen.” But it’s not the same. Back then it was kind of cute, and something all kids my age were doing, but now it’s just a little sad. I know it’s sad, and I know you know it, but I just can’t help it. Not to worry, though: soon I’ll be saying things like “I’m forty-seven and a half,” or “I’m fifty and a quarter.” Then you can really shake your heads. Does the tooth-fairy accept dentures? I’m going to have to look into that—that could be worth some money, in my retirement.
But anyway, the point is I’m getting older. I understand it—my brain comprehends it as a logical fact—but I don’t accept it. Not in my heart. Through my ears my brain hears the terrible creaking and crackling coming from my arthritic knee; it sounds like someone massaging a wad of Saran Wrap. Through my nose my brain detects the strangely burning scent of whatever the Christ liniment the physical therapist was rubbing on my arm last year, when I developed tennis elbow . . . without ever actually playing tennis. Or any other sport. Through my eyes, my brain sees the ever-growing number of gray hairs invading my beard—once just one or two, it soon became a sprinkling; now the sides are about even, and the tide is about to turn, and someday soon my brain will use my eyes to watch the colored portion of my facial hair turn and run in an all-out rout.
My heart, however, acknowledges none of this. My heart still tells me things like, “Oh, sure, you can carry all three flats of bottled water in one trip,” or, “Yes that does look like a lot of mail, but you can deliver all that in eight hours,” or, “Yup, damn, that is a big, steep hill. You should run up it!” And then, when I get to the top of the hill, and I’m bent over to catch my breath, dizzy, and my heart’s beating like Buddy Rich playing a snare solo, and my brain gives it the old “I told you so,” my heart’s still giving my brain the finger and saying “. . . beat-beat—I’ll—beat-beat—be—beat-beat—fine . . .”
So the other day, when I noticed—several times—the soft, pudgy roll I’m developing about my midsection, my brain was instantly depressed, and one step closer to telling people I’m forty-six-and-a-half. My heart, though, forked a couple of fingers in my brain’s direction and said, “Looks like we’re going running!”
There was an argument. My brain trotted out all kinds of evidence: my birth certificate, the wrinkles on my face, the fact that the retired folks I deliver the mail to don’t really look all that old to me any more. My brain called witnesses, like my acid reflux, my no-excuse bad elbow, and my strangely talkative knee. The knee, I thought, made some solid points, things like pain. And pain. And then pulled out all the stops and pointed out pain.
My heart just waved a breezy hand in the face of all this, gaily calling out “Poppycock!”
Yeah, sometimes my heart’s a douche like that.
“A compromise!” my brain said, giving up on trying to calculate the cost of the coffin I’d need if I dropped dead of a Buddy Richian heart attack after limping a mile or two from
home. “Hoops. See if the boy will go play some basketball. We can spend some quality time with our son, plus there will be a car right there, and someone to call the ambulance when we go toes up.”
“Hmm . . .” said my heart. “That actually sounds like fun. But he’ll never say yes.”
“He might,” urged my brain, though privately thinking the heart was right. Let’s face it: in an effort to one day be able to say it was fifty-one-and-a-sixth, my gray matter was grasping at straws. “I’ll ask him.”
The text went out, and a reply came back a few minutes later. My brain turned away from what it was doing—quietly trying to figure out how to trick my heart into believing that taking a nice refreshing nap was just like going for a run—and picked up my phone to read the reply.
“Son of a bitch, he said yes,” said my brain.
“Booya!” said my heart.
Crinkle-crunch-crikkk,” said my knee.
So that was how I wound up pounding around beneath the basketball hoop behind the elementary school in the neighborhood. Let me just lead off by saying it was a lot easier to play basketball against my son when I was a foot taller than him. Even a half a foot. Let me also lead off by saying we are now pretty evenly matched (meaning each of us cheats about as much as the other), and that if the two of us had the time to practice for a few hours every day, just like the professionals, then one day, maybe, we could suck. As it stands now, actually sucking at basketball is a distant dream for us, something glimpsed on the horizon: something to aspire to.
We were currently tossing the bouncy-rubbery thing back and forth—the ball, I think it’s called—occasionally lofting the “ball” toward the “basket.” The lofting was followed by much audible prayer, asking God to please reach down and guide the brown, flying orb through the hoop, or at least, for the love of Himself, into the backboard, so we wouldn’t have to go
fetch the ball from the field. God, it seemed, was busy that day. Possibly He is a sports fan, and was disgusted at what we were doing to His beloved game of basketball, so had turned His attention to watching sparrows fall, or something. At least, I hope He was doing that, and that the Lord of Creation was not hiding His mouth with one hand while pointing at me with the other, laughing as I, yet again, ran out into the field to retrieve the ball.

And yes, I was running. Unlike my son, who, toward the end of a summer spent sleeping until noon every chance he got, under the umbrella of “Hey, man, it’s summer vacation,” was strolling about the court, I was galloping around like an energetic clown at Cirque du Soleil. We’d played a game called “Pig,” which is just like the game called “Horse,” but shorter, because did I mention we suck? Now I was merely fetching the ball, lofting it, then fetching it again, as the boy watched and laughed. I mainly just clutched the ball and ran. I understand you’re supposed to dribble while playing basketball, so every once in a while I gave that a try, though I’d always quit and wipe my lip dry before things got too embarrassing.
fool.jpgThen I discovered that if I was close enough to the basket, I could throw the ball up there, actually hit the backboard, then run over and catch it again when it came down on the other side of the hoop. Well, this was a grand improvement over having to run out into the field, so I kept at it, running a continuous figure eight before the hoop, shooting from the left, then the right, then the left again, always catching the ball as it came down, shouting “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” as my son stood there, gawping and laughing at me. To be fair, I’m pretty sure my brain had stopped receiving oxygen about ten seconds before I made this discovery, which might explain my slight delirium.
I’d run the circuit about six or eight times when I heard a passing woman talking to her young daughter. “Look at that boy, spending time playing with that special needs man. See how much fun the man is having? What a nice boy.”
Angry mob.jpgAs they walked on, my oxygen-starved brain did a double-take at this, made a fast executive decision, and sent a quick message. My legs received this message and immediately went on strike. The ball bounced, unattended, across the court, as I did a slow somersault, winding up as predicted fourteen paragraphs ago, lying toes up in the middle of the court. My heart was apparently practicing its speed-metal double-bass routine, but took the time to urge me back to my feet and into the fray once more. I ignored it. A mob, the likes of which has not been seen since the villagers chased Frankenstein’s monster into the windmill, rolled over my heart. Comprised of my brain, knee, elbow, lungs, legs, spleen, and a whole bunch of bit players from my body, fully equipped with torches, pitchforks, baseball bats, bits of wood with nails driven through, and, in the case of my pancreas, a rusty old bicycle chain, this mob proceeded to beat the shit out of my heart as I lay there contemplating the sweet release of death. The roll about my middle, despite the seeming anatomical impossibility of the feat, kicked my heart in the balls. Twice.
My son’s grinning face suddenly loomed above me, blocking the direct path up to Heaven I was hoping to follow. “Are you okay?” he said, but I didn’t answer. I was busy looking at his wide, white smile, and wondering: Would the tooth-fairy accept someone else’s teeth from beneath my pillow, or do they have to be my own? I’m going to have to look into that—that could be worth some money, in my retirement.
I recovered, obviously, but it did take some time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy a new pillow, and some good, strong pliers.

Talk to you later!

P.S. - My heart has also recovered, and wants to know if anyone wants to go for a jog?

. . . dammit.

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