A CLEAN HIT
A bomb had exploded down the street. I got dressed and
walked down to see what happened. The Whalen's house had
been flattened. But Hal and Rebecca were standing in the street,
apparently unscathed. Everyone in the neighborhood was pouring
our of their houses and into the streets. "What the hell happened?"
I said to Hal. "We were in the garden, thank god, when this
plane flew over. The next thing I know, the house explodes to
smithereens," he said. "It must have been some kind of accident,"
I said. "Well, I voted for this president. They shouldn't be
targeting me," he said. "Friendly fire," I said. "What the hell's
that?" he said. "They mistook you for somebody else," I said.
"Well, they shouldn't be bombing in this neighborhood, I don't
care who they thought I was. Children and old people live here,
and dogs," he said. "I'm sure you'll be getting a letter of apology,
and maybe a new house," I said. "It's lucky I didn't have a heart
attack," Rebecca Whalen said. Joe Mizelle walked up. "That
sure was a clean hit. No collateral damage whatsoever," he said.
"How do you know they didn't mean to hit your house and just
accidentally hit mine?" Hal said. "Jesus, I hadn't thought of
that. But I haven't done anything wrong. I voted for him, even
though I think he's a shifty bastard," Joe said. "Everything we
had is gone," Rebecca said, whimpering into her tissue. "When it
cools down, we can sift through the wreckage," Hal said, comforting
her. "I'd be glad to lend a hand," I said. "Maybe your silverware
survived, if it didn't melt in the heat," Joe said. Other neighbors
had gathered around and were whispering amongst themselves. "This
is the price we pay for our protection." "Thank god we live in a
democracy." "I'm sure they know what they were doing." "I'm going
to write my congressman." Hal turned to me and said, "Maybe I
am guilty. Maybe I did do something to deserve this. It's hard to
remember, on a day-to-day basis, everything you've said and every
little thing you've done. I can be kind of a free spirit sometimes.
I probably brought this on myself. And someone filed a report on
me. Oh god, I don't want to think about it, it's awful." "Listen,
Hal, I still think it was a mistake. It happens all the time.
Those reports pass through so many hands, by the time they reach
the top somebody has gotten the wrong address," I said. "All the
photographs and all the precious mementos of the children that can
never be replaced," Rebecca sobbed. "One of your boys works for the
government, doesn't he?" Joe said. "He's just a clerk in Washington,"
Hal said. "Still, I wouldn't rule him out," Joe said. "You're
beginning to irritate me," Hal said. The neighbors were drifting back
to their homes, their curiosities satisfied. Joe, too, turned
and left, but not before adding, "I was just trying to interject a
little humor. Sorry, no offense intended." Hal failed to dignify
this with a reply. The three of us stood there staring at the smouldering
rubble in silence. "Well, you're welcome to stay at my place," I
said finally. Hal looked at me as if to measure my trust. Then he
said, "This wasn't our real home. We have a secret home where we
keep our valuables. Nobody knows its whereabouts, not even our
children. There was nothing in there but junk. I figured they'd come
sooner or later. And they didn't get the car, so we'll be fine.
Rebecca, here, just had to put on a little show for the neighbors.
You can't trust most of them, if you know what I mean." We shook
hands and embraced. Then they got in their car and were gone forever.
I memorized their license plate number - 357 O19 - for good luck.
James Tate born 72 years ago today. Lots of poems here.
Also too: I write some version of this every year: 35 years ago tonight I was lying in bed, tripping, blissed, happy, with Audrey, listening to WGTB, the announcer broke in mid-song to say John Lennon had been shot and killed. Seems silly to say now, but it was the biggest KABOOM! of my life up to that time, I can still remember what it felt like, and if listening to The Beatles in general and Lennon's solo music in particular no longer are items on the menu of what any given minute I hold holy, no KABOOM! since has bone-gonged the same. My favorite Lennon song. Lots of Lennon songs here.