Down in the city are the nice houses and the so-so houses and the lovers making out in dark yards and the babies crying for their moms, and I wonder if, other than Jesus, has this ever happened before. Maybe it happens all the time. Maybe there’s angry dead all over, hiding in rooms, covered with blankets, bossing around their scared, embarrassed relatives. Because how would we know?

Stood awhile watching, thinking, praying: Lord, give us more. Give us enough. Help us not fall behind peers. Help us not, that is, fall further behind peers. For kids’ sake. Do not want them scarred by how far behind we are. That is all I ask.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Then I’m a paunchy guy in a room, with a note pinned to his sleeve:

“You were alone in the world,” it says, “and did a kindness for someone in need. Good for you. Now post this module, and follow this map to the home of Mrs. Ken Schwartz. Care for her with some big money that will come in the mail. Find someone to love. Your heart has never been broken. You’ve never done anything unforgivable or hurt anyone beyond reparation. Everyone you’ve ever loved you’ve treated like gold.

The time he’d cheated on Syl, Syl had seen through him, broken off their engagement, and cheated on him with Charles, which had fried his ass possibly worse than any single other ass frying he’d ever had, in a life that, it recently seemed, was simply a series of escalating ass fries.

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