I woke up next to a total stranger in a room I had never seen before. She stirred and hugged me.
“Good morning, lover boy. You sure did me right last night,” she said.
I had to take her word for it, having no memory of the event. In the half-dark, or half-light, she might be pretty or plain. Ever the diplomat, I kissed her cheek and got up without saying anything. In the bathroom I splashed some water on my face and looked in the mirror at another total stranger. Well, that’s something you don’t see every day, I thought to myself. Someone else’s face wrapped around your brain. I shrugged, dressed, and went down to the kitchen.
After finding a box of Count Chocula in the pantry and some milk in the fridge, I poured myself a bowl and sat at the table, listening to the cereal get soggy, a very soothing sound to the troubled and confused. A mutt sat two feet away from me with an expectant look on its face. I tossed it one of the chocolate cereal bits, knowing very well that you should never do that. An orange cat rubbed up against my leg, hoping for the same. But I was living a stranger’s life and enjoying my godlike ability to turn it all upside down if I wanted, just like that.
“No chocolate for you today, buddy,” I said to the cat.
There is no power like the power of withholding, something we no doubt learned from our creator, if we have one, who withholds from us knowledge of his existence, our true selves, where we came from and where we’re going. A boy about ten years old with a backpack came into the kitchen and grabbed two protein bars from the pantry.
“Can you take me to school today, Dad?” he said.
“Sure, son,” I said.
We went into the garage together and got into the car. I took the keys from the visor and started the engine. As I adjusted the rearview mirror I said, “Don’t forget your seatbelt, son.”
“Oh, Dad, you know I never forget,” he said, smiling.
I smiled back in the mirror.
“Thank goodness you’re not like me,” I said.
I pulled out of the driveway and into the street, wondering how soon I could find a truck stop where I could drop him.
has poems published in Plume Poetry Journal, The Sun magazine, and London Grip. He won the 2022 Pushcart Prize, the 2021 Eyelands Book Award, and the 2019 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. He has written humor for The New Yorker, The Onion, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. His humor collection, It’s Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It’s Really Funny) (2017), and his poetry collection, Falling in the Direction of Up (2021), are published by Sagging Meniscus Press. He lives in Portage, Michigan.
The Big Jewel
(Not Affiliated with “Al’s Jiant Jewel Warehouse”): Archived outlet
for literary humor co-founded by Kurt Luchs