The prom was off to a bad start, thought Dennis. His sweaty palms were making a mess of his pristine uniform, and a hush had fallen over the gym as soon as he walked in, leaving only the sound of Dennis’s labored breathing and the angsty crooning of the Kings of Leon. He quickly realized that he must have misheard his friend Bacon, who had told him the theme of the prom was “Tarts and Hitlers.”
It was the same old conundrum: how to build what he saw in his mind’s eye, how to raise a thing of beauty from the earth so that people would look at it and marvel for a century to come, without first raising the money to see it to fruition. Money. It was always a question of money. He’d borrowed from Sullivan to buy the lot for the Oak Park place all those years ago, and while he couldn’t very well sell it out from under Catherine, he’d already hit on the expedient of remodeling the place so she could rent out half of it and at least have a reliable income. He would provide for her and the children too, that was his responsibility and he would meet it—no one could say he was neglectful there, though they might whip him over Mamah all they wanted, pinching their noses and crossing the street to avoid him as if he were a leper. And he’d just have to find a means of raising money, not only for the remodeling, but for the new house that was already taking shape in his dreams and his waking hours too, a place away from all this confusion, a place where he could live and work in peace till it all blew over.
Not involving himself in the mess of reporters frothing over Tony Growen upon his release from the hospital—a local miracle by any standards—Chester Goldsmith focused rather on the young man standing next to the newly awakened coma patient. Seventeen-year-old Tony stood now in front of cameras and questions, bright-eyed and freshly recovered from his head injury, while his friend Daniel Rogers was quietly ushered to the outskirts of the frenzy by a woman in large sunglasses, pulling the teenager by the hand. Chester squinted from a distance, trying to make out the face of the woman. Ah yes, he smiled. That was her indeed—Daniel’s mother, Bobbi, to whom Chester hadn’t spoken in several years, not since the release of his book on Daniel…the Wonderchild. While the ignorant local press affiliates drooled over their supposed miracle boy, Chester slipped back into his car and carefully followed Daniel and his mother away from the scene.
Her nervous toes danced under the table. She thought, on this dismal day in South West London, the time had come to confess her state of tangled affairs. She could, given the spotlight for long enough, call attention to quite a few issues plaguing the Longley family dynamic. She thought it best, however, to focus solely on the emotional affair she had been having with her parents’ neighbors’ 33 year-old son, Kingsley Stone, whom she had met three years prior at an equally dismal Christmas dinner.
In the summer of 1972, President Richard M. Nixon denied any knowledge of the five burglars who entered the office of the Democratic National Committee, the last US combat troops finally departed from a naval stronghold in Southern Vietnam, and I went to Savannah to die. I had never been to Georgia before. I knew of Savannah only from what I’d learned in the tones and faces of oil-painted jazz legends and in the subtle memories spilled quietly by my father years before. But in the sticky climate of that hot, political summer, I was determined to find a peace I had never known.
Daniel Rogers was born on March 22, 2012 at 6:23 a.m. at St. Andrews hospital in Rochester, Minnessota. All the papers had reported it accurately. A picture of the Baby Rogers was on the cover of every local, national, and foreign newspaper, under large headings that read “Wonder Baby” or “Lone Rogers” or, according to translations of the foreign papers, something like “Miracle Baby.”
In the year 142,304, the original human star called “Sun” finally burned itself out, becoming the white dwarf it was always destined to become. Life on the original planet persisted for almost two millennia, adapting as it were to the cold, harsh climate of the planet they still called Earth. But finally, in Cosmological Decade 18, two full space decades earlier than expected for the Degenerative Era’s birth, the Sun’s dwindling energy had completely defused, and the original planet called Earth became uninhabitable.
Invisible Dan drove the car, a green Volkswagen Jetta that hurtled along I-80 in the middle of the night. We’d just coaxed him into fifth gear—he’d never driven a stick before—and now allowed ourselves to drowse, drifting on the edge of sleep as we whisked through central Pennsylvania. The Promised Land was still two hundred miles away. Columbus, Columbus, Columbus. Was there a word more beautiful in all the language than this one, which bespoke whole worlds of firstness, freshness, discovery? Westward we flew, as the word made a rosary under my breath, the engine’s hum and the seat’s vibration lulling me deeper. Then a truck slid past on the left and Dan panicked. He ground the gearbox and stomped on the brake.
Kendra immediately shot up and turned back to the Home. The man from the day before in the Eating Hall—the one in the long coat, turning his head about the Homers, with the strange, transparent contraption resting on his nose, making his eyes appear double large—stood now in front of the Home’s entrance.
The Fall made me willing. Not just for him but for all of it. For the giggling and the grabbing and the colors we kicked all over the park. And for the chit chat at the kitchen table when five o’clock lingered into evening like the disappearing smoke of a snuffed-out match. Bobby watched the drop of fire on the candlewick flicker and interrupted me when it held still. How strange, he said, look. Look at that. The flame looks smooth like water… Like water running over a worn-out stone. He leaned toward me to light a cigarette on the candle and blew smoke in my eyes. Cut the shit, Bobby, I said. You know my Daddy used to do that before he’d burn me. His five o’clock shadow stood on end like an angry porcupine’s quills. “Don’t bring your lousy life in here,” he said.