Collecting Autographs

i was in my room
preparing a self-addressed stamped envelope
to Magic Johnson
requesting his autograph. i wasn’t even sure why,
other than he was Magic.
Celtic playoff games were the one time
my father let us stay up past our bedtime,
a specific
benefit
of being a child of divorce.

the older kids in the neighborhood taught me how to collect autographs.
there was a specific way you needed to write the letter, and how the envelope should be addressed.
these guys had Pete Rose autographs, so surely i should believe in their process.
i decided to follow the same procedure in my attempt to procure Magic’s autograph,
which was certainly to be a victory within
our small collectors group.
Magic happened to be a fixture of the Celtic’s rival team.

As I wrote the address of the LA Forum on my humble request,
the smell of smoke began to fill the room. I was on the second floor
of our house. instinctively, i knew my brother was up to no good.

he had decided to warm up last night’s pizza
within the confines of it’s paper box, in an oven set to 300 degrees.
by the time I realized we had an emergency on our hands, I raced out to the garage
to fetch a pitchfork, as it seemed the most likely tool
to remove a burning pizza box
from an electric oven.

balancing the fire on a pitchfork.
i was able to lay it to rest on a small concrete pad in our backyard,
the remnants of a grill that my parents
had brought to ground level
after my brother lodged his head in the chimney one autumn afternoon.

my mother left work at the nursing home
at exactly the same time that I had placed the burning box
on concrete in our suburban back lawn,
which we were clinging to

by the time she took a left turn at the head of our street,
and then passed within sight of our house- smoke was
pouring out of the open front door, an escape clause I had established hoping to
hide the disaster from her.

years later, I found out she had simply drove the car for another four blocks, to the elementary school
on our street, before turning the car around to address our catastrophe.

“let those kids burn…….” she told me, with the conviction of a thousand yard stare.

how could I blame her?
fortunately,
i had extinguished the fire.

ellery twining

the talent

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