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That Was Some Experiment

Ftrain author really a commie!

Workers of the world, get dressed. Straighten your bowtie. Your wife smooths her lipstick as the cab goes north, up to the lower sixties.

It's Mayday, and there's an event for Children with Phomalasis. If you could just write a check and not shoehorn into this tux. Fundraiser hypocrisy--they never invite the hungry kids themselves. Imagine the children, ragged and oozing, standing in a gaunt cluster on the ballroom floor. The horrified celebrants turning away in shame. You grin darkly, looking out the wet cab window.

Pad the fare with an extra buck for the Indian driver. He's dot, not feather. Inside, check your raincoat, and look for who you know.

You mumble to your wife, "Christ, is Prada a sponsor?" You see hundreds of white people, milling in tight black clothes, framed in red bunting along the windows. It's as sharp as a Russian poster, but without tractors.

People laugh about a new commercial that ran tonight, a thirty second collage of grainy monochrome rally footage, tanks on parade, and yelling faces. You saw it on a show you're ashamed to watch.

The voice-over:

Because for every Lenin there's a Stalin,
For every letter to the editor, there's a knock at the door,
For every hint of rebellion, an enforced famine,
For every agricultural minister, dead agriculturalists who disagreed.

Because the people need to run from themselves....
Nike May Day Running Shoes

Because the people need to run from themselves....
Nike May Day Running Shoes

"I never saw anything like it," you say, after a fifth G and T. Long live the revolution of the compact disc, hard drive, ceiling fan, Aerobie, bicycle wheel, and hula hoop. The charity ball circles the sun. The earth twists; you spin your coworker's wife, her smile orbits your own. Wheels within wheels, of fortune, steel wheels of tanks in the commercial, the round toothed gears on which you were supposed to throw your body. All revolve. Will not be televised. You start to speak all this out loud, then feel the wobble in your hips and taste the lime in your mouth.

"Never saw anything like what?" your dance partner asks. You only laughing, your dancing sloppy.

The night folds over. The rain has stopped. Generous and sweaty, you hand a homeless woman two dollar bills, your wife's bare arm crooked in your black sleeve. A mistake: the woman is not begging, she's crazy, giving out leaflets at two AM. She shakes her dark head and hands back your cash with a trifold pamphlet.

Embarassed, take your arm from your wife and raise it for a cab, flexing your fingers into cloudy space. You skim the pamphlet in the street's orange glow. On an inside panel, along with all the other invective:


nike mayday sneak ers
(5 lines that make a fist)


the tiny red flag
embroidered by sweaty
child hands, the thimble
loose as a beret on the
weedy
   brown
     thumb

This is printed at a right angle inside a contour sketch of a raised hand. Each line is inside another finger; the last line is printed at an angle to fill the thumb. The palm is inscribed with handwritten capitals:

HOLD   ANY
ONTO   REVOLUTION
YOUR   COMES ROUND
SWOOSH  360 DEGREES

You read it as "hold any onto revolution your comes round swoosh 360 degrees," and stuff the pamphlet into your pocket.

Stooping into the cab, tilt your head and think: let's hope that's in Kelvin, not Celcius.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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