Spelling it out.

Time to Settle Accounts

May 3, 2011: Spelling it out.

“You like eerie numeric coincidences, and stuff like that, right?” I ask Ricky during the first quarter of the Lakers-Mavs game.

“Absolutely.”

I read him my story from that afternoon, a soon-to-be-published short called “How you play the game,” and then ask him to look at the first paragraph. “Re-read that,” I say. “What stands out?”

“Not sure,” he says once he’s finished.

“What inning was the ballgame in when the ‘U-S-A!’ chants began?”

He looks. “The 9th.”

“And what was the score?”

His face clicks in. “Ahh… 9/11. Yeah. Weird.”

“Okay,” I say, “and the two teams playing, the Mets and the Phillies – what do they have in common that is specific to 9/11?”

“Well, New York obviously.”

“Right.”

“And the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.”

“There you go.”

“Huh.” He sits silently. “Yeah, that is weird.”

“Originally I had a sentence in there pointing out that geographic connection, but I decided to let the reader figure it out.”

“Makes sense.”

“Now, obviously it’s no coincidence that a Phils-Mets game would prompt spirited ‘U-S-A!’ chants on the night Osama bin Laden is killed, but it is a coincidence that the two teams would be tied 1-1 in the 9th when the announcement came in.”

“And that they were playing each other the night it happened, and that it was a night game…”

“Precisely,” I say. “In real life, I have to believe that those are just coincidences. But if this were a movie,” I catch myself, “or a book, we’d be reading those signs, scraping out meaning, debating the writer’s intentions.” Derek Fisher knocks down a deep three, and our attention flips back to the game. “That’s it right there,” I say. “That’s what I like to write about.”

The first half ends and I call Carrie. An hour earlier when the Bulls game ended she’d asked me to give her another hour of work. “Am I good to come over?” I ask at the half, and she says I am, and I do.

“Hi babys!” I say in that way of ours.

“I’m juuuuuust about done,” she says when I walk in. “Did you bring your computer?”

“I’ll just read,” I say, and I’m settling in to bed to read when I hear Carrie walk into the bathroom and scream. She walks out and looks at me. “Bug?” I ask. She nods.

“I threw a towel on it,” she says, and it seems as if she will say more, but she does not.

“Do you want me to finish it?”

“Yes please,” she says sweetly. She walks back to her desk and yells, “let me know when it’s gone.”

I walk into the bathroom and pull two tissues from the box. I lift the towel. On the tile, not moving but not dead, is some kind of creepy crawler, perhaps a centipede, but I don’t spend too much time looking. It is motionless and I go in for the kill, smushing the bastard into the tile and then scooping it up. I crush the tissues in my hand, consider burial options, open the toilet seat, drop the body wrapped in tissue into the water, and flush.

“Done!” I shout. I wash my hands and return to Carrie at her computer. “He’s dead and washed away.”

“Thank you babys,” she says. “You flushed?” I nod, and she exhales. “Thank goodness. We’re safe now.”

NEXT: 9/11 and other stories. (5.5.11)

PREVIOUS: Tweeting is believing. (5.2.11)

KIND OF PREVIOUS: How the game is played. (5.2.11) [run at the 3×5 Project]

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