THE REAR END: Remember How I Forgot?

Remember how I forgot these things? These small, heavy things? These little stones.

Let’s see.

I think my first real memory involves an orange plastic motorcycle with a black seat. That’s all I can tell you about it.

My neighbor’s lilac bush was first base.

My sister used to walk me up 14th Street to go get hard, frozen snow cones from a small grocery store on Truax Boulevard. I never had to look both ways. She did it for me.

On some nights, I’d stare at the dark brown carpet in my bedroom, lit by a sliver of light from the bathroom across the hall. And I’d see faces. From the closet to the toy box, weird little faces. Pressed flat. We’d watch each other until I’d fall asleep.

The priest who lived at the church connected to my grade school had a chicken.

I once told a college writing professor that I didn’t turn in a poetry assignment because you’re supposed to ‘write what you know’ and I didn’t know enough.

MIKE PAULUS

I sat on the steps going down to the family room one night while my mom made dinner and my dad watched TV. And I played with matches. I dropped one, gasped, and snatched back it up. I blew it out and then I sat there wondering. I wondered what would happen if that little match flame could somehow crack the whole house in half. My dad would be in one half and my mom would be in the other. What if the two halves drifted away from each other, floating through space? Which half would I jump to?

In fifth grade, right before my family moved away, my teacher gave me a little red, white, and blue basketball. All eight of my classmates had signed it with a black permanent marker. I still have it.

An old friend used to call the pebbles that got stuck in his shoes “shopping carts.” It was weird. He was weird. But weird is good.

Our high school band had to help staff Bingo Night in the gym, pushing carts of popcorn and cans of soda through clouds of cigarette smoke. One night, a man came up and told me the Pepsi I’d just sold him was “flat as piss.” I didn’t know what to say.

Back in high school, you and I both had a song we loved to death. We ground it into our ears, crushing it to dust, and then the wind blew it away.

I once told a college writing professor that I didn’t turn in a poetry assignment because you’re supposed to “write what you know” and I didn’t know enough.

I stepped up into my dad’s pickup truck, the hot dashboard vinyl broiling in the Wisconsin summer sun, his gas station coffee scorching a styrofoam cup. There was fresh dirt on the floor. His mind of him was already 20 miles away. His mind about him was out to November, out in the trees. He pulled onto the road and whistled. Like always. Probably a country song from 1987. Or 1967. If you were to ask him the name of the song, he’d have no idea. He wouldn’t even remember he’d been whistling. His brain of him was full of more important things.

My mom used to get boxes of discount paper towel from the paper mill on Forest Street, where she worked. It wasn’t perforated. Just a big box of very, very long paper towels.

My mom never gets enough credit in my memories. She’s standing there behind them, holding it all together.

Are we a person-shaped pile of shiny, little stones? Who put them here? Who placed them just so? Where are those people now?

We can’t touch more than a few at a time.

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