BY SANDY MCINTOSH
THE PRODIGAL’S CHAIR
My father died. I was ten. I couldn’t believe it.
“He’s joined the CIA,” I tried to convince everyone.
“He’s away on some secret mission.”
Forty years later, my father showed up at our door.
I shouted to anyone listening:
“See? I knew it all along!”
My father was home
but there was no room for him now.
Our habits had changed.
We’d sold his favorite chair.
He couldn’t keep from getting in our way.
“You’ll have to go,”
I finally told him. “There’s no room.”
He collapsed on the carpet and began to sob like a kid—
disbelieving, reckless, uncontrollable—
as if he’d been holding back
for forty years.
THE HOSPITAL CHAIR
The hospital parking lot is empty
My mother’s in her room in her favorite chair refusing to speak.
“She’s such a character,” laughs her roommate.
“She touches you and tells you you are healed and may go home.”
Her roommate hands me a pamphlet
with favorite quotations of my mother
assembled by the other patients.
It turns out to be a collection of libelous rumors
concerning my wife and me,
and one passage, supposedly from Jesus Christ, that reads:
No one knows what will happen
When I leave my tomb in the night
To touch you.
MY FRIEND IGNATIUS
I find myself at a carnival shooting gallery
with my friend, Ignatius. We pop our rifles, having fun,
until I realize that this is a dream.
We are not at a carnival. We are asleep in our beds
in different cities, but we have met in dreaming!
I try to convince Ignatius, but he doesn’t believe me.
I show him how I can leap into the air
and fly around the carnival tents.
“You can’t do this when you’re awake,” I tell him.
To prove it, I take his hand as we fly through a solid wall.
“Wow,” he says. “I think you got something there.”
Ignatius leaps into the air and I follow.
We visit strange cities and meet interesting people.
“Now,” I tell him. “It’s the critical moment.
I’m going to wake myself up, and call you on the telephone.
If you verify that you were here with me in this dream,
we’ll have proved Carlos Castaneda correct:
two people can share a dream.”
When finally I get myself awake,
I reach for the phone and fumble the numbers.
It’s only then that I realize that, in waking life,
I don’t have a friend named Ignatius.
THE BASEBALL SKETCH
Terrible times for Hollywood: On a dusty set I meet Groucho Marx
without his glasses and funny nose. “Good of you to show up, asshole!” he
“You can work the camera.” He shoves a cardboard box at me and punches a
hole in it for a lens. “When I yell ‘Action’ you turn the crank and make a
buzzing noise with your lips. All right, the rest of you,” he hollers. “This
is ‘The Baseball Sketch’.”
He arranges his actors: poor, ragged people just wandering around.
“Action!” Groucho commands, and I turn the crank and make the buzzing noise.
Groucho, in costume, pitches the first ball. When the batter doesn’t swing,
Groucho knocks him to the ground with the bat. Then he hits a home run
and pummels the first baseman to death. Moving around the bases,
he makes a terrible carnage until I remember to shout, “Cut!”
Times improve for Hollywood: Each year I see the new Marx Brothers film,
but never do I see “The Baseball Sketch.” I’m glad, of course;
Groucho so horrific in reality, even as I worked my phony camera.
But I’m secretly disappointed, too, since I’ve long been looking forward
to seeing my screen credits.