He was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was not an octuplet. He was not conjoined.
He was not a virtuoso and he did not write symphonies. He wondered why his mother always came to his aid when there were seven people living in the house. Later he would play bass clarinet in the high school band.
He did not, at the age of six, derive a formula for summing the integers from one to one hundred. He worried the acorn he planted by the side of the house would grow to take off the roof. He confessed the next day.
He never drank hemlock. He discovered sleep came when he was mildly befuddled, not content or brilliant. Staring at the ceiling, he tried to focus on imponderables. His mind would wander.
He didn’t shatter an immense knot with his sword. He needed a fork, sometimes, to undo his shoelaces.
He didn’t say homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. He was a fan of Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Sr., and later The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Famous Monsters of Filmland.
He didn’t seduce thousands of women or kill the father of one of his conquests. He went steady at fifteen, before most of his friends, and he enjoyed their brusque admiration. She ended the relationship a month after she started college, writing: It is against every fiber of my being to wish to be where I am not. For the first time he felt something beyond himself.
He didn’t develop a theory of the universe. He did a hitch in the paratroopers. As he floated, with no reference points, it didn’t look like the plane was moving away, but that space was being created.
He didn’t write collectible letters to his cloistered former-student former-lover. He played a game with his fiance, each creating sentences for the other to say. “Our love is a settled affair.” “I notice them but dispassionately.” “I hope we die the same day.” What if it’s not true, she asked. Act in a way and you become that way, he told her.
He didn’t hold his three children by the heel and dip them in a river. He taught them to swim at the community pool. His youngest daughter leapt at him when he wasn’t ready and he accidentally splashed her face. The chlorine made her cry.
He did not claim divine right or lop off heads. It bothered him when a woman’s features reflected too much of her personality.
He didn’t quietly prepare to divorce his wife until the truth was revealed to him by an angel in a dream. He forgave his wife’s fling. Two years later, she commented over drinks that the affair may have brought them closer together. “You never know what’s working for you.” That created a whole new row.
He didn’t one calm summer night put a bullet through his head. He didn’t weep that he was ever born and have reasons. He wondered if cannibalism and indecency might be necessary to get past cannibalism and indecency. That thought and valerian helped in the dark.
He didn’t sleep in a clay jar. When he saw a man raving on the street, he whispered: You’re probably right.
He was not confronted on the road to Damascus. He went to Vegas for his second marriage. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.
He did not say Vae Victis. Show me what I’m doing wrong became a motto for a while in his forties.
He didn’t discover the source of the Nile. He correctly figured the rainwater in the master bedroom was coming from the sliding glass door on the loft level, not the flat roof deck. For days he mocked the roofer’s speech on water migration.
He did not run through the streets yelling I have found it. Whenever a nude stranger started a conversation in the locker room, he would get irritated.
He was never held for ransom by pirates whom he subsequently captured and executed. He got seven months of free cable when they neglected to terminate his service after he cancelled.
He didn’t review his childhood after eating a small cake. He remembered slapping a table and laughing, a three-year-old’s laughter that doesn’t explode but proceeds. He didn’t remember why it was funny. French fries took him forever to the beach.
He didn’t charge windmills, although they concerned him because of the birds. Because of the birds.
He did not read people’s minds with his mutant powers. He tried to place a thought in his newborn grandson’s head: This is your last chance.
He didn’t go to the desert where he was tormented by demons in the guise of animals. After finding Plutarch’s Lives at the beach, he began to think of rejection as vicarious self-denial. He figured the new pup would live as long as he would.
He was not saved from the guillotine by a heroic look-alike. He was walking the dog when he noticed a girl, about the age of his granddaughter, running behind him. He was already on the edge of the path, but he moved the dog over another foot. Ten seconds later, as the girl passed, he heard “Thank you.” It lifted his heart. The basis of courtesy is love, he told his wife. She worried he was becoming emotionally unstable.
He didn’t live his life backwards. He cried out his first wife’s name. But more often he called Shanesh, a nurse who had been with him the week before.
It’s possible he spoke a mysterious word when he died. There was no one in the room to hear it.
It’s possible nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it. He had been fascinated when a friend revealed she stopped flossing the instant her brain tumor was diagnosed. He had a lifelong interest in whether a person who jumps out of a window gains insight on the way down.
They didn’t find 1800 poems in his desk after he died. He kept a journal for a while in his twenties and ultimately created a body of work on Amazon reviews.
He is not buried at Pre Lachaise. His grave marker: name, year of birth, year of death. Too much information, his granddaughter might say.
Bruno Nelson lives in Washington, DC. “Fanfare” is his first published story. (updated 7/2015)