Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Five

 

Dear lighting bolts, no thanks. Dear thunderclap, no thanks either. Love to you both anyway, Bud.

 

Dear Mom, it was good to see you the other day. I’m sorry that you had identity theft on your clamming license and someone else is out there pretending to be you and getting your clams out of the Barneget Bay. Love, Bud.

 

Dear Dad, happy birthday, one month late. Here is one hundred dollars. Also, Happy Father’s Day. If you think one hundred dollars is too much for your birthday, maybe just think of it as fifty for Father’s Day and fifty for your birthday. Also, thanks for telling me that story about seeing the UFO flying over town hall when you were running those drills with the volunteer fire department, I enjoyed the diagrams and I do agree with you that UFOs would be attracted to flashing lights, I mean, everything else is. Love, Bud.

Friends

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Four

 

My friend, the playwright, invited me to breakfast. So I climbed on the train and took it across the water. A perfect spring morning.

I knew for sure it was a perfect spring morning because out an open window on 11th Street, I heard someone singing an opera.

I stopped to listen.

Italian, or Greek, or German.

Whatever it was, bombastic. I didn’t know any other language besides English, which was a shame, it was limiting my ability to make friends.

If I spoke Mandarin, I could go to Taiwan and make Taiwanese friends, or if I learned Russian, I could go to Belarus and make Belarusian friends. Instead, I was stuck with the English. Still am.

I leaned against a wall. Flies buzzed around a garbage can. I looked at them and thought, It’s too bad I can’t speak Fly, because then I could be friends with the flies too.

A lot of my friends are books, some of them written in other languages I don’t understand. Sometimes a translator becomes my friend by translating a book so I can read it. Friends everywhere.

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Three

 

 

Two Cats

 

Editor: Hmmm.

Bud: Slaughterhouse-Six?

Editor: Hmm, what else you got?

Bud: Salt and Pepper

Editor: Okay, let’s use that for now.

 

Salt and Pepper


Three in the morning, the back door opens, four people enter the dark house. Black jeans, boots, jackets, gloves, ski masks. Nothing said. They’ve been here before. The moon is full, but so what.

A screened in porch, dim blue light. Kitchen sink dripping. One of them shuts it off. They part a beaded curtain and step into the bedroom, where The editor of this column is sleeping beside his girlfriend.

They surround the bed, staring down at the sleepers. Two cats watch too. Silence. Then breathing, the sounds of the night, bugs outside, frogs, wind. Each time they come back here like this, they stay longer.

 

Editor: I’m not really sold on this concept.

Bud: I know it’s kind of weird.

Two Cats

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Thirty-Two

 

Three in the morning, the back door opens, four people enter the dark house. Black jeans, boots, jackets, gloves, ski masks. Nothing said. They’ve been here before. The moon is full, but so what.

A screened in porch, dim blue light. Kitchen sink dripping. One of them shuts it off. They part a beaded curtain and step into the bedroom, where the editor of this column is sleeping beside his girlfriend.

They surround the bed, staring down at the sleepers. Two cats watch too. Silence. Then breathing, the sounds of the night, bugs outside, frogs, wind. Each time they come back here like this, they stay longer.

Mystery

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Thirty

 

My memories are locked up in a wooden house, each year growing and distorting.

No roads or rails get there.

The house is over the hills, and across a wide valley, past two raging silver rivers, beyond a seemingly endless golden field stupid with wildflowers.

Some years I even believe the house gets farther and farther away.

Beyond those forever fields there is a maze of forest, which recently just filled up with wolves.

Long I’d suspected my house of memory had fallen into squalor. I’d seen the signs, recalling something and finding it wrong. A memory of my grandmother as a rabid woman. No.

Every year a new room is added to this house, and the maintenance gets worse. I should get there soon, I thought. Then I didn’t go. I should open the windows and air the place out, pull the vines down that are creeping up the downspout.

Focusing on the present, I’d let the past evade me.

Forgive me, Rachel Buleri.

I’d forgotten our sixth wedding anniversary.

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Nine

 

Hamlet wakes up in the underworld. He is up on stage. Act 1: Scene 1, Elsinore, the rampart walls of his familial Dutch castle, except something seems wrong. Part of the castle is made of plywood, and painted gray. Other parts of the castle are styrofoam molded to look like stone blocks.

Up above him on the rampart walls, he sees men dressed like Spartans because the wardrobe people are idiots. The guards hold spears, are keeping an eye out for Norway who is coming soon to kick everyone’s ass.

The guards address each other as Bernardo, Fernando, Marcellas, and Horatio, but Hamlet knows those men, and the guards are not those men. Hamlet thinks he’s dreaming. The imposter versions of Bernardo, Fernando, Marcellas, and Horatio, begin talking about a ghost they have seen. Hamlet climbs the stairs to join them on the rampart walls. Halfway up, he hears them say that the ghost that has visited them two nights in a row is Hamlet’s father, the recently slain King of the Danes. Okay, Hamlet thinks, I’ve heard this one before.

 

In quantum field theory, in my imperfect understanding of it, gleaned from YouTube, a physicist can make an atom vibrate on one level, like a violin string, as well as a neutrino on another level, and so forth and so on.  But apparently, Higgs Boson, a subatomic particle with no mass whatsoever, moves everywhere, on all levels; fluid, like a body of water, like a river, appearing and disappearing. This is why it’s called the God particle. It’s omniscient and omnipresent. It doesn’t move through time, it is time itself.

*

Scientists say the temporal lobe connects the past and the present so that we are able to construct a continuous sense of self. It is our temple of emotions, our history, and how we, I believe, maintain homeostasis — a divine state of internal equilibrium. Biologically speaking, homeostasis means able to maintain a stable and constant environment; blood pressure, temperature, glucose levels, hormones, among other functions. It is like a set of interdependent mechanisms all assuring the viability of the organism. It is also a self-correcting system, much like a driver at the steering wheel of a car, constantly adjusting the wheel to the right or to the left to maintain a smooth trajectory.

Beach Boys

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Eight

 

I was dreaming I was a Beach Boy, but now I’m home and I’ve given that up.

I can hear the state flag of New Jersey whipping in the wind against the face of this building.

Yesterday, I walked over to the public library and got a library card. I’m reading Hamlet, and a book about Hamlet written by Harold Bloom. And I’m finishing off a few letters I still have to send. Trying to run to the post office. You know how it is, you can be alive 111 years and there’re always more letters to send.  More people to thank for your life.


Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Seven

Most of the time when you see a piano you’re not allowed to play it, but you’re supposed to try, even if you don’t know how to play it. Or at least I’m asking you to, because I’d love to hear you play.

 

Watching William smoke a Marlboro Red on Cannery Row, looking out at Monterey Bay and the gulls going keekeekeeekeeekeee.

 

Then I woke up in Big Sur and heard the waves crashing on the rocks just outside the tent.

 

All these days, all these nights, a restless feeling, and never truly comfortable and always looking for peace. And maybe I’ll find it tomorrow. Oh I doubt it. Oh I don’t even want it.

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Six

 

Well, it was a bad idea to wait to try and write this in the car, while all these beautiful things are flashing by outside. The last thing I want to be doing is looking at my phone. I’ll do it for this hour, and then, as I promised my brother, William, we’ll switch and I’ll drive the rental car into the Grand Canyon.

 

Into the Grand Canyon. Yeah. I’m gonna drive this Nissan right into the Canyon.

 

We were just at a rest stop near Sedona and there was a big sign giving a history lesson about the white guy who found the Grand Canyon. First of all, imagine being the guy who thought he found that, think about him having to tell his friends, “I found this reallllllllly big canyon” and his friends going, “Nice, what are you going to call it?” and he says, “The Grand Canyon.”

 

America is funny like that. What’s this big mountain range called? “Rocky Mountains.” “Okay, I guess that’s good, let’s check and see if anyone else already is using it…wow …no one has. Rocky Mountains is available, I can’t believe it.”

Trees

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Five

 

“When Henry Hudson sailed up through the Narrows between Long and Staten Islands in 1609 and anchored in the upper bay almost opposite old Communipaw, and he looked over the surrounding country and, as his gaze fell upon the green plains and pleasantly wooded hills stretching away toward the setting sun, he declared his enthusiasm that it was ‘as pleasant a land as one need tread upon.'”

 

He was looking at Jersey City.

 

Pleasantly wooded hills stretching away towards the setting sun. Damn.

As pleasant a land as one need tread upon, he said.

Jane

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Four

 

My friend, the vampire, wanted to go to the vampire dance club in Newark, New Jersey. I said sure, even though I was not a vampire and didn’t dance. Turns out I was driving, too. That’s fine. There was nothing else going on. September, in my bayside town, one hour south. We climbed in my silver Mercury Cougar and drove north.

 

I met Jane at that vampire dance club. She was not a vampire either.

Butterfly

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Negative One

 

In the beginning, I got born. The doctor handed me to my mother and said good luck. I was crying. My father came in the room with a handlebar mustache, and my mother said good luck to him. Out the windows, specks of dead stars were falling out of the sky, landing in the ocean, hissing. Grandma and grandpa came by and said hello, good luck. The other grandma and grandpa came by and said there was no such thing as luck, don’t be superstitious. Shortly thereafter, they died.

Fish Hook

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Two

 

Your life is a house where you keep your memories. You built this house. Before you, and your memories, there was just a field here, with wild flowers and grass and bugs. You and your house and your memories displaced all of that, but it’s okay, when you die, the house will fall down and the rooms with your memories will collapse under the weight, and the wood that built the house will rot away and feed the ground, so grass and bugs and wild flowers return.

Rewrite

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Eighteen

 

It was raining. I couldn’t leave work. The flash flood too deep to drive through, and I knew better. Another work emergency. Five of us in rain gear, hoods up over our hardhats, rubber booties stretched over steel-toed boots. (I don’t write specifics about my coworkers anymore, no names, no record of what they say or think—this after I was told it is unethical to write about people without letting them see it first before it’s printed.) Nameless, faceless, Us, in the storm, ripping apart an elephantine machine. Gears and pulleys. Its metal guts. Black grease smeared our yellow. Thunderstorms spinning around.

I got home in darkness, with wet socks and a headache. My usual routine was to write for a couple hours after work, but that now felt impossible. I’d go to the couch and dream till dinnertime. I opened the PO box, and a flash of lightning dimmed the lights of my building. Among the bills was a response from a publisher I’d sent a story to a year before. A purple post-it note said they were sorry to pass, but to please consider them again, the story had reached the later editorial rounds. They felt the characters and their resolutions didn’t feel earned, or true to life.