You’re innocent until proven guilty, Mandy exclaimed, unable to hide her gleeful smile. She missed the way people used to have normal conversations, used to be more caring for each other than themselves, back in the Seventies and Eighties. These days, she realized, neighbors kept to themselves, their kids kept to themselves, nobody talked to each other anymore. They went to work, went shopping and shut themselves up at home in front of glowing computer screens and cellphones… but maybe the nostalgic, better times in her life would stay buried, maybe the world would never be what it was. In the 21st century music was bad, movies were bad, society was failing and there were very few intelligent people left who missed the way things used to be… maybe though, Mandy could change things. Thinking back to the old home movies in her basement, she recalled what Alecto had told her. We wanted more than anything else in the world to be normal, but we failed. The 1960’s and 1970’s were very strange times, but Mandy missed it all, she missed the days when Super-8 was the popular film type, when music had lyrics that made you think, when movies had powerful meanings instead of bad comedy and when people would just walk to a friend’s house for the afternoon instead of texting in bed all day. She missed soda fountains and department stores and non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags, she wished cellphones, bad pop music and LED lights didn’t exist… she hated how everything had a diagnosis or pill now, how people who didn’t fit in with modern, lazy society were just prescribed medications without a second thought… she hated how old, reliable cars were replaced with cheap hybrid vehicles… she hated how everything could be done online, so that people could just ignore each other… the world was becoming much more convenient, but at the same time, less human and her teenage life was considered nostalgic history now.Hanging her head low, avoiding the slightly confused stare of the cab driver through the rear view mirror, she started crying uncontrollably, her tears soaking the collar of her coat as the sun blared through the windows in a warm light.
Rebecca McNutt
MOTHER – By Ted KooserMid April already and the wild plumsbloom at the roadside, a lacy whiteagainst the exuberant, jubilant greenof new grass and the dusty, fading black of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,only the delicate, star-petaledblossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.You have been gone a month todayand have missed three rains and one nightlongwatch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellarfrom six to eight while fat spring cloudswent somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,a storm that walked on legs of lightning,dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.The meadowlarks are back and the finchesare turning from green to gold. Those sametwo geese have come to the pond again this year,honking in over the trees and splashing down.They never nest, but stay a week or twothen leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts,burning in circles like birthday candles,for this is the month of my birth, as you know,the best month to be born in, thanks to you,everything ready to burst with living.There will be no more new flannel nightshirtssewn on your old black Singer, no birthday cardaddressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.You asked me if I would be sad when it happenedand I am sad. But the iris I moved from your housenow hold in the dusty dry fists of their rootsgreen knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that. Were it not for the way you taught me to lookat the world, to see the life at play in everything,I would have to be lonely forever.
Ted Kooser
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen.
Aaron Freeman