Rain weathers the edifice, rendering a map, revealing topography once reserved only for quarrymen. Or: cheese mites are back, this time hungering for brown bricks. Haring figures dance into stone, their borders formed by dried-up streams. It’s not a matter of design, walls always wait. Revelation’s inevitable. Little rill marks, set a-vibe like liquid jazz, glide eyes to the front door. Focus on what’s beyond walls—places where humans are. Why stare at dirt?
Too bad humans didn’t survive long enough to discover the true origin of their universe. They would’ve found that, yes, a creator existed. But it might’ve been too much for them to learn that their creator was a seventh-grader named Reinhold.
He created the universe on a Tuesday morning. Reinhold sat in remedial nuclear physics class. He misread the experiment’s directions and caused a Microscopic Bang. The teacher extinguished it his classmates had a good laugh. It was the second most embarrassing moment of Reinhold’s life. What if humans had known their entire existence took place during third period? Would they have treated each other better? Or at least lightened up some?
Reinhold left the classroom and shuffled to his next class. There was an oral report due, and he was in danger of being held back a year. God knew his parents would be angry if that happened.
The most embarrassing day of Reinhold’s life occurred a few months before he created the universe. He’d tried to hold it in through the entire period, but he didn’t make it to the restroom in time. A splattering of galaxies spilled down his pants and into his shoes.
On that day, a janitor’s mop destroyed all of creation.
It was our weekend at Dad’s apartment. My brother and I watched TV from the scratchy, tattered couch. A faint ghost of cigarette smoke swirled into the living room, forming halos above our heads. In the silence between channels, a mist of noise sprayed from the next room.
A woman’s digital moan escaped the boxy computer speakers, followed by the sound of frantic mouse clicking. My brother looked at me.
“Damn emails,” hollered Dad. “Gave me a virus!”
The night had sprayed the apartment with a fire extinguisher. Maggie got the day off, so Peter called in sick. They made soup and spent the afternoon under blankets in front of the television. They never got to spend an entire day together anymore.
“With so many talk shows over the years, why doesn’t everyone know somebody who has been on one?” said Peter. “My aunt sat in the Maury audience once, but that doesn’t count.”
Silence fell, wet and sticky.
“I’ve been on a talk show,” Maggie said. Peter turned toward her. She sank into the couch.
“Five years and you never told me?”
“And when did this supposed talk show appearance happen?”
“I was in middle school.”
“What kind of show? Out-of-Control Teens?”
“No, not that.”
“Oh God, not Who’s the Father?”
“Nooooo,” she said. She slugged him in the arm.
“What other topics are there?”
Maggie stood and drifted around the coffee table. Peter watched her pile up. “Fat Kids. I was on a fat kid episode.”
Peter chortled. “Nice try.”
“Babe, I’m serious. Have you seen a picture of me before I was sixteen?”
“I mean… baby pictures.”
“Only your senior portraits.” Peter grabbed the bowls and spoons, brought them to the kitchen. “I still don’t believe you.”
“At 13, I weighed 300 pounds. My family put me on TV looking like that. Kids skipped school to see Saggy Maggie’s episode.”
She sat down; Peter joined her. He’d seen that face before. It was the time she told the “you’re paying for the abortion” joke through a mist of tears.
He put his arm around her.
“Okay, okay,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“It was humiliating.”
“But you’re so skinny.”
“They gave me a personal trainer for a year. Then I had a growth spurt, and it was like I’d never been fat. But I was.”
Peter kissed her cheek. “Well, I would’ve loved you, anyway.”
“No, you wouldn’t. You would’ve ignored me. We never would’ve met.” Maggie stared into the kitchen. A snowplow rumbled by outside.