With my transistor radio between
the pillow and my left ear Im in bed.
The local stations have either signed off
or lost power—so I tune in foreign
signals, from St. Louis, Cincinnati,
Cleveland, Nashville, New Orleans. I wonder
why I cant pull them in during daytime
—too much interference in my hometown,
maybe. Im nine years old. Theres a world out
there, more than just what shows up on a map
or globe. I cant go there myself and
our TV gets only three stations so
I have to travel with my ears. Dumbo,
sort of. But Im not dumb and I dont fly
and Im not an elephant. I can nudge
the tuning dial with my index finger,
go from 650 to 1550
on my AM dial. My radio runs
on a little nine-volt battery. I
save my allowances to buy new ones,
the cheapest at thirty-nine cents each and
I get just fifteen cents a week and out
of that Ive got other expenses—ice
cream and candy bars and Coca Colas
and comic books. I pick up extra change
by sweeping the porch, cleaning the garage,
picking up rocks in the family garden.
I do alright for a kid. Every night
I try to find stations that Ive never heard
before. I make the battery last by
holding the radio close to my ear.
Its the only radio I have, no
plug-in kind. I"m not big enough for one,
my parents say. Maybe next year, they say,
when we have more money. Maybe Santa
will being you one. If youre good. And maybe
not, I think, but I dont say that, just think
—I dont want to hurt their feelings. I keep
these baby-blues peeled and have figured out
that Santa brings more presents to the rich
than to the poor. Were not poor but were not
rich. Were rich enough and poor enough. Thats
middle class, I guess, but were a little
less than middle. And I have a brother
and two sisters. Father is a teacher.
Mother stays at home and does the laundry
and the cooking and the shopping, although
she doesnt drive. So every Saturday
Father takes us into Marietta
to the A & P and she buys groceries.
I saw some rattlesnake meat in a can
but she wont buy it. Pork brains, too. Classy
foods like that but were meat-and-potatoes
and bread and milk and corn flakes
and coffee and rice pudding for dessert.
For our birthdays we have tapioca.
The world comes to me and sits on the shelves
in the A & P but I want to go
to it, the world, I mean. One day, maybe,
Ill sign up and service my country,
or learn to play guitar and hack around
like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan and
other bums and hobos. I look at books
and listen to the radio at night
—all those voices and songs and ads and news
and editorial comments and sports
and weather from many different places.
I wish I could be everywhere at once.
Maybe I can and thats why Im human.
Sometimes I feel that the worlds inside me
just waiting to bust out and to be free,
but Im the universe, the big body
of God, and Ill hold its blood inside me
if it kills me, not that God can die. So
when I hear the radio at night Im
really hearing everybodys prayers.
Theyre not prayers, exactly, but at least they
try to get in touch with me. I answer
them. Thats one thing Im better than God at.
But maybe he wont suffer foolishness,
doesnt quite have the patience that I do.
Maybe He listens to St. Louis but
doesnt have a hankering to visit.
Im God, He thinks. I include everything
anyway, and theres nowhere I can go
where I havent been. Hell, I made it all.
When we have a thunderstorm what I hear
is static all around the dial. Maybe
thats God trying to communicate. I
just cant tune Him in well enough to
know what Hes saying. Its a strange language
to me. Sometimes it hurts my ear but I
listen anyway, at least until I
fall asleep. And thats when I understand.
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