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His Inexplicables

by Michael C. Keith

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                                                   For lust of knowing what should not not be known.
 –– James Elroy Flecker

I am maybe four or five years old and lying on my side on a wide sagging bed. It’s covered with a thin white sheet that has an irritating tear near my feet. My long toenails don’t help the situation. The room is dim and cool, and suddenly I feel fingers running down my back the way the digits of a pianist’s hands would dance across the keys of his instrument. I jump and turn to investigate, but the room is empty.

                                                            *          *          *

Again, I’m a kid. Somewhere around six or seven. I hear my father’s voice calling me from a distance. It awakens me, and I return his call. I scan the room, which appears strange but not altogether unfamiliar. Again my father shouts my name. I stand and go to the door pursuing his urgent voice. On the way I catch my image in the mirror, and I’m naked. The door suddenly swings open and my father enters looking perplexed and upset. How did you get here? he asks. I don’t know, I tell him. Isn’t this our room? I say. No, he answers, taking my hand and leading me past numbered doors in the dimly lit hall to the stairway. Two flights down we reach the room that he says is ours. Why don’t you have your pajamas on? he inquires. I have no answer.

                                                            *          *          *

A red light hangs motionless in the sky somewhere between Japan and Hawaii. I am watching it as I stand in the darkness of a Pacific Ocean night on the top deck of the troop ship that is returning me home to the States. I’m nineteen with perfect eyesight. What the heck is it? I wonder. There is nothing but open water for thousands of miles. It’s too high in the air to be another boat. It can’t be a plane because it does not move. I look around for a fellow soldier with whom to share the strange sight as much as to verify what I am seeing. But I am alone. After several minutes the luminous object shoots upward and then sideways and then downward and once again sideways. Its movement has formed a perfect square. I am mesmerized and incredulous as it then ascends upwards at an incomprehensible speed and is lost among the stars.

                                                            *          *          *

For a year in my late thirties, streetlights went dark as I passed them. They did so with amusing, if not alarming, regularity. That same year, the number 11.11 kept appearing to me. I’d be traveling somewhere and look at the clock, and there staring back at me from the dashboard would be the ubiquitous numerals. What made me look at that precise time? Why did I feel compelled to look? The same phenomenon would occur at home. The microwave oven or cable box clocks, as well as the alarm clock next to my bed, would display those twin elevens. Once when I was driving home from a movie, three streetlights went out in succession as I drove under them. Why I glanced at the clock at that very instant I can’t explain. It was 11.12. After that, streetlights stopped going out, and the set of double integers rarely revealed themselves.

                                                            *          *          *

I became a widower before I turned sixty. I had three decades of a wonderful marriage––a loving union. The empty space next to me in bed now feels infinite and haunting. It is only a queen-size mattress, but I feel like the sole occupant on the highest plain of grief. Then one night I see my absent lover beckoning me on the distant horizon of our Memory Foam Mattress, and I joyously, but not effortlessly, move past my deep depression to her waiting embrace.


Michael C. Keith is the author of an acclaimed memoir, three story collections, and two-dozen non-fiction books. www.michaelckeith.com

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