Alicia Rebecca Myers
Our first grader announces that he has a lot of questions about how a cat can be taught to use a toilet. So, I design a quick lesson around that. He stuffs a ball of gummy bears into his left cheek like a wad of tobacco before we get down to brass tacks. In what is maybe our fifth cat toilet training video in a row, an addled tabby named Joy paws at the black hole where her litter used to be. He asks me to read him the subtitles. I deliver the sobering line, “Joy hesitated first…,” which feels true to how we will experience large-scale events again when we reopen stadiums and theaters and venues. The trick to toilet training a cat is to increase the circle size slowly, over the course of several weeks, so that the cat doesn’t realize anything greater is missing. “Look, she has no idea!” our son says to me more than once about more than one cat, which makes me wonder if I have already adjusted to this new life with no real knowledge yet of the breadth of what I’ve lost.
The Northern Hemisphere leans as far away from the sun as possible. A week ago, a construction worker fell five stories and survived by landing in a dumpster. I watched it happen from our window, propped up in bed purchasing The Clapper, only I mistook the ragged movement of rooftop specks for comradery. Our son wants the promise of no more fumbling through darkness. When we called the Santa hotline, he clapped twice to emphasize his wish. One Clapper reviewer notes that people with memory loss might forget how to press a button but never how to put their hands together. In the account of how the man fell, witnesses report he had unclipped from his gear to go home for the night. I read this as unclapped. I used to think the floors of a building were called stories, as in narrative. Story fifteen: I can now tie my hair under my chin! Story ninety-seven: I pull socks from the dirty hallway pile, too defeated to do laundry! This morning, in remote learning, I overhear the moon has low gravity. I want to ask if a mother can stumble off its crust. I got my tracker number for The Clapper and thought: “How are you so unwilling to touch a switch when you hang on me all the time?” and also: “Please stay little.” Yesterday, I found a lotto card in the snow that wasn’t a winner. It contained the words same and wait but also rowboat. All of the children are asked to unmute and howl at the screen, and after they’re done, I put my hands together.
YOU GOT IT WRONG
Someone has affixed a tinsel star to the burnt-out stadium light at the center of the municipal dog park. Gloaming encroaches. The bearded owner of a poxer shouts, “I can’t see shit, literally!” This is the first Christmas I won’t spend in my childhood home. I once biked its subdivision by only the crisp flicker of sandbagged luminary candles. I prefer to sing “where the love light leads,” as if radiance propels the wishful traveler. In the silent film I heard about, a lighthouse operator is asked by her lover to send him a signal over dark water; he is really a spy using her beam to help sink a vessel. I worry Zelda will attack other dogs before I can read her signs. There is a fine line between play bow and brinkmanship. I dressed her in a fluorescent orange Carhartt coat so she will flare comically. TikTok has been targeting me with glowups: videos of shelter dogs before and after getting adopted into forever households. I wonder how I’m to know if this is my before or after self. Zelda nips at the flank of shadow. Recently, when our son pointed his thumbs and index fingers at me, I snapped, “Please don’t pretend the shape of guns.” He answered, “You got it wrong. This is an envelope.”