When I was a boy, I told my parents I wanted to become Pinocchio. That made my parents mad because they said then I’d have a craving to become a real boy and I already was one. I didn’t understand the anger. It’s not like they wanted to kill me or anything. It was more like frustration, kind of how a snowman feels when seeing the sun coming out. Snowmen tend to want to kick the sun’s ass. I didn’t want to kick my parents’ ass. I just wanted to become wood. My dad held up my Pinocchio book and said, “This is made out of wood.” The revelation was that the Pinocchio book was basically a chopped-up Pinocchio. The Pinocchio book was basically a cannibalized Pinocchio. I never read it again, which wasn’t a problem, because I had the story real memorized. My brother though was an asshole and still is an asshole except he’s not an asshole anymore I suppose because he was killed in a drunk-driving accident. He was protesting drunk drivers when a drunk snowmobiler hit him outside of the bank. My parents didn’t understand why he was picketing a bank about drunk drivers, but my brother was not very smart. He flunked out of kindergarten, which means you basically have to go back inside your mother’s womb, but he couldn’t get inside my mother’s womb anymore so he had to settle for his tiny bedroom for the summer. Before he died, way before he died, I mean a ridiculous amount of time before he died, back when he was still living and breathing and blowing his nose and all the things humans do that’re so gross, he showed me clips from the movie Pinocchio. I didn’t know there was a movie. My brother said there were thousands of Pinocchio movies, that they make a Pinocchio movie every year. I asked why they’d do that and he said Hollywood doesn’t have a very good imagination. They give us the same exact story over and over until we vomit up our money to try to get them to shut up for a while. It’s a bit like giving a gambling addict a pile of poker chips to get him over his gambling addiction. But the Pinocchio clip my brother showed me was when Chrissie is having her last swim, where she strips and runs into the water at the beach and the drunk guy chases after her and she dives in and the night sounds are all peaceful until the music plays and the girl is all alone in the middle of the ocean with cinematography of her feet kicking and then suddenly she gets yanked down and thrown all over the place, screaming, “God, help me!” and “God, it hurts!” and she grabs a buoy and gets yanked under the water forever and my brother said, “Do you like that clip from Pinocchio?” and I didn’t. Of course, it wasn’t until days later—days and days and days and days (well, just to make things easier, it was months later—) that I learned the movie was actually a shark movie directed by the guy who did Schindler’s List and I told my brother what happens to people who lie and what eventually happened was his death. If he’d never lied his entire life, he’d still be living. I told my dad all this last night and he told me I need to move out of the basement, considering I’m almost forty and I told him I wanted to get my sixth community college Associate Degree first and he told me I already had Library Science and Mortuary Science and all the other degrees that he said should be set on fire, something about how I have 375 degrees, which is a perfect oven setting and I should put all my diplomas in the stove because that’s how good they are for employment. So then I told dad I still want to be Pinocchio, even at age thirty-nine. And my father did not like that response. He told me the writer of Pinocchio never had children and if I wasn’t careful I’d end up having no children either. I said, “So you want me to have sex?”
He said, “I’m implying that we’re turning your bedroom into a billiards room next week.”
And this is where things get strange. I swear to Carlo Collodi that this happened. When my father said this, a beam of sunlight came through my window and landed on my aorta. Now, how often do beams of sunlight come through windows? I do realize a cloud moved, but right when my father told me to move out! Come on. Don’t be ridiculous and try to tell me that that wasn’t the North Star speaking to me. So I went outside and started searching around for a talking cricket. My father went to the window and asked what I was doing and I yelled back, “Talking cricket search!” and he called the cops. When they came, I started to tell them about books made of chopped-up puppets and magic sunlight and talkative crickets but all they were interested in was putting me in handcuffs. So in response I started singing “When You Wish Upon a Star.” I can’t sing very well so I kind of death-metaled it out, where I was pounding my fists on the back of the squad car seat for a beat. And I think the police liked it, because they took me to the police station so I could perform that song all night long for the rest of the peace officers. None of them joined in with me, I think because I was doing such a good job that they just wanted to hear my voice. After a while, after hours of doing that in my cell with no shoelaces and no pillow, to be honest with you, my voice started to sound kind of wooden.
Ron Riekki’s books include And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes Best Regional Fiction), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book awarded by the Library of Michigan), and U.P.: a novel (Ghost Road Press). Books upcoming in 2019 include Posttraumatic: a memoir—essays & flash non-fiction on the military, prison, iggy pop, the devil, & writing (Four Chambers Press/Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), The Many Lives of The Evil Dead: Essays on the Cult Film Franchise (McFarland, with Jeff Sartain), and Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press, with Andrea Scarpino).