I got to the high school national basketball championship game where we lost with one second left on the clock when the small forward for the other team, who would go on to be drafted by Duke University, did a tip-dunk that put them within one point, and was fouled, missed the free throw, but the center for the other team swatted it in before the second was up, a heart-breaking loss, and pure Walter Mitty, because my fantasies get very specific, and, exhaustingly, the whole thing was played out on an eight-foot basketball court in front of a Lutheran elementary school on a Saturday when no one was around, except the cemetery across the street and the deer that were far off in the distance on the soccer field.
My right elbow kills me, but I played basketball anyway.
And went to the river to do inner tubing, which I could honestly do seven days a week, because it starts off with little waterfalls you go down that seem to get bigger and bigger as you go until you get to the last one where you swear you’re going to be knocked off, but I’ve never been, but sometimes come close, and then the rest of the ride is just calm river, restful, getting further and further away from the pot smokers at the waterfalls and the horrible music on horrible speakers at the waterfalls and the arguments and laughter at the waterfalls and the further you go, the more remote it gets, so that it was just me and the ducks and geese and cranes and the light on the trees that quivered so that it, honestly, it looked like a sunlight waterfall, and the inner tube hit a rock, causing me to spin, and I didn’t try to stop it, just circled around and around, and I actually said this out loud: “I love being by myself.”
And I finished reading a poetry book I co-wrote that just came out, a copy I just received two days ago, and I’d never read any of the poems by the other poet in the book, so it was my first time with those poems, and her best ones were about never being able to have children, how those were the poems that I felt were the most honest and hurt and made me feel connected.
And I walked back, taking a shortcut, walking across the river, but getting to a bridge where I found a homeless encampment, but nobody there and it had so much garbage, just piles and piles of it, and two La-Z-Boy chairs where trash bags had been taped to them to make a tent and there were food scraps all over the ground and an empty bottle of Astroglide, and I had to go to the bathroom so badly, so I went on a log, looking around to make sure no one was around, and I walked across the river with the ducks quickly getting away, when earlier, on the inner tube, they were coming up close, to see if I had food, but struggling across the river, clutching my deflated inner tube, stumbling, and splashing, I was too intimidating with my 6’6” height, so the ducks treated me like I was Godzilla.
On the river, two guys put away a table, shoving remaining beer into a cooler and a sign on the table said, SEND US NUDES OR DANCE 4 US 4 BEER and one of the guys who looked like a skinny Paul Bunyan was taking a photo of the other guy who looked like an out-of-shape Crocodile Dundee and I saw I would be in the photo, so I put my hand in front of my face to block it and I slowly floated passed them.
Two planes in the sky flew really close to each other. They kept doing that. I stopped watching them and noticed a guy was watching me watch them.
Walking across a field, I saw a soccer goal, so I jumped up to hang on it. Back in the day, I’d do chin-ups, but my body is too messed up now, so I just hung there. Then I walked down to the other goal and did it again.
I played solitaire on my computer. Lost.
I looked at my toe. It’s all messed up.
I took a shower. No soap, no shampoo. With my PTSD, I have this weird thing where I’ll take four, five, six, seven showers in a day. Any time I’m triggered. It works, calms me down. But if I use soap or shampoo, my skin breaks out. I wasn’t triggered, just dirty. The river has all this PFAS foam (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) that can increase your odds of cancer, asthma, liver disease, all sorts of horrible crap. This same weekend just last year Tribar Technologies dumped a bunch of hexavalent chromium in the river, which can cancer, asthma, liver disease, all sort of horrible crap.
I vowed this upcoming election I’m voting Green Party. Last election, I posted I was going to do that and people raged so loud that I didn’t in the end. But this year, I am. My vote’s going to Cornel West.
I put on my SUOMALAINEN SISU T-shirt. I wonder sometimes if people think SISU is a university.
I threw in a small load of laundry.
I called my dad and asked him the top five countries for the most NHL players and immediately he said, “Finland, Russia, and Sweden,” but he couldn’t think of the other two and they were both completely obvious, so I told him to not overthink it, that it was right in front of his nose, and he said, “Canada and the U.S.” and he was right and he was proud he’d said Finland first, because he’s Finn, and I asked him how many Finns are in the NHL and he said, “Forty. No, thirty” and I said, “Thirty-three” and he said he always hears Finn names during NHL games and my sister used to date a player who went on to play for the NHL, and now that guy is a millionaire with hardly any teeth.
I made some sausage and homemade baked French fries. They were great.
I listened to Loco Locass’ “Le But (Allez Montréal),” which is the Montréal Canadiens’ victory song.
On YouTube, twice, I watched the game six overtime Artturi Lehkonen goal where he sent the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup finals.
On Facebook, I liked a Saami Baiki post for community prayers and studied its main page photo of “Herder Ellen Sara Spein holding her baby sister Berit. (1910).”
I saw the apartment was 78 degrees, so I put a fan in the window, because air conditioning is too expensive, and an hour later it was still 78 degrees.
I called Tsui, but she didn’t answer. I called Yi, but she didn’t answer. I didn’t leave a message.
I heard the crickets raging outside my apartment. I didn’t know why they chirp so much, so I looked it up and it said male crickets chirp to attract female crickets, so it’s like Bumble and Tinder combined out there in the woods.
I looked on Bumble, but nobody new liked me.
I found out crickets chirp by rubbing their wings together.
I got a boba. It was good, but the workers seemed sad in there.
In a used bookstore, I grabbed a book by Richard Hell that I saw as soon as I walked in, so I went to the register and, in line, grabbed a Neil Gaiman book too and when I went to pay the clerk tapped the Richard Hell book and said, “Finally. Someone understands.”
And I said, “Soon as I saw it, I knew that was meant for me.”
“It’s been here a while,” he said.
“Soon as I saw it,” I said.
“There’s kids here,” he said, “So they don’t know.”
“Soon as I saw it, I said, ‘Good bookstore.’”
He laughed, said, “Eighteen and two cents. Or just eighteen’s fine.”
I gave him eighteen. I walked out. I felt good. The streets were full.
Ron Riekki has been awarded a 2014 Michigan Notable Book, 2015 The Best Small Fictions, 2016 Shenandoah Fiction Prize, 2016 IPPY Award, 2020 Rhysling Anthology inclusion, 2019 Red Rock Film Fest Award, 2020 Dracula Film Fest