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He turned to me from the passenger seat of my Mom's champagne colored Chevy Citation. I was in high school. He'd had a stroke. He was several years younger than me and my mom was taking care of him. We were neighbors, and I think my Mom was being paid under the table by M&M's shrill and worried mother. You'd be shrill and worried too if your child collapsed on the football field and lapsed into coma, woke three months later and could only curse for a solid week. This weird fact of physiology M&M's mom blamed on the black nurses aids at the memorial hospital, which was just one more reason none of us liked her. Pity is indeed a form of disdain. I know this from both sides.

M&M anticipated Eminem by almost 20 years. He rapped and danced, well, sorta, popping and locking with his cane, and calling himself, yes, M&M. His name was Mike Miller. He was an active, confident kid who'd suffered a weak blood vessel wall in his fevered child brain that had altered him, and when we met, when my Mom cared for him, had already endured years of dogged rehabilitation, with no school, no social evolution. He hadn't aged as quickly as he would have otherwise.  Still a child, really, and since, thank god, most of the people in the goddamn world are decent, everything Mike Miller attempted to do was applauded and encouraged. His bottom lip curled to the side when he sang. His fingers didn't fully flex. He limped. Still, there he was, doing his breakdance routine with his cane, dancing and singing, not noticing the forced smiles or embarrassed grinning applause.

My mother, in her cruel wisdom, decided I'd be a great friend and role model to M&M. I'd lost my father, his was on an oil rig somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. Mike had suffered a stroke, I, well, had suffered a mother who was insane. I guess it didn't matter what similarities there were, or lack thereof, I was all my mother had to offer our young Mr. Miller, M&M.

When Mike turned to me from the front seat of my mom's champagne colored Chevy Citation, there was a song on the radio, a Stevie Wonder song. Mike turned the volume up, and tilted his head back to me, looked straight in my face with his pale blue eyes--in which, despite his dragging foot, and sagging lower lip, and cursing for days, I caught a glimmer of that kid on the football field, before.

Then Mike Miller sang. "I just called ... to say ... I love you ... and I mean it from the bottom of my heart."

I caught my mother's eyes on me in the rear-view mirror. "Be nice," she said.

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post #262
bio: john ball

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April - National Poetry Month 2005
April - National Poetry Month 2007
April - National Poetry Month 2008
April - National Poetry Month 2009
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A Fortunate Age (trailer)
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I don't love anything, not even Christmas
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