Find here, friends, a fine example of how one man's pen was inspired by our old bouncy.
- The Founders
THE RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SUPER BALL
The Super Ball was invented in 1965. Thrown down, it could leap over a three-story building…and would bounce on for about a minute after being dropped from a short distance. Wham-O's oft-repeated claim was that the ball had 92 percent resiliency.
My brother and I drank in the kitchen while the adults drank
in the basement. We’d lifted a twelve-pack from the fridge.
No one noticed or cared. Somebody called to offer condolences
and I laughed till beer spewed out my nose.
What was funny about my grandmother dying?
She’d lived with us for fifteen years. We should’ve been…What?
Drinking with our parents instead? Her children, reunited members
of the unacknowledged “A” team of alcohol. Ten more years
and two more funerals before anyone tacked on the other A.
My grandmother only drank Drambuie, and only for medicinal
purposes. Downstairs, they passed a bottle in her memory.
A cousin’s pocket bulged with a Super Ball.
They’d just come out, replacing the Slinky in Fadville.
March thaw. We took the kid outside. Grandma farts a lot,
he said. He didn’t live with her. He thought she still might be
coming back. We held him down and dislodged it
from his sticky hands. We hammered his Super Ball
against the street bearded with dirty snow
and watched it disappear.
That chubby little cousin killed himself twenty years later.
Too much dessert. Eat your vegetables, dude,
I should’ve said. It bounced high and wild down the street,
ricocheting off the parked cars of the grieving. Cold enough
for runny noses and the back of a sleeve. Nobody wore coats.
Good in the lungs, that air. Nobody had any dope. Big bust
in the neighborhood. We lost the damn ball—kid started crying.
We drove off in grandma’s car—an old gray Falcon with no radio—
to the five and dime and bought a bunch of Super Balls
with cash stolen from the funeral kitty. The kid was happy.
Everybody was happy. a Super Ball Orgy. My brother and I
stood at each end of the block, firing them back and forth
watching them rise over our boxy little houses till it got dark
or we ran out of beer or got cold or somebody barked us back
into the wake to move the ping pong table or drive Aunt Millie home.
It’s okay to laugh, Aunt Millie’d caught us. Cool, Aunt Millie—
did you ever get high? Got any dope?
Grandma liked the Irish Rovers. I was taking requests,
cranking up “Danny Boy” at 45 rpms till it almost rocked.
We bought grandma a new rosary each year.
Blessed by the Pope. Touched by the kids in Guadalupe.
Made by blind midgets in Omaha. She left us each one.
They jiggled in our pockets like Chiclets, the cross
a crotch discomfort. I don’t know how grandma
would’ve wanted to go, but not as Farting Grandma,
Where’d everybody go? Just me and my brother
at the kitchen table, into the Drambuie ourselves,
getting sick in memory.
I’d loved her, little old grandma, but I was
a Stupor Ball. Jesus was her Super Ball.
I shouldn’t have been driving her old car.
The moon came out to shame me.
Fifteen years of her shrinking, reduced
resiliency, curling into herself with the fragile
delicacy of a charcoal snake till she disintegrated
and blew away. So, get mad, get drunk, laugh loud.
Drinking as hobby, sport, part-time job. As she went deaf,
silence leaked from her bones. She must’ve believed
she was coming back to Jesus, bead by bead.
Nobody had any funny stories to tell about her.
Watching the Super Balls erupt off cement
in a reckless, indestructible surge, I became addicted too,
and shame on me. 92% resiliency. I wound up
and smashed my grief into concrete, but it simply rose,
and rose, high, higher still.