A Question of Balance
by William Michaelian

Yesterday I lost my mind ó again. Itís weird. I lose my mind the same way other people lose their glasses or their car keys. In other words, it isnít really gone, I just canít find it. Still, each time it happens, itís upsetting, because Iím honestly afraid I wonít find it again. And where do I look for my mind when itís lost? Thatís a hard one to answer. If I knew that, it would mean I hadnít lost my mind in the first place. Or would it? I look in the usual places, I guess: the refrigerator, under the couch, in the neighborís mailbox. I might even look in the newspaper, under lost and found. Found: one mind, never used. Found: one mind, in very poor condition. Found: one mind, do you mind? The point being, I just donít know. The point being, I wouldnít even know Iíd lost my mind if I didnít suddenly get it back.

Did I mention that Iíve been drinking too much lately? Well, I have. Every day, I imbibe a quart of malt liquor, a quart of gin, a quart of whiskey, a quart of vodka, and a quart of schnapps. When evening rolls around, I really start drinking. In this condition, I make all sorts of interesting decisions. I live dangerously, as they say. But I never leave my chair, because Iím afraid if I do Iíll fall down and go boom.

As you can see, my mind is with me at the moment. Isnít that nice? Shall we have a meeting of the minds? Go ahead, ask your mother if your mind can come out and play with mine. Whatís that? Your mother has also lost her mind? What a shame. Tell you what: why donít our minds get together and go out and look for your motherís mind? Do you think sheíd mind? Oh. Youíve got to ask your father. But he isnít home, heís busy having an affair with someone who never had a mind in the first place. So what should we do? Everyone raise their hands: all in favor of putting our minds together toward a useful purpose, say aye. All those against, say nay. Good. Now let us count the votes. The envelope, please. Hey, no one voted. Whatís wrong with you guys, anyway?

I may have left out an important detail. Then again, maybe I havenít. Also, itís quite possible there are no important details, or that all details are important, or that details donít exist at all, and life is governed by generalities. Please, be more specific. This is what Iím trying to say: they say life is in the details, but I say maybe it isnít. I say, maybe life itself is a detail. Seems to me itís a matter of perspective. Hence, the warning label imprinted on my forehead: donít assume just because everyone else does, or you could get into big trouble.

By the way, I was kidding about the drinking. Iíve never ever touched a drop. So when I speak about losing my mind, itís not because I have a drinking problem. I have enough problems without having a drinking problem. But if I ever find myself short a problem or two, Iíll start drinking, you can count on that. I may have lost my mind, but Iím not stupid.

By the way, I was kidding about the kidding. I really do have a drinking problem. But Iíve got it figured out: my drinking problem comes from drinking, not my other problems. See? Logic. And you didnít think I had it in me. Of course, I was kidding about the kidding, too, but you probably guessed that already.

Dear Ma: It looks like Iíll be here for a long, long time. Donít forget to write, Ma, you canít imagine how much your letters mean to me. And donít worry. Iíll be all right ó someday. Oh, and by the way: were you kidding about your drinking problem, Ma? I sincerely hope so, because I always pictured you as the milk-and-cookies type. Well, Iíve got to go now, Ma, itís time for our little get-together out in the exercise yard. Say hello to Pa, Ma, and tell him what I saw, see? Your loving son, Earl.

Dear Earl: Before I forget, Pa says hello. He also says heís glad youíre locked up, because thatís where you belong. I made him biscuits again this morning. I swear, that man and his biscuits ó someday theyíll both drive me to drink. Yes, Earl, I do have a drinking problem. I never had the courage to tell you before, but now that youíve figured it out anyway, itís true. There. I feel better. Oh, and before I forget, Pa says hello, and that heís sure proud of the way youíve stayed in one place for so long. Of course, I always told him youíd settle down eventually. Oh, and before I forget, Missy died. Your loving mother, Ma.

Dear Ma: I cried when I read your letter. I canít believe Missy is dead. She was a good dog, like the sister I never had. Oh, and before I forget, tell Pa to go to hell, because he belongs here every bit as much as I do. And Iím sure sorry to hear about your drinking problem, Ma. But donít worry, everything will work out for the best. Oh, and by the way: where did you bury Missy? Your heartbroken son, Earl.

Dear Earl: We buried him under the floor boards in your room. Gotta go, Ma.

Dear Ma: Wonít Missy stink things up? Earl.

Earl: What did you say? Ma.

Ma: Canít remember. Earl.

Earl: Ma.

M: E.

And so it went until he found his mind in the alley behind some overflowing garbage cans. What in the world are you doing here? he said.

I could ask the same of you, but I wonít.

Okay.

And the two merged, and were mellow.

William Michaelianís newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelianís other books and links to this siteís other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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