Traffic Lights | John Ginsburg
The Timing Chain | Angela Hamilton
Stupid | Michael McCarthy
The Dullest Star | Sheri McCord
My Love Letter to KISS | Jim Ousley
COVER PRINTED BY
ART DIRECTION BY
Michael R. Allen, Andrea Avery, Aaron Belz, Jack Biggs, Andrea Day, Piedmont Chris Johnson, Chris King, Jim Klenn, Nina Lägel*, K. Curtis Lyle, Sarah Raischel, April Seager, Mike Steinberg, Kerry Zimmerman
Stupid | by Michael McCarthy
One time I was changing a light bulb in the dark. I got the light bulb in the socket, climbed off the chair I was standing on, walked over to the wall switch and flicked it on, expecting to be bathed in 60 watt glory. Nothing happened. I got back on the chair, unscrewed the bulb, and stuck my finger in the socket. I will never know why I did this or what I possibly could have been thinking. I’ve actually given it a lot of thought over the years. Was I thinking the light bulb was bad and wanted to make sure that the electricity was working? Was I thinking that the bulb was O.K but maybe this particular socket needed to be pressed and prodded and adjusted just a little bit and then it would work? Or was I not thinking anything at all, just operating blindly and hoping things would work out for the best? The resulting shock sent me flying off the chair and onto the thankfully carpeted floor where I experienced for the first time in my life the sensation that I was going to die. I’d never been shocked really bad before. Then I passed out for a little while. When I came to, lying on the floor, I was overcome by a feeling of awe and wonder. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “That was really stupid. I mean incredibly stupid. Wow!”
I’ll never know what I was thinking, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think everybody has their own little story where they go over an event in their lives again and again, hoping to come up with some rational explanation for their idiotic behavior and failing. How about this one? When I was 13 me and this guy who lived across the street decided to paint the town on St. Patrick’s Day. We got our cans and wandered around the neighborhood spray painting stuff like “Jimi Hendrix rules” on the local grade school, the local jewelry store, and on the streets. The trail started a couple of blocks down the street and ended at our houses. Looking at the trail there was no question who was responsible. We might as well have spray painted “We Did It” on our driveways. What were we thinking? I mean, besides the fact that spray painting itself is pretty stupid, if you’re 13 and doing it with presumably the hope you won’t get caught, what exactly was going through our minds? The answer is, in what I have come to believe are the three most beautiful words in the English language, I don’t know.
I used to know everything. Man, that was a drag. I was living like a total loser, but at least I knew stuff. You weren’t getting anything over on me. Jesus, I get tired just thinking about it. These days, I’m all about the ignorance. In virtually every area of my life I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I do stupid stuff all the time but I’ve made the leap into the magical realm where I’m able to say, “That was pretty stupid, but not as stupid as some things I used to do.” I’m around friends who don’t know what they’re doing, either. It’s really nice. Nobody has the answer. Nobody knows they’re right and everybody else is wrong. And merrily, and sometimes not so merrily, we roll along. Not chained to anything, least of all some stupid idea about how intelligent we are. Not afraid to act, and sometimes be, stupid. You know, free.
Michael McCarthy used to live across the street from a nunnery in Richmond Heights and work at the downtown branch of the St. Louis Public Library. Now he lives in Austin, Texas.