Pat Foran ~ When You Entertain Notions of Freedom and the Sea Settles in for the Night and You Think She Might See You Out There, in the Distance

Raymond Burr, the actor who played Perry Mason, buys an island in the Republic of Fiji and calls it Nowheresville Inc.

On his island, Raymond Burr, the actor who played Ironside, rais­es orchids, cat­tle and Space Food Sticks.

Raymond Burr, whose scenes in the 1956 motion pic­ture “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!” were insert­ed after the movie had been com­plet­ed, talks about his island — My island, there’s nobody there, nobody but me, he says — on the Tonight Show star­ring Johnny Carson.

There was an unen­cum­bered fork in the road, and I took it, Raymond Burr says to McLean Stevenson, who’s fill­ing in for the vaca­tion­ing Johnny. I took it to Nowheresville.

How do you get to Nowheresville? McLean Stevenson asks.

Raymond Burr, who grows the pret­ti­est orchids this side of Libertyville, Illinois, unwraps a Space Food Stick, pre­tends to light it like the Marlboro Man might, turns to the cam­era and exhales what sounds like a thou­sand exhales.

How do you get to Nowheresville? Raymond Burr asks. Make ’em an offer. You’ll get to ’em every time.

He is watch­ing Raymond Burr on The Tonight Show from his place. She is watch­ing from her place.

Entertaining notion of free­dom, this, he says to her via Facebook Messenger.

Very enter­tain­ing, she mes­sages back.

*

She built a house on stilts in the car­to­graph­ic anom­aly of Serious Freedom™, a cen­sus-des­ig­nat­ed place in Butterfly County, Nevada.

He built a busi­ness case for change man­age­ment at Citizens for Socially Responsible Fence-Building & Distancing L.L.C. in Gleaming Crucifix, New Mexico.

She invites him to Serious Freedom™ to share a social­ly dis­tanced bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats®.

Well would you look at this, he says, wear­ing his “I’d Rather Be Implementing Change Management Strategies” t‑shirt. This close­ness, this house on stilts — it’s every­thing.

Is it? she asks.

It is, he says.

The house on stilts — which had fall­en asleep to the sound of cere­al plink­ing into the Lemongrass Fiestaware® — dreams it’s the most famous of all the Niagara Falls funam­bu­lists.

All you do is put one foot in the front of the oth­er, the dream­ing, tightrope-walk­ing house says, tee­ter­ing in the free­wheel­ing wind.

*

On the jet­way, a boy in line six feet behind her prac­tices the alpha­bet.

When the boy — he is 3, maybe 4 — gets to the let­ter “I”, he sings: I got a gal in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo .… oh, wait, I think it’s Kokomo.

Six feet in front of her, but lurch­ing clos­er, lurch­ing too close, a man in fash­ion­able per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment — the man is 25, maybe 30 — says, to her: Is that boy singing, like, a song?

She says — not in her voice, but in a Valley Girl voice, not total­ly, but sort of total­ly —  It’s not, like, a song, dude. What the boy is singing is like a galaxy, man.

Free as a gull, the boy’s voice fills the jet­way, swelling and sway­ing, a hot-air bal­loon with­out sand­bags. It floats up, up, up.

*

He attends a vir­tu­al speed-net­work­ing event and learns how to free him­self from fear, from wor­ry. From respon­si­bil­i­ty. Even the imag­ined kind.

I learned some­thing today, hon­ey, he calls to tell her.

You did? she asks.

Yes, he says. I think, now, we can make this work.

You do? she asks.

I do, he says.

The con­fi­dent, sing-song qual­i­ty in his tone reminds her of the voice-over Gas Station TV (GSTVTM) guy she heard a few hours ear­li­er while fill­ing up her Datsun with pre­mi­um.

We aim to give you an engag­ing­ly enter­tain­ing expe­ri­ence dur­ing this break in your day, this mel­liflu­ous moment in your suis gener­is jour­ney, the voice-over guy said to her out of a speak­er at the pump, his promise a free-form jazz impro­vi­sa­tion. We’re excit­ed about the high-wire-act that is the road ahead. We can’t wait for you to join us.

She rewinds voice-over guy’s words. They spin like Spring.

She fast-for­wards to her Freedom Man’s mes­sage. It skips like Summer.

What is it we were work­ing on again? she asks.

*

They’re say­ing they’ve wait­ed long enough.

That they’ve giv­en this “social dis­tanc­ing exper­i­ment” more than enough time.

They’ve sac­ri­ficed enough of their per­son­al free­doms for the “greater good.”

We’re going to end this thing, they’re say­ing.

We’re gonna go where we wan­na go, do what we wan­na do, they’re say­ing.

It’s our inalien­able right to get clos­er, they’re say­ing.

Survival of the fuck­ing fittest, they’re say­ing.

Distancing Darwinism, man, they’re say­ing.

This world is our world, too, they’re say­ing.

Love it or leave it, they’re say­ing.

While they’re say­ing these things, the sun sinks into a safe-haven sea, the bed­spread that is the sky unfolds, and a cho­rus of gila mon­sters, jack­alopes, col­lared pec­ca­ries and Gojira inter­rupts their song to make a cit­i­zens’ arrest.

You say the end is nigh — we say your end is a lie, Gojira tells them. “End” is just anoth­er word for Woody Herman with­out the Thundering Herd. Come along, Distancing Darwinists! Entertain THIS notion of free­dom.

Pulling the sky up under its chin, the sea set­tles in for the night.

Good night, Gojira, the sea says. Good night, gila mon­sters. Good night, notions. Good night, sign o’ the times. We see you, in the dis­tance.

Masked, he is watch­ing the scene unfold from his front yard. Unmasked and under the cov­ers, she is watch­ing it unfold on her phone, from her place.

Entertaining, he says to her, nar­rat­ing the scene via video phone.

Very, she says, imag­in­ing him, her Freedom Man, in the dis­tance. She imag­ines her­self under the unshack­led sky, masked and anony­mous and nowhere, cen­ter­ing her weight direct­ly over one foot, then the oth­er, on the sway­ing wire, the free­wheel­ing wind close at her back but not too close, a hummingbird’s heart beat­ing like but­ter­fly kiss­es.

[Serious Freedom™ is a trade­mark of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
The “Serious Freedom” adver­tis­ing cam­paign was intro­duced in 1997.]

~

Pat Foran was some­thing of a tightrope walk­er for a local busi­ness newspaper/livery sta­ble. His work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Wigleaf, Bad Pony, New Flash Fiction Review and else­where. Find him at http://neutralspaces.co/your_patforan/ and on Twitter at @pdforan.