We crashed bumper cars, Flannery O’Connor and I. Across the would-be wreckage our eyes met. Later, she handed me an air rifle and told me to shoot. She wanted something she could take home to her mother. Two pellets missed (one nearly hit the games operator). The third clipped the side of a tin cowboy, but he didn’t fall. Where did you learn to shoot, she asked. I’m not from around here, I told her. Northerner, born and bred. She smiled. Well, you gave it your best shot, she said, and kissed me, half on the mouth half on the cheek, and then walked off into the cotton candy haze.
On slower nights Harper Lee visited the alley to bowl a few frames. Once, upon returning her shoes, I asked her how the pins were biting. She told me that she had rolled so well she had forgotten to take down her scores.
After classes Raymond Carver and I would frequent this bar in downtown Syracuse where all the bartenders and waiting staff dressed as characters from the silent film era, communicating solely through gestures. Carver had made it his mission to gull one of them into talking. He undertipped, then overtipped, spilled his Bloody Mary on the hardwood floor, and sometimes etched words into the bar with the blade of his keys. But the staff, in their drab fashions, continued to circle silently around us as if nothing at all was the matter.
Kurt Vonnegut told me to look through his telescope. I was taking a late night stroll through the park. See that streak of blue, he said, tapping on the lens. It’s coming straight toward us, or at least it seems that way. I asked him how long we all had. He told me he sent away for the telescope after collecting the necessary proofs of purchase. It didn’t come with any instructions.