Breathing the same mist that the turkey screeched into — the same mist that has boiled away the moon

Then, in the mist, I saw a big man walking up the street. He was wearing one shoe. He had a familiar look, so I got out of my chair and went partway down the driveway, and I waved at him. It’s not unusual, really, for people to walk up and down my street without two shoes on at midnight. He stopped. He put his hand on the telephone poll that’s there. He looked down. And then he looked over to me. He was a big guy. Big strong bald head. Wide nose. Kind of a defiant, wild, defeated look. I said, “Ted? Ted Roethke? Is that you?” And he nodded slightly. I said, “Wow, Ted, how’s it going? You look like you just got hit with a couple hundred million volts of electricity.”

“No, it’s hydrotherapy,” he said. ” ‘I do not laugh, I do not cry; / I’m sweating out the will to die.’ ”

“Whoa, Ted,” I said. “Sounds a little like Dr. Seuss, except dark. You want to come in and maybe make a phone call to a loved one?”

He shook his head no. I went back to my chair and sat down. The mist came and went. In ten minutes, a car pulled up behind him, and a man got out and led him into the car, and they drove away.

I went inside, and I got in bed next to some anthologies and W. S. Merwin’s The Vixen and slept quite well.

— Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

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