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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Spare Me, Change

I don’t believe in signs.

Sometimes, like tonight, it’s very difficult. But I do not believe in signs. I’m quite sure of this. Even if I have to repeat it occasionally to make sure.

The particular sign I’m not believing in tonight is that universe doesn’t want me to change. As signs go, this is a pretty easy one to disbelieve, because it’s plainly ridiculous on its face. For one thing, the universe doesn’t care what I do. It’s got entropy to deal with, and expanding billions of light years in all directions, and taking compliments on how slim its looking these days and where all its missing mass went.

(I say, I say, that’s an astrophysical joke son! Astrophysics!

You ain’t quite got yer whole beak in the feedin’ trough, there, do ya, son? Sakes alive.)

More to the point, if the universe did have any opinions pointed in my direction, I can only imagine they would be overwhelmingly pro-change, since everyone else’s have always seemed to be and I’m still not following the advice attached to any of those. So I have a firm and unwavering belief that the universe is in no way telling me to stick to the status quo.

And yet. There’s tonight.

Tonight, my wife is out at the ballet with a friend of hers. They plan these evenings occasionally — two girls, out for dinner and drinks and a night of watching beanpole plumsmugglers tiptoe around a stage. I don’t like to get in the way of their fun — or within three hundred yards of a ballet performance, if I can help it — so I stay on the sidelines. Even when nipples are involved.

So I get the place to myself for a few Saturday evening hours, and I’ve developed a fairly predictable routine. She leaves around five o’clock for dinner, which is a good time for a beer. I watch some TV, order our usual pizza from our regular place, watch some more TV, have another beer or two, and generally make sure the living room couch doesn’t scamper away before the missus returns around ten or eleven.

That’s the norm. But, I decided, not tonight. Tonight, I wanted a change.

So. I kissed my wife goodbye around five, marched into the kitchen, and poured a beer.

“Instead of flopping on the living room couch and watching TV, I read a book. In the living room. On the couch. Where I flopped.”

Hey, I didn’t say I wanted to change everything. And certainly not the good parts. But — but! — I did try a new beer. One I’d never had before. A new brew from Dogfish Head combining India pale ale and grape must.

It was intriguing. Which is another way of saying I didn’t especially like it. Strike one for novelty on a Saturday afternoon.

But I kept trying. Instead of flopping on the living room couch and watching TV, I read a book. In the living room. On the couch. Where I flopped. No, you shut up.

Soon, it was time for dinner. And, I reminded. myself, I have the world on a platter here in Boston. I could drive, or even walk, to restaurants serving fine dishes from dozens of ethnicities. Thai, Korean, American steakhouse, Brazilian steakhouse, Tibetan and French and Venezuelan were all a quick jaunt outside my door. Who needs pizza when the world is your oyster? Also, I could have oysters. But not on a pizza. And certainly not with grape must.

Of course, that’s where my wild-eyed quest for something different hit another snag. I only had shorts on. And thanks to the untimely death of a household appliance — and its replacement showing up this morning — all of my jeans were soaking wet and spinning somewhere in the basement.

I could go out as-is… but it was pretty chilly out there.

I could wait the jeans out… but I was already hungry.

I could hustle right down the block… but who wants to eat out alone, anyway? And on a Saturday night? Bah.

So I resolved to order food online, as per the norm. BUT! Not pizza. I always wind up getting pizza on Saturday ballet nights, but not this time. Not now. Not here.

An hour later, after staring at menus from cuisines around the world and starting half a dozen orders I didn’t have the heart or stomach to finish, I decided I wasn’t in the mood for something rice-based. Or noodle-based. Or a steakhouse. Or a burrito. Or oysters.

Which left…? Pizza.

BUT! — and I really put my foot down here, for serious true — BUT not pizza from the same old place where we always get pizza. It’s good, no doubt. And fast. And the delivery guy may someday ask us to be his kids’ godparents. But not tonight. Tonight, the pizza comes from Somewhere Else™.

Twenty minutes later, I’d been through eight more menus, all offering pizza. And none looking as good as the safe, comforting old joint we know and love. But dammit, no. I said tonight would be different, and by god, it would be different. I finally settled on a nice pizzeria with good reviews and a killer ‘deluxe’ pie, and made the order. Satisfied that I’d successfully triumphed in carving out a scrap of novelty for myself, I shut down the computer.

And went to the living room, where I flopped on the couch and watched TV and drank a beer. This time, without grape must. A reliable old familiar beer.

Hey, one triumph at a time. Apparently.

I watched an hour-long show, zipping through commercials, and started a second. Somewhere in the middle of that episode, it occurred to me that I was really hungry. And the pizza should’ve been here already. I checked the order email, and indeed, it was estimated to arrive twenty minutes ago. Which was in the past, and I didn’t see any pizzas floating around the living room between shows. So I called the place up:

Pizza Guy: Hey-o, Pizzeria here!

Me: Yeah, I’m calling to check on an order. It’s been over an hour.

Pizza Guy: Okay, what’s the address?

Me: <my address>

Pizza Guy: Hmmm… lessee… I don’t think I see it…

Me: I called it in online.

Pizza Guy: Onli- oh. Shit. Are you Charlie?

Me: I am.

Pizza Guy: Ay-yi-yi! I completely forgot about you! I got the order right here! Shit!

(I’d like to point out, in case there’s any question, that the man on the other end of the line did, actually and literally, ‘ay-yi-yi‘ at me. I’m not being cliche. Or culturally insensitive, if it’s such a thing to say he said that if he didn’t. Because he did.

I know. I didn’t believe it at first, either. It’s like being in a pizza cartoon.)

At this point, I had options. But what were they? Chew the guy out, and get maybe a discounted — but who-knows-what-spat-on — pizza? No, thanks. Tell him to forget the whole thing and hang up? I spent a damned hour making that order. Run down the street for sushi and miso? With these bare knees? Not happening.

It was at this point that my disbelief in the universe nudging me toward the routine, the easy and the status quo was lowest. Perhaps there really is some cosmic force out there, I thought — some all-powerful, omniscient character willing me toward predictability, comfort and subjugation to familiar routine.

Also, maybe monkeys fly out my butt at night while I’m sleeping and stick their tails up my nose for fun.

I rejected all the “sign from above” mumbo-jumbo, told the guy to get my pizza here pronto, moved to the bedroom and went back to my book.

Because it may not be “adventurous”, exactly. But at least it’s different. A little. And I still get to drink beer. Now as long as there’s no grape must on the pizza, things are going to be just fine. I’ll get through another ballet night yet. Vive la difference!

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