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Theresa Boyar

In Defense of Chaos Theory

Colorado, 1965. An ant dies on a sidewalk,
causing a pregnant woman to skid on his thorax
and go into early labor.
By the time she arrives at the hospital,
her baby is pushing down into her nylons.
Her son is born with one blue eye, one grey.

Twenty-five years later,
he is in a psychologist's waiting room
hoping to overcome a fear of children, insects,
dandruff flakes. He remembers watching
a PBS documentary about a Japanese woman
who painted whole villages on the heads of pins.
He had to call in sick for a week.

On the corner table, a magazine cover shows rows
of tiny babies in clear boxes. The man's fingers
graze the pages just as a woman's hand
settles on its thin spine.
When he looks into her face, he sees
one green eye. The other is brown.

They end up talking most of the night,
take the morning flight to Las Vegas,
marry just before the couple with their bodies painted blue.
That week, they honeymoon in Florida,
spend a day in Fort Lauderdale.

The new bride sips a raspberry icee and,
caught up with staring into her husband's eye -- the grey one --
she tosses her paper cup towards the trash can,
misses by a foot, and continues walking down the boardwalk.

This is where you come in,
wearing a pair of grey swim trunks,
a Save the Whales shirt. You kneel to retrieve the litter,
throw it into the trash, and a trail of raspberry icee
arches into the air, lands on my bare back.
I turn and look into your unfamiliar face,
see you straining to hold back laughter.
After apologies, we walk down the boardwalk
together, inadvertently
stepping on dozens of ants in our path.

When Woolworth's Sold Lives

In 1938, [a] wallet Lockport, New York decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets...Company Vice President and Treasurer Douglas Patterson thought it would be a clever idea to use the actual SSN of his secretary, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher. The wallet was sold by Woolworth stores and other department stores all over the country. Even though the card was only half the size of a real card, was printed all in red, and had the word "specimen" written across the face, many purchasers of the wallet adopted the SSN as their own.

-- Social Security Administration

Imagine them in a sales bin, wire-mesh,
near the rear of the store, folded leather
rectangles mounded one on top of another,
only shades of brown and black to choose from.

A man lets his hands make the choice for him,
slipping between the cool skins and later dropping
coins into the palm of the counter girl,
who, when she isn't counting back
change is topping milkshakes with whipping
cream and oversized cherries.

Imagine he's you.
Imagine identification as a lottery,
a secretary's benign whisper:
you know what you've got,
you don't know what you're going to get.

See yourself trading in the office job,
the wife whose favorite sensation is disgust.
Her favorite blouse -- yours too, once,
the one with pink cherry buds stippling
her shoulders, her breasts -- now remade as a kerchief
matting down her changed hair.

You'd junk the four bad years
following your honeymoon, nights where you
let the coolness ride between you, easier to roll over
and turn out the lights than to examine the language
under the glare.

You'd lose the tremble in your chest
that shook you now during the simplest activities:
walking home from work, stooping to buy a paper,
shaving in the morning, the razor as surprised as you
as it skimmed your throat, drawing just a bit of blood.

Imagine leaving the drugstore,
clutching the wallet that holds your new start
in its folds, winking at the bright-lipped
counter girl whose hands were warm,
fingers stained with cherry juice
when she grazed your palm.

Everything from that moment
will be different. You tell yourself
this and you believe it, heading outside
into the rain that falls on you at the same time
as it falls on the thousands of others
who have claimed your new number for their own.

©2003 by Theresa Boyar

Theresa Boyar's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Florida Review, Rattle, The Adirondack Review, Samsara Quarterly, The Paumanok Review, and Pierian Springs. She currently lives with her husband and two sons in Helena, Montana, where she is working on a collection of short stories.

"In Defense of Chaos Theory" originally appeared in Lynx Eye.

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