Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Argonaut by James Tate

The Argonaut

What made anyone think I was a Communist I don’t know.  I never went
to any of the Communist meetings.  I didn’t know any other Communists.
I didn’t believe in any of their tenets.  It’s true, I hunted elk in the
winter.  I never actually shot any, but I followed them.  And I laced my
cranberry juice with vodka.  But these things didn’t make me a Communist.
I stood on the bridge and watched the boats go out to sea.  I dreamed
of going with them one day.  I danced alone in my apartment.  I hated my
job with the government.  I went to parties where I didn’t know anyone.
I went to the zoo and talked to the animals.  I dreamed I had an affair
with a zebra and its stripes rubbed off on me.  I met a woman I
liked and called her on the phone.  She said she liked phone sex and I
didn’t know what she meant.  I lay on the couch and counted my blessings.
There were none, or so few they slipped through my fingers.  I got up and
looked out the window.  A cloud of sparrows flew by.  I made myself a can
of soup.  I thought of my relatives, all gone except for one.  I called
her on the phone.  She didn’t remember me.  I told her I was Edna’s son.
She said, “I remember Edna.  I never liked her.  She cursed too much.”
My mother never cursed, but I wasn’t about to argue.  I went to the movies.
I saw Hopalong Cassidy.  I wished he didn’t wave so much.  But I liked
the popcorn.  I walked about the city, feeding the pigeons.  I bought a
soda on the street.  I sat down in a garden.  A woman came along and sat
down beside me.  She said, “Nice day, isn’t it?”  I said, “Yes, very,
I like it.”  “What do you do for a living?” she said.  “I’m an accountant
in the government,” I said.  “That must be nice,” she said.  “But most
people I know think I’m a Communist,” I said.  “That’s a joke, right?”
she said.  “To me it is,” I said.  “To me, you look more like an
Argonaut,” she said.  “What’s an Argonaut?” I said.  “It’s somebody
who swims in the deep waters of the ocean in search of treasure,” she
said.  “I found a penny in my bathtub once when I was a kid,” I said.
“Then you’re an Argonaut,” she said.

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