by brian greenaway

I woke up on the ceiling today. Again. Normally, it’s something that doesn’t bother me, but today was different. Early this morning a mouse had gotten inside of the heater, shorting it out and killing itself in the process. That is, the mouse was shorted out and the heater was killed. Poor heater, it was the best one I ever had. Anyway, the ceiling was unusually cold and I woke up with a kink in my neck. I truly believe, deep down inside, that the Gravity People and the Chiropractors are in business together.

“ How is it going?” Ask the Gravity People.

“ Not so well.” Say the Chiropractors.

“ Would you like us to…?” Ask the Gravity People.

“ Do you think you could…?” The Chiropractors reply.

And BOOM! I wake up on the ceiling. Again.

Now this never seems to happen to any of my other friends, mind you. Only me. I don’t see why they single me out for this treatment. What have I ever done to the Gravity People? I pay my bill on time. Usually. I don’t complain when there’s a big meteor storm and the gravity goes out. That’s not their fault. I even offer the repair people coffee. The good coffee. Not the coffee that you have when your parents are over to visit. Oh, no. The coffee that you only serve when you have a Girl over, and you think to yourself, “Self, let’s serve the good coffee, just in case she’s debating about whether or not to spend the night, and the coffee is going to be the deciding factor.” That kind of coffee. And they always take it. The repair people. Not the Girls.

So lately I’ve been thinking about what sort of horrible thing I could have done to warrant this treatment from the Gravity People. There was the one time my cactus, Edgar, got loose and attacked the repairman. But that wasn’t my fault-Edgar was young then and didn’t even have sharp quills yet. And there was the time I turned my meter upside down, because I heard that makes it run backward. “Not using much gravity these days, are we, Ronald?” The Meter Man said to me. I knew that he knew what I was up to, so I thought I’d try a little bit of reverse psychology. “Oh, more than ever. I just turned the meter upside down, so it looks like I’ve used less, when in fact I haven’t.” Well, I guess the Meter Man was a little smarter than I thought, because I found a hefty fine on my bill, and a warning not to “tamper with the Regulation Equipment.” Like they own gravity. Next thing you know, there will be Air People, charging you for each breath you take.

Other than those few, isolated incidents, there hasn’t been one thing that they could hold against me. My friend K organized an anti-Gravity People rally, where he had speakers and pamphlets and hot chocolate and everything. He’s never woken up on his ceiling, I bet. You want to know why? Because people listen to him. The Gravity People will permit his civil disobedience to go on, as long as he doesn’t do anything really out of line, because they have figured out that giving people who are trying to kill you ammunition is a stupid thing to do. It would be like fighting a war and having your soldiers getting killed by bombs made in your own city.
But of course no one listens to me, which explains why I don’t have any overhead fans in my house. Me having overhead fans is like jumping straight into a blender. Just a bad, bad idea. K has overhead fans.

So what do I do? Edgar tells me I should stand in line and file a complaint. But he’s a cactus. He doesn’t understand the finer points of modern society. Standing in line means standing in line for two days. I can’t stand in line for two days. Mr. P at work isn’t going to give me two days off. I’m vital to the company. “You’re vital to the company, Ronald.” He says. “You’re the best Tree-Killer we have. What would happen if you weren’t here? Trees could start growing, and then…well…you know what happens.”

Well, I don’t know what happens. I saw a picture of a grown tree in a book once. There were words all around it, but it was a long time ago, and I don’t remember what it said. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a book in quite a while. I once asked Mr. P what it is that trees do that is so awful that they must be killed.
“You see here, Ronald,’ Mr. P said, “trees must be killed for the same reason that we pay for gravity. Simply because we are told to. For law and order to be maintained, we must always do as we are told. Can you imagine the chaos and terror we would face if gravity were not regulated? It is for this very reason that we must kill the trees.”

Which is, of course, a very good answer, even though it’s not really an answer at all.

But that’s another story. Whatever it is that trees do, I have a feeling that they won’t keep me from waking up face-to-face with the ceiling. That’s the worst, you know-when you’re sleeping on your back and the gravity goes out. SHOOP, you go straight up until your forehead touches the ceiling, and you wake up staring at all the little cracks you can’t see from the ground. It’s because of this that I’ve been sleeping on my stomach lately. Which is great if the gravity goes out, because I wake up looking down on my room and I can find my wallet and keys right away. But it isn’t so good if the gravity doesn’t go out, because I wake up with this knot in my back. And it seems like every time I sleep on my stomach the gravity stays on, and every time I’m on my back, it goes out. The Chiropractors win either way.

“How are things going?” The Gravity People ask.

“We’ve got Ronald coming in today.” The Chiropractors say.

“ Again?” The Gravity People respond.

“ Again.” The Chiropractors say.

Even Edgar, my cactus, wakes up on the ceiling sometimes. It’s incredibly embarrassing to him, because his quills tend to stick into the cork ceiling, and he hangs there for hours until I get the Maintenance Man to get him down. Cacti aren’t all that agile, you know. They make better pets than fish, though. When the gravity goes out on fish…well, it’s not good. My friend K began his whole anti-Gravity People campaign just because he woke up one morning to the soft “thud-thud-thud” of his overhead fan smacking his baby tuna around like it was a cheap piñata. He used to put a picture of that horrible scene on the cover of his pamphlets, but apparently it wasn’t as effective as he had hoped because it was replaced a few weeks later by a picture of himself, and some text which described him as a “selfless saint,” dedicated to “ending the oligopoly.”

“ I am a revolutionary.” He likes to point out.

Which is fine with me, but won’t help the fact that I don’t need my bed twice a week. The worst is on those rare occasions when I actually do get a Girl to spend the night and we wake up looking down on everything.

“ Ronald, I can’t believe you forgot to pay your gravity bill.” They always say.

“ I didn’t forget.” I reply. “They just like to turn it off. They’re in league with the Chiropractors, you know.”

And then I get that, why-didn’t-you-check-to-see-if-there-were-any-broken-eggs-in-the-carton-before-you-bought-it?-look that I hate so much. The one that is slightly embarrassed for me, but at the same time slightly condescending. And to make matters worse, there’s nowhere I can go to get away from that look. If we were on the ground, I’d just yell, “Don’t look at me like that! I’m out of here!” And slam the door behind me. But when I don’t have any gravity I can’t slam anything. I can’t even gently shut anything. All I can do is float there, and that look follows me all around. No Girl has ever spent the night twice.

K tells me to organize a rally. “Fight the power, Ronald. Fight the power.”

“What power?” I ask him, not sure what he’s getting at.

“ What power? The power of gravity.”

“ I don’t want to fight gravity. I like gravity. I want gravity. I’d like to have more of it.”

“ That’s not what I meant. You need to let people know what’s going on. They have to share your pain.” He told me.

“ I don’t want to share my pain. I just don’t want to wake up on the ceiling anymore.”

“ You’ll just never get it Ronald. You just don’t understand how to get things changed.”

And that was the end of K’s advice to me. I get better advice from my pet cactus. There’s just no way I can win. And I really don’t even want to win. I just want to break even. I just want to not have to worry about waking up with a stiff neck any more. I want to be able to say, “Hey, Girl-how would you like to stay at my house tonight? The gravity never goes out.” I want an overhead fan. And a fish.

And I think I know how to do it, too. I won’t have to wait in any lines. I won’t have to miss any work. I won’t even have to make up any pamphlets. What I’m going to do is…nothing. Why? Because that’s the exact opposite of what they want me to do. I’m not going to play into their hands. I’m not going to be their pawn. Not Ronald. Eventually, they’ll get sick of my fierce indifference and go pick on someone else. Maybe it’ll be K. I never liked him all that much anyway. Of course it wasn’t actually my idea-this whole concept of ignoring the Gravity People’s feeble attempts to get a rise out of me. My psychiatrist, Dr. F, suggested it to me. I don’t like him, but it sounded like a good plan. Unless, of course, they’re all in it together.

“ What did you tell him to do?” Ask the Gravity People.

“ Nothing.” Says the Psychiatrist.

“ Nothing?” Ask the Gravity People.

“ Nothing.” The Psychiatrist repeats.

“ How is tomorrow afternoon?” Ask the Gravity People.

“ We’ve got some space.” The Chiropractors answer.

“ Not anymore.” Say the Gravity People.