Total Eclipse: Sedalia, Missourihttps://i1.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/lb82.jpg?fit=1080%2C1350&ssl=110801350Andrew JohnsonAndrew Johnsonhttps://barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/andrewjohnson.png
You are playing catch with your wife in a field on a Monday afternoon when you should be at work and your kids should be in school, but instead you’re playing catch in Sedalia, ninety miles from home, while your two sons race around nearby on a playground and your baby sleeps on a blanket, and you’re tossing a baseball back and forth, back and forth, and somewhere far above your heads the unseen moon is moving closer to the space between your small family and the sun, and the sky looks like it might clear up just in time for the big show, and the sun is up there and pocks of clouds and some birds and a few private jets that you imagine contain a handful of rich folk flying in to a nearby town to watch the eclipse, perhaps antsy to get there on time, discontent with their original plans, doubtful that the sky would clear and hustling to find the best place for a viewing, and maybe if you were a wealthy man you would spend your time working to guarantee such perfection, such precision for you and yours, but instead you’re on a green lawn with your beautiful bride, tossing a baseball back and forth, back and forth, and your boys are laughing, and you’re keeping an eye on your watches to know when to drop your games and gather together with paper glasses to stare at the sky, but you still have time, so much time to spend waiting, like that old-timer who once told you, we’ve got more time than money, time to play catch while waiting, and after you receive another pitch you almost complain out loud that your old glove has no more padding and your hand stings, but the truth is your wife has a right arm that’s strong as hell, so your tell her that instead, and Yep is all she says as she throws another, but then a low hum fills the air and overhead you see a B-2 Stealth Bomber with its black sharp edges soaring overhead, probably from Whiteman Air Force base only ten miles west, and your boys squeal Look, Dad! Look! from across the field because this is one more spectacle they have never seen, such a public display of this secret weapon, perhaps sent up into the sky by some general who wants to remind us today of all days of the power held by those in power, and you look back across the field and make your throw, look back across the field to that strong bare freckled shoulder glistening in the noonday sun, the sun that is now sliding out from behind the last of the wispy clouds, and that strong shoulder can pitch a fastball so hard and then somehow be soft enough to cradle your children to sleep, and as she winds up you imagine slowing down your attention just enough to see the way the ball in her hand orbits around the tether of that tanned shoulder, and just before release you see the curve of the ball slide into alignment with the curve of her shoulder for a moment, then the fast pitch, and in a flash you catch the ball, wince once more at the sting, look at your watch and see it is almost time, so you drop the gloves and ball, you call the boys over, you check on the baby who is just waking from her nap, find your paper glasses, gather together, remind the boys of the rule, no looking without glasses until you say so, and you look up, all of you look up, your family, the other families gathered in the same park and the people gathered in other parks and on city rooftops and on farms and on the sides of roads all across the country, you all look up and the sky grows darker and the confused cicadas begin their songs and Venus appears and your eldest son is saying Oh my Godoh my God as if he knows better than you do how to praise a God beyond God, and your middle son is saying Now? Can I take them off now? and your wife says Yes, now,Now! so you all remove the paper glasses and you watch the two curves come into alignment, watch the last drop of light pearl on the edge of a black circle, and you want to shout, you want to shout out that no private jet, no stealth bomber, no amount of money no amount of force, nothing could compare to that glistening edge of our sun, our only star, the mountains and canyons of the moon crackling with the sun’s last light getting through, and suddenly you are standing, your body telling you to stand as if lifting almost off the ground because you cannot do anything but be drawn, not drawn as in drawn to wealth or drawn to power but drawn as in drawn to the source itself, a source beyond the sun, and it is you that becomes the moon now reeling in toward encounter, to have every mountain and canyon of you filled with light, and then just like that it is over, it is over just like that, and the families one by one walk off, pack up, drive away to home, and you too, you wander off with your two starry-eyed sons, your cooing daughter, and this woman with an arm strong as hell, who will sit next to you at the dinner table later tonight, lean over, whisper something for only you to hear, and gently glide her freckled shoulder across yours.
Andrew Johnson is the author of the essay collection On Earth As It Is. His work has appeared in Crazyhorse, Image, MAKE, Guernica, Sonora Review, and elsewhere. He received a NEA residency fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center in 2018. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri.