Oh they were sniveling, these men in their stone brick houses, with driveways stretched and covered not in cinder but a tar smoothed black and made easily soft in the sun. How they sniveled these men, like lemmings in bright party hats, each believing for the briefest of moments in their individual glory. Like birds of prey hunting for riches before their days turned too fast and their mortar base became more or less permanently set. They sniveled at the amazement of it all and the wonder of what exactly they had become; these our neighbors, fellows of industry and art, of noble sciences and slightly less, well intended and bold of predilection, weathered at forty from the challenge it took getting even to here, to being these men of our fair city, eyes wide at last and sniveling at what they saw.
Anthropologists in review will note in their studies a hundred years removed that our sniveling began innocently enough as Thom Cheere and Wally White attended together a high school baseball game. Perched atop the press box, filming what was a competitive match between two of the city’s best teams, with Thom’s son pitching and Wally’s catching, the boys worked in tandem as the other team recorded no runs through five innings while Wally’s kid had already hit two balls out. Between the fifth and sixth inning, Thom turned to Wally, nervous about the game, and found Wally off against the press box rail, looking down at the field, at the magnificence of the boys and the brilliance of the sport. Here they were, these fathers taking in the majesty of their sons and the measure of the afternoon, so sweetly warm as to make one feel good just being there, at a game played like poetry by these young boys. It was then Thom caught Wally staring out at the diamond, moist of eye and high of spirit, sniveling.
They sniveled at the amazement of it all and the wonder of what exactly they had become.
The sound was brief yet clear, a gasp through the mouth and nose and then a heave of the chest, the cheeks moving slightly, the eyes wet, a pure sound from parted lips, so soft yet seismic. Never in his life had Thom seen anything so remarkable, so perfect and pure and intimate even, and not in a sexual way, no not that, but with the intimacy of mother’s milk and a father’s soft pat on the arm, the snivel so confiding that no words had to be exchanged, not then nor since, as Thom knew exactly what Wally meant.
Move forward only one hour, with the remarkableness of Wally’s snivel still fresh in Thom’s mind, when at the barbeque after the game, the team and parents there and Thom off to the side, beer in hand, his belly full, taking in the sight of friends and loved ones gathered this way, his son and daughter, and there off by the picnic table was Helen, his wife, lovely in the sun, in the way she held her beer against her hip and moved her elbow out, Helen who loved Thom and he knew this and wasn’t it something, what a thing to have a woman love you this way, to be with and become one with and looking at her then, in the moment of the day so bright and shining, Thom sniveled, too.
No sooner did the snivel come out, as Thom inhaled and teared at the reality of his life and station encapsulated then, just as he began to whimper at the astonishment of it all, Bill Frost and Ben Winkle came over and there was Thom, red of eye and lingering so, taking in his wife. Bill and Ben both saw and knew at once what the snivel meant. Such a thing to behold, they felt the welled up knot in their own guts give way and welcomed it, the snivel which spoke so clearly and eloquently to their lives, to the haste of time and the beauty of the moment, the children as they grew and their jobs for better or worse what they were, too, and their wives, yes, and all that lasts and saved them so and gave them meaning, they stood and sniveled as well.
From there then, each snivel followed, two by two onto four by four, in this way the sniveling spread. Through the barbeque and down the block, into offices the next day, in and out the door, into the street, to shops and restaurants, to factories and parks, to theaters and bars, to law firms and hospitals, through insurance agencies and to the day laborers, to actors and ad men, the sight and sound visited upon friends and acquaintances, a pandemic of snivelers, that’s what evolved. No more stoicism or stiff upper lip but men inclined to weep, so sensitive and aware of life, so much so that strangers on the street saw and heard these other men with their snivel and were themselves inclined to give way.
What a difference this sniveling made. In our city we became a mecca of men transformed, in touch and in tune, we turned self-examining, reflective and attentive, the direction of our ambitions altered, allowing for a holy nuptial. Men who sniveled inspired, those like Thom and Wally and Bill and Ben, as what was wept for was the wonder, the beauty of what lived and breathed, what shined and was only lost when surrendered. What these snivelers saw was everything that held value and what they wished to keep near.
Committees were formed, with women encouraged to join, wives and daughters and sisters who had long been snivelers and more in tune, were brought in to talk and explain to the men what now to do, to teach them how to better experience joy and find value in what should naturally be embraced. The women worked with their sniveling men and the men who sniveled moved for change, revamped their agendas, found ways to improve their city, to improve themselves. Work was important, and the need to earn a living was not dismissed, but the acknowledgement that there were ways to work and ways to live and ways to understand the imperativeness of melding the two for life was short, the snivelers conceded, were inspired by and championed ways to be better now in the sum of their whole.
So what happened?
What happened, yes.
Here in our city, the sons of the snivelers, observing their fathers during the course of their reclamation, wondered among themselves what all the sniveling was about. A man mounts his destiny, the boys believed, fresh from college and stout with their degrees, with ideas and vision and plans that did not include reforms, did not look to anything but their own futures burning bright, these boys who refused to snivel, refused to give ground. These determined young men took jobs in the city, took to marketing and managing accounts, to opening businesses of their own and partnering with men in other cities who did not snivel yet. Each boy found ways to work past their fathers, to seek promotions and achieve them, toiling hard and for long hours, each man for himself, they shouted and claimed that this was the way.
Never in his life had Thom seen anything so remarkable, so perfect and pure and intimate.
Young women, too, working side by side, were courted by, came to love and marry these men, respected their way and pushed them along, did not follow the words of their mothers and dads who sniveled, who knew better, of course, but what can be said to those when they are young? The plans and projects of the snivelers fell apart over time, the men who tried to build a better city through community and welfare for all, who stepped back from their own false ambitions and slowed to life now lost their spot at the table as the young men sat down. Workweek hours expanded once more, became a requisite if one wished to get ahead. The competition fierce, the older companies needing to press or close their doors, were taken over by these ambitious non-snivelers who reshuffled the staffs and moved the deadwood out the door.
The homes in the city belonging to snivelers were sold to younger women and men, the old vanguard moving off and the fresh blood coming in. Families grew as children were born. Boys became men and more men then moved to guard our gates, to shelter and horde what they had, to embrace only what they could feel and to feel for only what was like them, these new men now who took to checking their portfolios and bearing no witness to the passing of time.
But time still passed and at the old high school then, in the spring, on a day made warm by a sun that was itself a billion years old, between innings of a game, with the sons of those no longer so young, the grandsons of the original snivelers playing in the field, Wally’s son watched his own boy from atop the press box, looked out past the dugout, across the green of the infield and the chalk lines and the dirt, toward the outfield trimmed as well, the grass sweet and the smell of the day so magnificently in bloom, out beyond the fence, further out and then back again, back at the beauty and the wonder and the pageantry of the moment, of the life and sport, and here he couldn’t help and hoped no one was watching as he tried and failed to stifle then the first of a newly formed snivel.