He could feel her glare as he drove their sedan away from the quiet, suburban street.  They passed snow covered trees surrounding picturesque stone houses and rode over rock salt, plenty of it sure to stick between tire treads.  Soon they’d be back in the city, where a layer of litter hid beneath the snow for now, until the sun would eventually reveal it, dirtier than ever.

“What did you think of the name?”

She waited a few moments before answering him.  “I like it.”

They rode in silence for a few minutes before he broke it.  He knew he should apologize for what happened earlier, and yet, he said, “Look, there’s no reason to have a coed baby shower.”

“What’s that got to do with anything?  I didn’t see any other husbands there making a scene!”

“I didn’t make a scene.  The guy asked what I do for a living and I told him.”

“Yeah, I know, Mark, I know.”  She raised her voice.  “I know all about it.  You told him you’re studying overpopulation and its effect on global resources.  You told him your conclusion: two kids per family.  Didn’t you know he and his wife have four kids?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Couldn’t you have just said you’re a scientist?  I mean, why would you bring up overpopulation at a baby shower?  Don’t you think maybe it’s, um, I don't know, not the best topic?”

“Alright, alright.  I’m sorry.  I’ll call the guy tomorrow and apologize.  I certainly didn’t mean for the conversation to turn toward vasectomies.”

“Okay, fine.  Just so you know I was mortified when I heard the two of you shouting all the way from the kitchen, but it’s fine, I’ll get over it.”

“Thanks Sheila.”

They took the Broad Street exit and were on their way home when he suggested they head to Chinatown for an early dinner.  He agreed to stop at her favorite place rather than his, and they were on good terms once again.  His fortune cookie, full of wisdom, told him there's a time to swallow pride.  He thought of China’s one-child-per-family policy and decided he stood firmly against it, though he would’ve understood if the limit were set at two.  He himself had always wanted at least three children, but he’d never told anyone, not even his wife.

Through the Smoke (by Big Tuba)

Above the hum or beneath it I’ll survive.  

Looking around with more than just eyes.  

Trying not to see but to understand.

People scream and shout in happiness or despair or they might keep quiet while their insides burn.

A Rick Santorum bumper sticker screams to gay people of their evilness and lack of rights, expecting them to accept it all while he discusses ways to divert funding from public education and defends the home schooling of his own kids between sips of champagne.  This asshole wants to be President of The United States of America and enough people actually think he’d be a good choice for the job that he wins caucuses and stays in the race.  Please, if you’re out there, wake me up and tell me it was all a bad dream and I’ll laugh at the outlandishness of my own subconscious.  

Rationalize the lies and they become true to you.

People protect themselves and shield themselves and create their own little worlds.  I don’t blame them for that.  But when the vibe flattens and the masks come off that’s when I’ll engage, that’s when you’ll see me and I’ll see you and maybe we’ll understand.  For now I’ll just dance and look out through the smoke and try my best to live.  

(Big Tuba lives in Philadelphia.  He's been published on many a men's room wall, and he's friendly.)