He walked swiftly, unencumbered by deep thoughts or a good sense of direction. It was the beginning of what he intended to be a vigorous morning walk, but he did not get far. A flying newspaper, rolled up tightly like a pipe, came in fast from his right flank and struck him lengthwise on the wrinkled prairie between his eyebrows and hairline, and parallel to both. The impact zone was above his features, allowing anyone who might have been watching a clear view of his bewildered eyes and aggrieved face. When the projectile arrived it was spinning like a boomerang, and when It struck the inattentive man there was a loud and authoritative whack, as if an announcement of the deed was also necessary. The humiliation complete, it ricocheted from his head wiggling like a fish.
Down he went. He did not fall over like a dead tree, a straight line that topples from vertical to horizontal. He collapsed straight down into a small area of the sidewalk like a skeleton being lowered from above. All of his bones were on the ground at the same time that the paper stopped bouncing and rolling.
His neighbor shuffled over as quickly as he could. Mr. Scobee had retired from teaching and bending at the waist, so he just stood over him, looking down and calmly asking him to lift his arms if he could, state his full name, and verify that he could see out of both eyes. He had not seen the flying newspaper but he had heard an odd noise and then he saw the body crumple slowly into a pile and spread out. Its damage done, the offending paper was now resting innocently by a hose twenty feet away. Based on the evidence at hand, the old man thought he was witnessing a stroke.
He was awake, cognizant, and probably fine. The blow was hard but his fall was not. And his airborne antagonist was the incoming morning news, not a boulder or a bullet. Despite being driven to the concrete, he felt no panic and his neighbor did not seem particularly worried either.
The sky above was beautiful, one big celestial morning smile.
Upon contact the paper had dislodged an immediately useful and timely desire; to understand why calamities small and large happen. In doing so it also violently challenged his previous mode of walking down the street with an absence of deep thought. He was suddenly whacked and now he suddenly wanted to know why random, annoying, and dangerous things happen to us all. Typically without warning or justification. This is what crossed his mind right after his mind was thumped like a drum, as if the paper had come to deliver an inquiry and then hammered it home. Now lying on his back on the sunny sidewalk, it was all he could think about. There were probably more important concerns at the moment, but his jarred brain had no interest in them. Right now it was just looking at the sky and considering the new and old question. His arms were laying crossed on his chest and his hands were clinging to the suspender strap opposite them, while his tangled legs still bore witness to his collapse. Pondering and still, he considered his fate, an accidental sidewalk Rodin with clothing and American roots.
His upright neighbor was still talking to him. Down to him. Pestering him to keep him engaged while he was trying to examine things. Scobee had moved to get a better look at the downed man from another angle. Turning his head in that direction, he could see two brown slippers, house shoes that looked like they came from a factory that produces stuffed animals. They were close to his face, and between them, sitting back a bit on the sloping lawn. he could see a rolled newspaper. It was not wet or faded. Today's paper. It is heavy with news about Apollo rockets and the moon, hot wars and cold wars, the administration and inflation. It is lightened by small-town recollections of last weeks picnic and fireworks display and block ads about next week's appliance sale. He considered the blow to his head and what his senses were still able to tell him about it. That must be what pounded me in the head. I was not paying attention and neither was the Wheeler boy. Unless he was aiming for me, in which case it's a punishable act...and a heck of a toss. Nah. Couldn't be. He is a good kid and I am oblivious when I walk. I don't even remember seeing his bicycle pass by. I wonder which one of the three stooges I looked like when I went down? He was well enough to make a joke and a calculation, and he was pleased with himself. Even if he was flat on his back near the street.
'Was it a newspaper?' he asked the occupant of the stuffed slippers without looking up. Since Mr. Scobee was ignorant of the origin of the technical knockout, he thought he was being asked where he obtained his stroke response checklist. It was not what he expected the wounded man to ask him, although it suggested his line of questioning was unnecessary. 'No. Not a newspaper. Television.'
They stared at each other, both confused by the other. Both hoping the other would clear things up.
He grimaced, suddenly less pleased with himself. He was now unwilling to reach up and touch his own head. Maybe he should be panicking. If he was felled by a small appliance then his condition must be worse than he thought. He had no calculation to explain a flying television. Then again, men were up there somewhere in that vastness, making footprints and jumping around like kids on the moon. Anything is possible. Maybe someone went bats and decided to toss his portable Perdio or Sony into the street, unnerved by all of this inexplicable man on the moon stuff.
Maybe he should just be still and count his blessings.
There was nearby clamoring about an ambulance, water, and a pillow and blanket. Scobee started talking again, this time in a respectful hush. 'Help is coming. You're going to be ok. Someone up there must love you. I guess he thinks you're worth knocking down. You know, to get your attention.'
The crumpled man had something else to think about. I'm not sure exactly what that means. Its an odd thing to say right now. If anyone gets to say odd things at the moment, it should be me. I'm the one who got hit in the head. Hmmmm. Oh well. He means well. At least he didn't make a joke about being struck by the news.
The sun was warm and the sky was beautiful. He remembered laying on the grass when he was as young as the Wheeler boy and just staring at it for hours, dreaming and wondering. And he regretted that he had grown up and stopped doing that. It has been there all along, just as blue and white and wonderful as it has always been. Now there were rockets and men up there flying around in all that space. Where has the time gone? He was dreaming and wondering, not paying attention to the approaching sirens.