Forbidden Planet

I look in the living room window:

there’s a plush, dark, aquamarine
four-person couch. The legs are bright
and scratchless. A boy with a crew cut
is playing checkers by himself
under floor lamp with a wide cream screen.
The new room looks like the old porch.
Something moves and I hit the ground
before I remember
I’m dreaming.

Before I can knock, the door opens
and this girl
with dark blonde hair
on her shoulders
is staring at me.
She’s wearing one of my dad’s old plaid shirts.
Her eyes are so green
I think she could see in the dark.
She raises her eyebrows
and I shrink
a step.

I… um… my family
is moving in
down the street. I—I’m
your new

She leans her head out.

No van?

O—oh, we’re only here
for a little while,
so we didn’t bring a lot
of stuff. We’re from

She looks over my shoulder
for a long second
then pulls open the door.

Well, come in, neighbor,
you’re letting all the heat out!

She closes the door behind us.
My name’s Jenna. What’s yours?


Jenna’s house looks like my house
decorated for a 50s movie set.
The curtains are sheer white.
The kitchen tile is black and white.
I think the refrigerator is a genuine ice-chest.

Man, your folks must really squeeze
every drop from their furniture
, I say.

She shrugs.
Really laying on the charm.

We sit on the porch swing,
the squeak almost completely
gone. The air smells like the same
late March I left.

Children of the Depression,
she says. Every generation’s got
their struggle. We got the Reds
and the even-scarier men trying
to get rid of them.

The Communists? Aren’t we leaving
them alone right now?

Oh, just wait. Something’s coming,
I assure you. Sweet tea?
My mother’s recipe
from a friend in Georgia.

I wonder if this is a lucid dream.

You okay?

Oh, sorry. I’d love some. I guess you’re right;
Korea, the VC. You can’t kill
a revolution everyone’s willing
to die for.

The “VC”?

You know, the Vietnamese.

There, too, huh?
I guess I have to hit the maps.
Honestly, she fidgets with her jeans.
as much as the Fall of Civilization
interests me, I’d rather read
a good book, or watch Playhouse 90.

I choke on my drink.

You’re a Rod Serling fan?

You know him, too?
He’s one of my heroes!
The Time Element was amazing.
The idea of dreaming yourself
back in time is just delicious.
I can’t even imagine the things
I’d try to change,
even if it was hopeless.

I never caught that one…
Do you like The Twilight Zone, too?

She chokes on hers.

You can’t be serious.
I’ve been reading about it for months!
My folks are on notice for October 2.
I can’t believe someone who knows Rod Serling
is living just up the street! What else are you into?

Oh, mostly nerdy stuff… H.G. Wells, Heinlein,
Arthur C. Clarke…

No one knows Arthur C. Clarke!
Against the Fall of Night is one of my favorite books.
Well, maybe The City and the Stars.
I consider them different visions
of the same place.

Like parallel dimensions, I say.
Just because something happens differently
the second time doesn’t mean
it didn’t happen the first.

I’d never thought of it that way…

She smirks at me. I think I’m falling
through my chair.
We both look at the floor.

You know, she says. When you came to the door
I could swear I’d seen you before. Are you sure
you just moved in?

Fresh off the boat. I put my hand
in the air. Scout’s honor.

Her family’s from Norwood.
Her grandmother indentured
herself on the first ship from Holland
after the Mayflower.
They were all church-goers,
only skeptical of science. She’s lonely
in her family; she saw H.G. Wells’ son
lecture about lug-worms at the College
last year. Her dad wouldn’t even drive her;
she had to walk. She has Heinlein’s autograph
framed upstairs in her room.

Me, too! I say. Back home.

Ah, right! What’s Cincinnati
like? I’d love to see it some day.
Maybe I could visit you.
I’ll go anywhere
that will have me.

Oh, I deserve an award.

Oh, it’s surprisingly
like this.
I wave my hand.
Big homes, long streets, lots of people
I don’t know how to talk to.

Jenna chuckles.
I’ve never felt joy and panic
at the same time before.
She moves her gaze
out the window, and now
I really don’t know what to do.

…I’m going to see Forbidden Planet
again this weekend, at the Brattle.

Do you want to come?

I don’t even think about it.

Just smile at her
and think, how hard can it be
to make a dream-date?

Added: February 26, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015