Americans skipped a generation. When they came back they were different from before, shinier, more likely to take you by the hand and tell you a bedtime story you didn’t ask to hear, stories without wolves. The rest of the world watched through binoculars as the Americans changed. They were glad there was an ocean again but sad that no one was on the right side of it except for Michael Jackson and his best friend Pepsi. He’d met Pepsi at a diner in Indiana in 1971 when he’d asked for Coke. Pepsi held back his hair when he was throwing up. Pepsi sewed sparkles into his cereal. When the two of them were together, Michael Jackson was as happy as he’d ever been, even though he was shorter than most of the people he met overseas. When they went to Asia, Michael Jackson rode on Pepsi’s shoulders so that he felt tall and all of the girls could see him long enough to faint. Pepsi could not find a way to explain how that felt. When they returned from Asia, Michael Jackson watched Pepsi pack for Chicago. From then on, Michael Jackson was alone but thought someone was watching him. So he walked backward, forward, spun but he could never get away. He wrote letters to Pepsi about it, but Pepsi never answered. Michael Jackson read these letters out loud in diners and they were big hits overseas. In America, all anyone said was, I’m sorry, hon, we only got RC.
Michael Jackson gave birth to Bono during a live MTV special in August 1984. J.J. Jackson was hosting. A woman from Laramie, Wyoming, had won a contest to cut the umbilical cord. It surprised everyone when Bono came out Irish but that only made him more American. Michael Jackson made him wear sunglasses so no one could take any pictures, but no one wanted to take pictures, not yet, not until Bono learned to fear the world. They’d visit zoos but would only see where the animals were deloused and had their wings clipped and would someday die. What have you learned? the father asked his son. I’ve learned to love everything, the son said. Then you’ve learned nothing at all. Michael Jackson raised his hand to hit the boy then realized he only had tickle fingers. This is how Bono learned there is no difference between horror and wonder. Later, when The Edge asked Bono why Americans were getting shorter, Bono said, Because it makes it easier to hug the Earth. Bono’s father was dead. Bono’s sister never stopped screaming. But The Edge hit Bono. He hit him so hard his sunglasses broke. This is how Bono learned there is a difference between friends and fathers, how the world is not nearly as red as he thought yet is somehow bloodier.
Ghost Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan was born a ghost inside the Washington D.C. airport. Out of fear and respect, they named the building after him, and-out of his own fear-Ghost Ronald Reagan personally lifted each plane into the air with shaking hands. This he did because he could see a face inside each peek-a-boo window. There were faces that were asleep before the plane took off. There were faces that broke the rules and used electronic devices. There were faces that were children’s faces. So he picked up the planes in his ghost hands and whispered them safely into the air. Eventually the faces grew ugly. They drooled whether they were children or adults. Sometimes they pressed against each other. He began to swat passing planes out of the sky (but only if they were from places he didn’t like. Places like the U.S.S.R. and China and Arizona). When Ghost Ronald Reagan asked to be president, America looked at America and shrugged. He wasn’t on Mt. Rushmore, but, even as a ghost, he was the closest thing America had to a cock-and-guns American male since his great-grandfather. He has a cowboy hat and everything, America said. This was true, though the cowboy hat was translucent and out of style. It moved and shimmered like a ten-gallon waterfall. But America came around after he wed a beautiful girl from Maryland. He met her during a séance. She was pregnant before she even finished saying, O, Mr. Ghost President!