[Suburban War]When Kermit Swanson made The Tonight Show, all of McHenry County took a carpet square in the basement of St. Teresa’s. Mr. Alva salted the divine sidewalk and swapped salutations with the Birminghams, the Bennetts, the Bitners. Meanwhile, Mr. Walkner cleared a space near the creamer and unpacked a snowy manila envelope, emptying an impressive sprawl of spirited stationary. Students signed their names in honest hues addressing Kermit with backwards R’s and less than capitol K’s, purple wax and water colored well wishes to the bright new star of basic late night cable. As the cards hit the polyester cushioning of the counter, Lionel Banks nodded to Mr. Alva, making his way across the cracks in the sidewalk, as Mrs. Lionel Banks trotted behind him carrying a quiche and a curious breath of conversation.“If he talks about us on national television, I’ll just die at bridge on Tuesday” she squealed, Lionel Banks stopping in his tracks to shake the snow off his boots before hitting the tile interior. He chewed his cigarette and Mrs. Lionel Banks moved his hair out of his face as he spoke.“Why would he talk about us? He wrote a novel, not a book report.” Mrs. Lionel Banks tossed Lionel’s cigarette in the snow as she eloquently informed him of her recent numbers game.“Well I thought about it for many many minutes and I imagine Kermit will have to mention McHenry County at least once, and out of 400 people in McHenry County, those 400 people only live in say 130 houses and nobody would dare talk about Maple Street on the national television, so that makes 118 houses and we own one of those 118 houses and well, why wouldn’t anyone want to talk about us on national television?” Lionel studied Mrs. Lionel Banks’ face like a fine print menu, hoping her number system was flawed, feigning a smug smile in return.“Don’t be camera shy, I bet out of all 400 people, Maple Street included, Kermit would love to talk about you” Mrs. Lionel Banks whispered, sealing her sentiments with an Eskimo kiss, kindly tugging Lionel’s hand towards inside the church.“But of course” He sighed. (1)The two stepped into the foyer, tasting a familiar howl from the coat rack. “Well if it isn’t the motherfucking fucker himself” Johnny Manseed revved, removing his Pabst Blue Ribbon cap, grated handfuls of greased hair grabbing hold of the icicles on Lionel’s head, the two men embracing. “I see they let your kind back in here,” Lionel breathed into Johnny’s Starter Jacket, a mouth full of cotton and acrylic up his nose. “Aint no mother fucking fucker going to fuck keep me away from your lady’s scrambled eggs, motherfucker” Manseed howled as Mrs. Lionel Banks made eyes at Mrs. Johnny Manseed who stood rubbing the polish off her rosary beads, praying straight to her heels. “Quiche” Mrs. Lionel Banks laughed, “Not scrambled, but-““Quiched?” Johnny joked.“Baked” Mrs. Lionel Banks smiled back.Johnny coughed a chuckle, nudging Mrs. Johnny Manseed’s peach cardigan.“Baked.” Johnny leaked like a deflated balloon. (2)“And baked real swell!” Mrs. Johnny Manseed piped, praising the casserole for a chance to change the subject. “Real swell, isn’t it swell John?” Johnny Manseed cased Mrs. Lionel Banks, caressing her arm to her shoulder to her hair and back before whispering “swell” into her temple, Lionel Banks muffling his laughter at a mortified Mrs. Lionel Banks. “I HEAR THERE IS PUNCH LETS SEE THAT PUNCH IMMEDIATLEY” Mrs. Johnny Manseed erupted, pulling him by his sleeve into the rec room down the hall, Both Banks’ following a cautionary ten steps behind. The four companions feigned smiles as they entered the rec room laced in florescent lights, an “EAGLE SCOUT MEETING CANCELLED” sign shouting from its scotch tape restraint on the door. Classmates and old dates and parents of parents of children from the block all locked into one community room, a condensed countdown to Kermit’s sentimental shout out, a voice from the only local to ever jump the fence and find his way to the freeway. Meandering her way through the crowd, Mrs. Lionel Banks passed her quiche from Mrs. Bitner to Birmingham, to Bennett before it finally touched the table and immediately seduced the crowd. There they went, weaving in and out with slices in their hands, all victims of carried conversation, snippets of shouts and sentimental whines holding hands and swapping spit with one another, mixed up phrases and flashes of “I heard he’s going to thank Mayor Shepley and that he’s going to donate money to restore all the old—“ “Chicken wings will be free for an entire month if he mentions Don’s Deep Dish, my hand to god, I read it on the bulletin board at the Good“Will you go to prom with me? - All in cupcakes and Shelly said yes, of course she said yes, when all along my daughter could have gone with a future television star, makes me just want to scream—““Mr. Alva!” Mr. Alva turned from his silent corner, salt on his hands, lowering the bag full of brine into an old plastic bucket as Mr. Walkner called his name from a mess of AV cables. “Do you know how to connect the television to the speaker set? Would hate for anyone to miss the segment and we all know Irene just had her hearing aids replaced…”Mr. Alva stared.Mr. Walkner began to twist the cables in the television set, carrying on the conversation while trying to look handy. “D’you read the novel?” Mr Walkner pressed. “D’they print it in español?”And Mr. Alva stared.“Rather fantastic. Brightest student I’ve ever had. We say we don’t have favorites but we do.” (3)And Mr. Alva stared.Mr. Walkner two-stepped his way back from the back of the television, pointing the remote at the screen and sizing out a proper distance, finding himself adjacent to Mr. Alva. He smiled.“I like you, Mr Alva. A man of few words.”And Mr. Alva stared. (4)Mr. Walkner nodded and continued his backwards practice, pressing his thumbs into the television remote, taking strides for better aim at the receiver – the television set popping on, snow melting on the screen to a clear image of The Tonight Show promo, pressing mute on the audience of St. Teresa’s. Like magnets, they pulled in to circle the television – adults making eyes at one another through a smoky allure of spiked punch, children making eyes at the clock and marveling at the hands position on a school night. Everyone inside a circle or a room of a church of storm, sweeping snows across the dark suburban streets, sans one flickering light from one television set in the basement of a church in a room in a circle of all, waiting. Like pumping pennies at a gas station; one minute after another, one at a time all building meticulously to land right on the dollar. Mr. Lionel Banks passed his time chewing an unlit cigarette, a flickering Zenith in front of him, pulling his legs to his chest like a boy on the ground. Mrs. Lionel Banks whispered over a hushed crowd about shoehorns or something equally mundane to someone who made the mistake of standing near her. Mr. Walkner laughed too loud at every monologue joke Mr. Tonight Show could pitch about a world that existed everywhere but McHenry County. He buzzed and shook, punch spilling out of his cup and dripping on Mrs. Johnny Manseed’s head, as she sat seated, soft spills rolling down her neck, staining the collared shirt she pressed especially for the occasion. She touched her neck as Mr. Walkner laughed. Alas the time came. Kermit stepped out in a dusty brown suit, a boyish figure shaking hands with a toned Mr. Tonight Show before taking a seat. The two made jokes back and forth, Kermit usually a set-up before signaling a sly response from the adjacent seat. Mr. Tonight Show told Kermit that the novel was the best interpretation of post-modern stamp collection that he had ever read and Kermit agreed. Mr. Tonight Show told Kermit that everybody who is anybody thinks the novel a Pulitzer, a Pushcart and Kermit agreed. The audience laughed in little spills here and there, like m&m’s on linoleum before Mr. Tonight Show asked Kermit where he came from. All of St. Teresa’s hushed. Lionel chewed.Walkner waited.Manseed tried to remember where he put his keys.“Just outside of Chicago” Kermit said assuredlyand Mr. Tonight Show moved on. As he sang more praises of the novel, everybody stayed real quiet in St. Teresa’s, each passing laugh track signaling a greater and greater divide from the discussion of McHenry County, of 400 people, of 118 houses, none of which included Maple Street, none of which were remotely mentioned by the time the two men shook hands and a commercial for laundry detergent interrupted.The rec room remained silent for a few seconds as a Mylar balloon danced its way closer and closer to the carpet, tapping the adjacent wall and waiting for someone to say something. As the advertisements ran, all of St. Teresa’s took to the coat rack, abandoning Tupperware and town gossip, assumedly thrown out with the next day’s trash. The television band waxed romantic jazz as the credits rolled and the children fell asleep on the rug, scooped up by fathers who fished for keys in their corduroy pockets. Men shook hands and shied from conversation, women wrapped themselves in sweaters and swapped spit with each other’s cheeks and nobody mentioned Kermit Swanson again. As prides of people walked on eggshells across Mr. Alva’s sidewalk, cars pulled out of the lot, all signaling in rhythm, crafting a collective skip of a heartbeat that every personin every houseeven on Maple StreetJust Outside of Chicagocould feel. . “And you promise you won’t hit me if I give it to you?” Kermit whined through from behind his trapper keeper. “But of course” Lionel nodded, his knuckle nudging Kermit’s cheek as the boys behind him snickered through their braces. Kermit winced with the recess sun in his eyes as he put his binder on the blacktop to retrieve his lunch money from his back pocket. With a fistful of dimes, Kermit sighed and put out his hand in defeat as Lionel stomped his sneaker on Kermit’s foot, the change falling like a ticker tape parade as Kermit yelped. “Didn’t say anything about stomping” Lionel shouted, his pack of wolves howling and high fiving as they all scattered singing their own junior high praises.  “We never do a single thing together” Mrs. Johnny Manseed cried, her mascara making unmapped routes down her cheeks. “You don’t even ask me to go to the gas station with you and that’s right down the street.” “Who the fuck wants to go to the gas station?” Johnny coughed, an unlit joint in his hand as he signaled her frame to his knee. She took a seat and her shoes dangled, as he reached for his lighter in his back pocket. Mrs. Johnny Manseed sniffed and turned in terror. “THAT’S NOT TOBACCO” she shouted in a whisper “WHAT ARE YOU DOING THEY’LL TAKE YOU AWAY.” Johnny laughed and lit simultaneously, Mrs. Johnny Manseed still seated, stiff like a taxidermied animal out of fear. “CALL IT BY A CODEWORD SO THAT NOBODY HEARS. CALL IT EASY BAKE OVEN”. “Fo God’s sake, relax. Try it” Johnny pressed, holding the joint to her lips. “WHERE DID IT COME FROM.” “Earth” he said. “By way of Maple Street.” Mrs. Johnny Manseed, with a ribcage full of Christmas lights, excited in the idea of being in on Johnny Manseed’s secret. “So go with me” he said, nuzzling his nose in her collar bone. “The party isn’t for another hour, let’s goooo.” Mrs. Johnny Manseed took the joint and Easy Bake Oven’d for several minutes. Kermit flipped through a stack of Topps cards, running his tips over major leaguers, Mantle preserved in a plastic sleeve at the end. A chain of schoolbuses pulled away outside as Mr. Walkner spoke from the other side of the empty classroom. “I have hundreds of those” he nodded, fox trotting his way to the door, closing it with a keen turn of the lock. Kermit kept his eyes on the baseball cards as Mr. Walkner sauntered his way over to the desk in the corner, seating himself behind Kermit, leaning over his shoulder, his finger pointing. “Go to the back of the deck” he coaxed. Kermit mined his way through the deck to reveal the mint edition Mantle. Mr. Walkner put his hand on Kermit’s shoulder. “Remember the cards we looked at last week?” Mr. Walkner pressed, pulling an eager no out of the eight year old before him. “Well those ones are good, but this one is my favorite. I love all my cards, but that one is my favorite and I wanted you to know.” Kermit tilted the card back and forth, enveloped in the glossy streak of the light across the statistics on the back, Mr. Walkner moving his nose into Kermit’s hairline. As his hand wrapped around Kermit’s collar bone, the door clicked open and Mr. Alva stood horrified. Mr. Alva’s keys danced as he caught the eyes of Mr. Walkner and began to change the trash bag out of instinct before bolting out of the room. Mr. Walkner jumped up to follow, Kermit still unfazed with the glossy cardstock in his hands. “It’s not what you think!” Mr. Walkner shouted, Mr. Alva in frenzy, trying to avoid a police report. Mr. Walkner caught him by his maintenance cart at the edge of the hallway, “Let me explain” he said breathlessly and in a flash, Mr. Alva did what any respectable man would do in his situation; “Yo no hablo Inglés.” Mr. Walkner breathed a sigh of relief. “In America, that is okay, what that was in the classroom…so no need to…” “Yo no hablo Inglés” he said again, the four magic words. Mr. Walkner nodded and turned, his hands on his head as Kermit passed by handing him his cards. Mr. Alva made a swift departure, one single movement from classroom to office to Honda and home. He caught his wife in the driveway, her gardening gloves waving with a smile. “How was your first day?” she sang. “I don’t speak English anymore” he said.