I was walking to the store one morning when I came upon the words, all in light blue chalk. "Good morning," the message said, followed by a smiley face. Something about that, as well as my own groggy disposition toward such frivolity, rattled me. And although the surface was completely level, I managed to trip over the letters and fall flat on my face.
While not truly injured, I did feel very embarrassed and refused to stand up, refusing to see who might be watching. At that moment, a van pulled up beside me, two men lifted me to my feet and dragged me inside, but not before banging my head against the top of the side hatch.
After a few minutes ride we went down an incline and into a basement-level garage. The van stopped and the large side door was opened. "This way please," a red-headed woman wearing a black vinyl coat -- the driver -- said.
I was lead into a large room resembling the inside of a church. There were rows of pews, an altar of sorts, but although containing a pulpit, it was totally lacking any religious symbols.
The woman walked over to an older man sitting on a large wooden chair on the side of the altar. She showed him her cell phone and the photograph it had taken. He then showed it to me, it was a picture of my body flat on the sidewalk, the chalk letters at my ankles.
"Finally," he said, proudly. "We have found you."
The gathering congregation of about one hundred people started cheering.
"What do you mean?" I asked, slowly more becoming more coherent.
"All our research could do was trace you to this area. A fifth grade report from a Mr. Nelson."
"He was my homeroom teacher," I said, remembering the thin, mustached man, barely out of college. "What is this about?"
"You are our King," he replied warmly. "I have been your steward, having waited twenty years for you to be found."
"King?" I replied. "King of what?"
"Why of klutzes, of course," he said, smiling broadly. "Only a superior klutz would actually trip and fall crossing a chalk greeting."
"And you're organized?" I asked skeptically.
"We have been for many generations. We would like to think we go all the way back to the prehistoric Alpha Klutz, but realize our files only date back to King William IV, and what a noble klutz he was, in fact, the entire Royal Family have traditionally be noteworthy klutzes."
"It wasn't entirely his fault," the redhead stated. "After over a hundred years with every King named George, any other name was sure to confuse people."
"What about here in America?"
"We've had our share," he said, nodding his head. "Although things have been downhill since the Ford Administration."
While this all may sound absurd, I do remember my mother and grandmother both being clumsy individuals, and I certainly have followed in their rather unstable footsteps.
"The sad fact," the steward continued, "is that there are many who would like to see us cease to exist. Acrobats, gymnasts, package delivery workers. They see us in the same light as an airline pilot sees someone unwilling to fly."
"I'm rather fond of gymnasts," I admitted, "something about those skimpy, skintight outfits they wear."
"We are perfectly capable of wearing skimpy, skintight outfits," the woman with the redhead stated. "Well," she said after a little thought, "if we don't kill ourselves getting into them."
"Many feel the world would be better off if everyone was agile and sure-footed," the steward continued. "And as the genetic components have now been discovered ..."
"Being a klutz is genetic?" I asked, shocked.
"Of course it is," he replied, seeming himself surprised that I was surprised. "It played a very important part in human evolution."
He clapped his hands, "Bring the Book," he ordered. Two young men walked out, struggling to carry a large leather-bound volume over two feet in height. One held the top, the other the bottom, and they only stumbled once, walking up the two carpeted steps separating the altar from the main part of the room.
"This," he said, "is the Chronicle of Klutzes, our most sacred work." After it was set down on a large book holder set on the side of the pulpit, it was opened.
"And in those days," he began reading, "the Alpha Klutz was a member of his village's hunting party. One day they went out on a hunt when they saw a great beast. They decided to trap the beast by having half the party climb a great ledge surrounding the creature. As they approached, the Alpha Klutz's foot became entangled with vines. He fell, but the vine broke his fall, causing him to hang there suspended, swaying back and forth. His companions stood there stunned at the sight.
"And then, for the first time in human history, men laughed."
"You see," the steward said, closing the book, "in our lives, we have all -- due to our lack of a certain agility or caution -- caused our friends and family members to laugh. And this is of central importance. Genuine, honest laughter, based on another's moderate misfortune is a vital commodity Hollywood can only mimic.
"So what is expected of me?" I asked.
"You are a single man, and one who prefers the company of women?"
"Yes," I said, looking at the redhead.
"You are to mate with one of our women and produce a family of outstandingly clumsy children."
I smiled at the redhead and she smiled back.
"Um," the steward said, uncomfortably "that's my wife."
"Whom you've been unable to impregnate," she said, a certain snarkiness in her voice. "What did the urologist say, something about your sperm tripping over one another?"
I looked at him, finding his wife very desirable, but uneasy about ending a marriage.
"I suppose it is for the best," he said, philosophically. "I'm sure there are other women ..." As soon as he said that, a dozen women jumped up as if applying for the job.
"He always was a charmer," his soon-to-be ex and my soon-to-be wife said, putting her arm around me.
He shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose sweeping you off your feet couldn't last."
"Not when it involved your inability to control a broom."
She smiled and kissed me on the cheek. "So where do you want our honeymoon to be?"
I thought about it for a moment. Every place I could think of was filled with potential hazards. "Should we play it safe or challenge fate?" I asked.
"Perhaps the Middle East?" she replied. "I've always wanted to fall off a camel."