Last night was the night that Idol Gave Back, with song and montage and African video. Last night was the night that God took his pearly hand and ripped our hearts from our chests, leaving us bereft and alone.

I'll get to that tragedy in a moment, but I suppose we must first talk about what came first. The singing and the charity.

It's not really very fun to write about the charity stuff, because it is serious and actually means something. Oh I know it's presented very cheesily and self-congratulatorily, but they really are giving lots of money to causes that need lots of money and that is, at root, a good thing. Hey, Barack and Michelle showed up, so it must be real! Do we need to see videos of Jennifer Garner looking sad and beatific while mournful music plays? No, no we do not. But if that's the way to get people to pay attention, then I guess that's the way to get people to pay attention. So. Things we learned from that portion of the night:


The point is, she was wearing a T-shirt that said "HIV Positive" on it, and that was it. So naturally people got sort of worried! But it turns out it was just some kind of statement about something. Still though, you have to wonder whether the Idol producers knew she was going to wear that. Probably not, because she sang via satellite from England, moored there because of the volcanic Death Cloud. Girl you are Annie freaking Lennox! Open that sound hole of yours and use it to propel yourself up and over the debris, into the tropopause. Sheesh. It's like she forgets how to be Annie Lennox sometimes.

Anyway, that happened and honestly I fast forwarded through a lot of the musical performances. The Black Eyed Peas were there being stupid as usual. Joss Stone looked weird with boring flat brown hair. Carrie Underwood is very good at being Carrie Underwood. Elton John played us a ditty. Queen Latifah co-hosted from a secret Idol bunker, the very same one where Kevin Covais was grown in a Petri dish. The previously mentioned MJB sang "Stairway to Heaven," just like she did on Oprah recently. You know. Little of this, little of that. Wanda Sykes did a comedy routine called "Please God Watch My Show!" and then the Russell Brand unpleasantness happened. So it was a hodgepodge, an olio, a Chinaman's Curio, if you will. And then suddenly a violin string snapped and everything went still.

Don Mason down at the hardware store put down a hammer and walked slowly to the window and looked out and up into the sky, which had turned a hard, burnished gray. Daisy Mueller and her friends stopped pedaling their bicycles on Sycamore Street and felt a lonely chill seeping into their tiny bones. "I want to go home," little Becky Thornbush murmured. Old widow Linden abruptly stopped petting her cat and urgently called "Arthur? Arthur, is that you?", suddenly feeling the presence of her long-dead husband. A great sadness spread through the high school, and Katie Twoson and Duane Murphy — the sweetest hearts in the 11th grade — stopped kissing in the theater booth, both feeling lost and miserable. Katie looked at Duane, who she had once loved, not but a minute ago, and she said to him, voice trembling, "Something is eating my heart." Duane burst into tears. Katie had only seen him cry one other time, sitting in his car in the school parking lot after he pitched a bad game and the team didn't go to state. In every office, every store, every nursery school and nursing home, a despair, an anguish, hung in the air, and the people of Idoltowne did not know what to do. They had not felt this way since The Crying Times. What horrible thing could be causing this terrible pain?

Well, I'm just going to tell you. Tim Urban was sent home. I know, you can hear the crack as the American tree of liberty falls dead to the earth. Apple pies have all rotted, the thwack of a baseball hitting a bat no longer sounds pleasing, blue jeans are not comfortable anymore. If such an all-American Johnny Gymbod can be eliminated from this competition so soon, then what are we to think of our country? I do not know. I just do not know.

Ryan said the name and you saw his grief flicker like a black flame candle across his face but he buttoned it up and held it down for the rest of the show. "You did a good job, Tim" he said stiffly. "A very good job." He felt a black hole bore open inside of him, all joy and hope sucked into that nothing place. Tim of course smiled gamely and glad-handed with everyone. Ellen and Randy and Simon and the other one nodded as if to say "Congrats on getting this far, it was a fucking miracle." And with that the accidental tourist bumbled off. He did not get a goodbye song because it was far too late in the night and everyone was tired. So they turned off the lights and Annie Lennox waved silently on the video screen, back and forth, back and forth, to a darkened auditorium. Simon drove home and on the way, stopped at a red light, he realized he'd already forgotten the boy's name. "How about that," he chuckled to himself. The light turned green and on he went. Lying on his cot in the Idol contestants shed, Aaron felt a strange new yearning, and he wasn't sure why. "Tim," he said softly, hoping no one heard. But the ancient and ageless spirit guide Crystal Crowderfox did hear from her cot, and she smiled to herself, knowing that Aaron was growing up, that time was passing, things were born and dying.

And poor Ryan lay in his own bed, the big empty mansion creaking and groaning in the night. He'd finished with his latest bout of furious sobbing and just lay there whimpering, doing those little post-cry hiccups and feeling lonely and terribly sorry for himself. Not even an episode of Supernatural had been able to cheer him up when he got home. Not even Wincest. So he was there in his bed, feeling dreadfully sad and hurt and wondering what he was going to do with the rest of his life, with what was left of his heart, and then he heard it. Plink! Plink! He sat up in bed, trying to find the noises' source. There it was again. Plink! Plink! He realized that someone was throwing pebbles at his window. He jumped out of bed and ran to the window.

And when he saw a shock of shaggy brown hair he did not need to see anything else to know that everything was going to be all right. That absolutely everything in this horrid dark world would actually turn out to be A-OK.