Week # 30 – Urban convert
|The Connection by Al McDermid|
|Thrum by Len Kuntz
At first he saw clouds, pale blue blemishes, and then his sight left him completely.
He phoned his daughter. He thought he might die at any moment. He was an old man, had lived a rugged but fair life.
She drove out that night. He sat on the porch, listening to the crickets bleating. When his wife was alive, after a long day of hard work on the farm, they’d sit in the rocking swing, holding hands but staying quiet, surrounded by green silence.
His daughter said, “You’ll have to live with me now,” and the old man almost vomited because he knew she was right.
The condo overlooked Elliot Bay. “It smells like glass cleaner,” he said. “And pigeon crap!”
He wanted to go back, die on the farm. His daughter kept talking about new beginnings, second chances. He thought she might be nuts.
She preferred windows open for fresh air. The street noise below made his ears bleed.
One Saturday she took him to Pike Place Market. He smelled fish and lavender and berries. He heard the fish hawkers and squealing children, birds cooing, a guitar.
His heart thrummed. It felt like a bomb inside his chest, and he liked it. He felt different, alive.
His daughter put his hand on what she said was a statue of a giant pig. “For luck.”
He laughed at that, the irony, how he had traded a live sow for a fake, how small the world really was.
|Urban, Convert by Christian Bell
The guy living to my left screams at his girlfriend. He plays his music loud. The songs are never familiar, just bass thumping and siren-like wailing. I’ve seen his girlfriend in the hall. She’s pretty and nice but looks worn down, her verve brutalized by this guy, this harsh city. She needs sunlight, someone to say nice words to her so she can lift her head, brighten her eyes. I want to invite her into my apartment for coffee and hearty soup. But I’m afraid of this guy, his voice, his muscles, his tattoos, his t-shirts like blood-spattered inkblots. I’d invite her over, explain to him, it’s not what you think, I’m a soup-making guy. But he looks like a guy who wouldn’t believe.
An old friend knocks on my door. We shake hands. He hands me a religious pamphlet, says he’s converted. Have you considered eternity, the coming day of reckoning, he asks. That’s heavy, I say, stunned by who he has become, then ask, how are you, did you and Gina get married? He says, face stiff, I’m great, and no, Gina’s gone. The pamphlet is glossy, the cover picture a Hubble-like supernova. I’m not sure what religion he’s pushing. You want to come in, I ask, catch up on old times? I can’t, he says, I have to knock on doors, spread the word. As I’m closing the door, he says, I’m pure now, no longer drinking, and I think, another friend, long gone lost.
|There’s Always a Bigger Dog by Boudreau Freret
A young man blocked a doorway with the door partially open. When he saw I wanted by, yet refused to yield, I waited a little longer then made an obviously playful gesture: I pretended I was going to shut the door on him.
The young man’s eyes widened and his mouth followed suit.
“Dude, I’m half your age-”
His first mistake.
Panic spread across my friend Mike the Marine’s face. Let it go, his eyes shouted to me. Just walk away.
“- and I’ve been shot before.” The kid emphasized the word shot, then waited as if the matter between us was now closed, resolved in his favor.
His second mistake.
“Shot?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He lifted his shirt to reveal a scar about the size of a pencil eraser just below his sternum, dead center of the celiac plexus.
“Really.” I said softly.
“I see.” I looked up from his scar and into his eyes. “Well, I’ve been shot, too.”
Without blinking, I slowly began to raise my shirt and revealed an entry scar. I raised my shirt higher and revealed another. Then another. And another, still. All stragglers that had spread from the main cluster.
When the fist-sized main scar was unveiled, the color ran from the kid’s face.
I turned to show the exit wounds, and when I turned back, the kid was gone.
|Muddy Boots by Michael J. Solender
Always the left boot first. Ever since he was a kid.
Standing or sitting it didn’t matter. He didn’t know why, he didn’t think of himself as one bound by ritual, yet routine dominated all aspects of his life.
Thick, red mud fell in truncated furrows as he alternatively strengthened and relaxed his grip over the roughened steel toe. Perfectly rounded, the clay shards looked as if they were formed by a potter. Compact and resolute, they swept up easily onto the porch where they could bake in the remains of the retreating sun, soon to rise on uncounted Chinese who gave him as much thought as he gave them.
Three hundred thousand dollars seemed like a lot of money. He didn’t like to think in those terms. Money wouldn’t make his back ache or cake in his boots.
She said she was ready. Her sister would help. Their place in the city had a big garden and he could work it all he liked.
Did corporate farmers offer Chinamen cash for their farms? He wondered.
It was up to him, she said. They’d be close to Julie and the boys. Wasn’t that worth something?
The right boot was easier because his left foot was arthritic. Now with that boot off, blood flowing into his arch, the right boot surrendered the entire day’s tension.
He bent over and swept the clay towards the door with his hands. He wouldn’t have trouble sleeping tonight.
He never did.
|All Evidence to the Contrary by Kelly Grotke
The mind creates reasons, maybe this was one. See if it sticks, see if it can survive the exacting standards of a child dredging the bottom of a pond with a branch. Interesting? Or is it pitched back where it came from and you watch it sink down again to the bottom with all the rest. Because you have to figure it out for yourself, don’t you, and she wouldn’t have listened anyways even if they’d told her back at the house that you will never, ever, not in a million billion years find a pharaoh’s mask hidden in the dark bed of a Midwestern pond. A year or so later it was Indians. They’d gone one day to a high crest above a river and she’d seen the carvings on the rock. She’d find them in the woods someday, she was certain. Because in all that living moving solitary space there must be someone like her, before her, really it was just a matter of time and so out into the world she went, after school and on weekends too when she wasn’t locked in her room reading and sometimes even with friends. Years later she’d married a man because he seemed to be from the world somehow but it turned out his wilderness was much deeper even than her own and she’d shown him all the paths and places and secrets but he told her there was no one there.
|Back to Wk #29 – The palm of your hand
Forward to Wk #31 – Missed the bus