Published in Fiction Week Literary Review. Spring, 2017
Excerpt from “Death, Speeches and Small Fiascos.”
Through long summer days I meandered through a catch-all of Chicago
sidewalk doorways, pessimistic storefronts and a cacophony of animal,
vegetable and prehistoric smells, among noncommittal faces of all colors
and ages. Dismembered automobiles rust in silence behind a high fence
of bare boards. Dried-yellow newspapers taped over the the windows on
the inside of the little corner market to shade the aging produce from direct
sun give it a permanent closed look. Barroom conversations culminate in
commiseration with someone else out of work, while we nurse our beers.
As the fall cold and dark advance into afternoons, I seek comfort in the
room I share with a collective of noises. Whenever I walk across my kitchen,
the refrigerator jacks up the pitch of its rattle, a habit it has, finicking with
its sound. Opening the refrigerator door shifts it into other frequencies.
It anticipates approaching trains. Rumbling three feet from my second-story
window the elevated trains turn my room into a concert hall with an orchestra
warming up. A spoon might tinkle in a cup, the instant coffee jar tap tap
tap against the cocoa can. The old woodframe windows creak and clatter
as if trying to get loose and fly off. Dishes in the sink clatter. The refrigerator
pizzicatos whatever is inside it. Passing trains hurl crescendos into the
room. Once during my morning coffee I heard purring. A cat had gotten
in? The door and window were shut. No cat in the room, under the table.
Then I noticed an almost empty jelly jar shaking on the small breadboard
on the table. The breadboard, warped, was quaking to the rattle of the refrigerator.
I’m alone too much. My friend down the hall, Leland, has moved to Cicero.
Picking up my weekly pittance in the office offers few opportunities to socialize,
with eagle-eyed bosses watching, fiercely protecting employees against
time-wasting distractions. On Sundays my habit is to pocket a sandwich
and an apple and wander to various neighborhoods, sit in parks, stroll along
the lake. During the cold fall rains I stay in and read at my kitchen table,
in library books or newpapers and magazines people toss away. I cast solemn
lances at dark skies hanging above the tracks and the rain blackening the