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 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 glances at dark skies hanging above the tracks and the rain blackening the elevated crossties.
Published in Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, September 2019
Excerpt from “Yesterday Again.”
It was only yesterday, feels like, two weeks go by so fast, I had a husband, Jake, 52 years married, then his heart give out and I am alone in a dinky apartment close to downtown. What do I do downtown at my age? Daytimes I walk around. Funnylooking new fashions in department store windows like in a foreign country. Showcases crammed with stuff. I never seen so much. Why take hours looking? Nothing I want. Nobody to shop for. You can look in the same stores only so many times. My kids Robert and Doris come out from California when Jake took sick. Robert got a job and family. Doris helped me sell my cottage, too big for me now. I guess she is right. She went back to California, the south part. Robert lives up north. His city got a Spanish name. Doris calls me on the telephone. I say I am fine. She can hear in my voice I am not happy. She comes out to take me to live with her and her husband in California and we get in a big argument.
All my brothers and sisters live here, I say.
So where are they, Ma?
They got families. They are busy.
What good are they, if they don’t visit you?
I can visit them any time I want.
Then why don’t you?
I can’t drive. Jake did all the driving. I can learn.
At your age you will pass a driving test? Ma, I don’t think so.
I will take the bus.
Published in Reckoning Magazine, January, 2020.
“lady meet mr robinson”
momma yell from the kitchen julius buzz her in
my ol high school chum dont you forget turn the hall light on
hall light dont work momma
hall black like the devils ass you open the parlor door get light down there
i done it momma
she call it a parlor goodwill couch goodwill chairs I hear this come up the steps high heels who wear them things
mr robinson watch at the door lady look scared i say he gentle wont hurt you none
lady wear cool clothes nice coat swag me out and she got big smile for me i say i is julius
i is seven keisha is five we sit quiet on the couch lady say please to meet you
mr robinson sniff lady she look fussed till he settle down by the door
momma bring in tea momma ask we want tea or water no thank you momma
momma and lady talk been long time they got married divorced while lady cant help herself she sneak peeks at mr robinson she see he clean sleek long fur big strong dog
mr robinson he lay by the door thinkin what dogs think
lady and momma they do talk lots and us kids sit quiet to show we got good manners us listen dont get visits much lady got plenty bones from city cause second husband killed on subway job momma pour more tea lady ask me why dog name mr robinson
i say grandpa seen jackie robinson in ebbets field long time ago i seen him on gray telvisin grandpa he gone now
lady watch mr robinson she think funny us in east harlem sooty rooms on snap and welfare we got this big fancy dog he eat like we is rich folks she think we put on like we got dog show dog she dont say so
police siren go by fast be dark soon lady say she treat us to supper wheres a fine restraunt round here
i seen this place family up from new orlins they cook jambalia we never had none
we goin out the door mr robinson get up momma say they dont let dogs in restraunts
i say mr robinson you got to sit and stay
lady say fine handsome dog you takes good care of him
keisha say we dig brush him
lady say you likes a big dog
i say we need a big dog he keep the rats out