The crowd did what it always did – it cheered. On this day, it cheered like opening night. Crowds have moods within moods, like people do. Sometimes joy is rageful joy, and sometimes it’s delirious, sometimes serene. The crowd cheered with the joy of relief, after a long off-season of waiting. [Read more…] about Winding Up
The Tree of Grief
On the seventh floor, on the corner above the store, in a room with Him, sat Edmund Grimm.
Edmund was not a saint, nor a sinner. He barely went out. His laundry was picked up, his groceries delivered. There was little need for interaction with the world. He didn’t even own a television. Edmund’s apartment was a womb and, if there is innocence in a womb, then Edmund was surely innocent. [Read more…] about A Delivery of Fruit
I look in on you at least a couple times a day. You maybe look more busy, more tired, more harried. Sometimes you look like you’re in love with someone else. Sometimes you look lonely too, even if you’ve got a harem of lovers in there. [Read more…] about Corpses of Love
When my sister and I would go the Carnival Circus, we couldn’t tell our Dad, of course. “No jobs,” is what my Uncle Kevin used to say, whenever you’d ask him why we only had a few restaurants in town, and why we had to drive to Olderville to get groceries since the Piggly Wiggly shut down, and why the amusement park that would open just before Lent and close down in time for the Fall semester was lost to rust and vandalism and a sea of litter and weeds. The place was restricted – you couldn’t just waltz in, or you’d get the deputy called on you and get your name in the local paper, which was a big deal in a town of only 2900 people (they stopped lowering the number on the sign so people wouldn’t get depressed, after Molly Ames had jumped off Croger Creek Bridge early one morning). [Read more…] about Eagles’ Wings and Unicorns
A tongue is the most dangerous thing next to love. The Christians warn of the tongue devouring the speaker. The Hebrews say the steady, gentle pressure of a tongue breaks bone. And none of this comforted Jerald Parker, whose tongue was enormous by any standard estimation. When Jerry opened his mouth, girls cringed, so most of the time he didn’t. He was twenty three years old and had never been with a woman whose company he hadn’t paid for. Jerry had learned shyness from a young age – that was his Uncle, Roger, who had gotten him a “21st birthday roll” which Jerry had expected to be something you ate in place of cake, maybe with a couple of candles on it – one of those wax pairs of numerals representing his coming of age. [Read more…] about Breaking Bone
In the back of Ray’s hardware store, Mr. Meems dusted off the remains of the pizza left behind by Ray himself. He poured little packets of powdered cheese on top of the cold, melted cheese, and listened to Bob Dylan on the radio. He’d grown up with Dylan, and half the artists he found flipping channels ought to have to pay royalties for style, because they owed Dylan their shirts. When the bell jingled in the front, he dropped a slice, and froze, until he made up his mind he’d forgotten to lock the front door. That’s really all it could be – there was no breaking glass, and he heard it jangle merrily shut. “On the way!” he said with a mouth half full. There, was no answer, and he grabbed the blue smock from Ray’s office chair and walked pulling it over his head with the crust end of a new pizza slice hanging out of his mouth. If you did that with the narrow end, you made a mess and it broke, and you dropped it. One more customer, then he could wash down dinner with a root beer from the machine, count the night’s receipts, and get home in time for Archie Bunker, which was still on cable, the way Dylan was still on the radio – gods of a feeling, outliving themselves in analog, digital, and whatever was next. The front of the store was dark. He flipped on the light. He had never turned it off. The aisles seemed deserted, the store was small, and he knew every inch. The door didn’t budge when he pulled it, to see if the customer had given up. And that’s when he remembered, he didn’t work there anymore. He’d never been fired, and he hadn’t quit anything in his life – not Dylan’s music, not Caroll O’Connor’s hilarious gaffs and barbs as Archie, and he hadn’t walked away from the place he’d earned his first decent buck just before the draft hit and, even though he wasn’t quite the right age, had gone anyway. It had simply been just a parenthetical moment, if a gruesome one. He’d come back to the store just the way he’d found it, though technically a piece of him didn’t make it home – he never talked about that. Years later, when the ambulance had been there the once, he came back as soon as he could, and hadn’t missed a day since. Actually, he still worked there – he just wasn’t employed – he knew that. He hadn’t been paid a wage in long time. It wasn’t so bad. He didn’t need much, and some days he’d had so much fun, he had often thought he could do the work for free. “Hi, Ray,” he said, and heard a chuckle from behind the counter. Ray wasn’t employed there anymore, either. He’d founded the store in 1936. Ray liked Benny Goodman and Fats Waller. He’d switch the channel. But at least he made sure there was pizza. Every day since 1942, the year Ray’s son didn’t come home, Luigi’s had sent a cheese pizza, the boy’s favorite meal, whether anyone still wanted it or not. In memory of the old man, too, Luigi’s grandson had said. He was still over there – that Luigi, and a couple of his sons who kept up with the family business. Just like Ray and just like Mr. Meems. They were from different generations, but they kept at a thing, once they started it. They never missed a day’s work from laziness, and never took handouts – the pizza was different – when they could do for themselves. You could count on men like those. He was right, too – Ray did change the station. Sometimes he’d let Meems have his Dylan, though. On those nights, he’d say his boy would have liked that youngster too. Meims didn’t mind the pranks. Whatever happened to Ray’s son over there was the hardest thing, because he never came home after that – no one ever saw him again, dead or alive. There was just another slice of cold pizza. Thank God there was the store to tend to. “I started the books. Math looks mostly right,” Meems said. “All right, let’s listen to Dylan tonight,” said Ray.
Occurred to me about the loneliness of ghosts: what if they weren’t lonely for us, but for other ghosts.