This train goes south along the Hudson. You should sit on the right-hand side of the train, that way you see the river. Grab a window seat. It’s alright if someone sits next to you. Just act like you’re really doing them a favor if that happens. I’m in a long-distance relationship; I know how to ride the train. I wear the same sundress every ride. It’s blue, and I’m elegant like a little elf. I love the ride home to Brooklyn. I love goodbye: Matthew waves like a boob from the platform, and I have the luxury of getting smaller and smaller, until I vanish. Every goodbye should be that fun. Your aunts and uncles shrinking until they’re long gone, having a ball. When you want to say hello, you grow like an azalea, out of nowhere. Growing and shrinking out of lives like it’s a habit.
Carlisle is certain of the robbery. Burglary. Theft. He will look up the distinctions later. He thinks that burglary might have to do with breaking and entering, robbery with holding someone up, and theft with—what? Maybe it was taking something against no resistance, like a chocolate-covered peanut from the bin in the grocery, or the dirty pair of earbuds he found the week before, draped over a low-hanging tree branch.
The year I had Novi felt like it must have been the first year when all the women in Los Angeles adopted Christian Science attitudes toward birthing. Not Scientology, mind you—I had spent years getting the two cults or sects or whatever confused. But the one that now was creeping into the thought of dabbling Buddhists, well-educated ethical humanists, and atheists with children who attend Unitarian churches. The one that found divine beauty in kids with scarlet fever and otherwise eradicated diseases. Every other pregnant woman I encountered whispered and spit about interventions, and all of them had a birth-plan. My grandma would have said they were looking the gift horse of western medicine in the mouth, yanking on those perfectly good teeth without even a squirt of novocaine.
“Sergio,” Dean Kippler said, “I’d like you and Dr. Sanchez to head up the trip to Spain this summer.” No small talk. No ‘how you doing?’ Just an announcement phrased as a request. I knew what he was thinking. My selection made perfect sense. After all, I was the university’s only European History professor. However, if he had looked at me, he would have seen that this was not the same as telling me to teach a course outside of my specialization; this was not drafting me to chair a committee that was a colossal waste of my time. He might as well have asked me to walk a bed of hot coals.
Keller was late to the party, later even than the Phillips had come to expect. He’d neglected to wrap Rachel’s gift before leaving and had to stalk the house for paper and ribbon, settling on a vaguely festive red bag mashed inside a kitchen drawer.
The hallway mirror told him the chowder stain across his breast was more apparent than he’d realized. It was his only jacket; he’d have to find a dark corner of the ballroom and hope no one came too close. Then, as a grace note on the evening’s already stammering shuffle, he found his station wagon still loaded with cement mix. By the time he unloaded everything and pulled into the road his collar was soaked, his skull squeezed tight. He wished he’d remembered a flask.
My Bubbe came over from the other side packed in steerage like a sardine when she was eleven, then headed straight to a shirt factory. She had no choice. One of twelve children, she never learned to read or write, she spoke broken English and had to go through a lot of hardship in her lifetime. By the time I came along Bubbe needed a cane, she walked side to side and stopped to rest after every few steps, but she’d seen things other people hadn’t, and knew things they didn’t know.
I have no photos of that bleak holiday when I was eight years old. My mother had died, along with my unborn sister who was to be named Jackie, just two weeks before President Kennedy’s assassination. There’s only a collage of mental images more vivid than Kodachrome that I sometimes still shuffle through when awake in the middle of the night. Always, I am drawn to the specter of me kneeling at the tarnished grate in the floor of Aunt Louise’s guest room, peering down at the cavernous wood stove, straining to decipher a hushed conversation between my aunt and father at the kitchen table beside the iced-up window just beyond my visual field.
Edwardo is on my case again. The temporary title of acting manager at The Napolitano Ristorante weighs uneasily upon his crown. I can always tell when the “suits” that monitor this branch of the franchise are planning an inspection. Everything is swept, then double swept. I am warned to follow the rules with regard to how many ounces of topping the manuals call for. I’ve explained all too often that, when I’m busy, it’s grab a handful of mushrooms or peppers and dress the pie. I don’t have time to weigh everything. I usually add the fact that I’m the only pizza guy who works alone, juggling and tossing the pies with dazzling acrobatics which has them nearly touching the ceiling—a great crowd pleaser. I then dress many different combos while my sixth sense tells me when to check the oven.
Ella looked up from where she knelt at the fireplace, raking cinders from the bottom of the grate. Her father loved a log fire in the evenings but, like a small boy begging for a puppy, he had no notion of the time and energy lost in feeding it and cleaning up its mess. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d love to, Gris, but you know what it’s like.” Continue reading “Anne Goodwin: Her Knight in Shining Armour”
Lewis rolled onto his back. He first noticed it when he could see the dark outline of the tip and bridge of his nose against the morning light leaking through the window blinds. No no no, he thought. As a test, he raised his right hand toward his bedroom ceiling and opened both eyes wide. Beyond the front edge of his nose, he only saw his hand and the beginning of his wrist. He slowly moved his arm left. It was not until his arm crossed his torso that Lewis could see his forearm. “Shit!” he shouted. He pounded the bed with his right hand clenched. “Not today.” His breath quickened. Moisture built in his eyes. Continue reading “Matthew Andrews: Seeing Tomorrow”