They are arrayed like so much stacked cord wood, pressed against walls indifferent to their presence. They watch the double doors leading to the examining rooms with trepidation, wanting to be next, wanting more not to be here at all, knowing the options are none. He isn’t bothered by it all, this is old hat to him, he knows them, several of them know him by name. He will no doubt be here again and that doesn’t worry him, for here he knows he will walk in and walk out, the alternatives are far less pleasant, some involved simple pine boxes or urns suitable for a mantle, but none of his family have fireplaces and he would hate to be lost for eternity amid the toys and tchotchkes that so define their lives and homes. While others stare nervously, he hears his long dead grandmother whisper “Remember, boychik, pain is God’s way reminding you that you’re alive.”
Tomorrow I will lie to him will tell him when he asks, at least the first ten times he he does, that she is doing fine, that she is a tough old bird, that she’ll outlive us all, that she’s a Taurus, the bull and he will remember the end of their marriage, the Battle Royal that was the war of divorce, and he will smile a bit, and say, “I miss her,” and I will agree with him. I do miss her a bit, but even two and a half years of death have not grown the size of my missing appreciably. We will move on to other topics, will circle back and rerun the tape for with him every day is a series of scenes from Groundhog Day, but in his world, it never snows.
I’ll be there soon, so hang in there just a bit longer. I do want to meet the beautiful young woman you mentioned in our calls, or is there more than one, because while your vision is supposed to be good, it seems almost all women younger than a certain ever-increasing age are now beautiful to you. I don’t want to tell you I’m coming, you’d forget anyway, and it could agitate you, so I’ll just show up and hope you remember me or can cover well, and we’ll visit. I know the week after we see each other you’ll ask when I’m coming to see you, and like I have for years, I’ll say, “Soon, dad” and I know you’ll be smiling in anticipation.
The old bus shelter has spray painted walls and a broken metal bench. Each morning he shuffles up the hill, a battered leatherette briefcase clutched tightly in his right hand, a copy of the Seattle Times “Nixon in China” in the other. He sits calmly on the bench case between his knees and waits patiently for the bus that hasn’t run this route for the better part of sixteen years. Still, he waits until the sun sinks behind the 7-Eleven, when he shuffles down the hill toward his small apartment satisfied with another day successfully done.
Krevchinsky froze his ass off on the Siberian plain. The gray concrete box was traded for concrete gray skies, the whistle of the truncheon gives way to winter’s blasts. It was in many ways easier when the beatings came neatly marking the days dividing days between pain and exhaustion, all under the watchful eye of the meek incandescent sun dangling from the ceiling. In the camp day and night are reflections of an unseen clock, seasons slide from discontent to depression. The prison of the body is finite built block on block, the prison of the soul is vast, empty, dissipating life.
First appeared in HazMat Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1996) and later in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006).
It is that moment when the moon is a glaring crescent, slowly engulfed by the impending night — when the few clouds give out their fading glow In the jaundiced light of the sodium arc street lamp.- It nestles the curb — at first a small bird — when touched, a twisted piece of root
I want to walk into the weed-strewn aging cemetery, stand in the shadow of the expressway, peel the uncut grass from around her head- stone. I remember her arthritic hands clutching mine, in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling of vinyl camphor borsht I saw her last in a hospital bed where they catalog and store those awaiting death, stared at the well-tubed skeleton barely indenting starched white sheets. She smiled wanly and whispershouted my name — I held my ground unable to cross the river of years unwilling to touch her outstretched hand. She had no face then, no face now, only an even fainter smell of age of camphor of lilac of must
Next to the polished headstone lies a small, twisted root. I wish it were a bird, I could place gently on the lowest branch of the old maple that oversees her slow departure.
First appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, No. 1-2, 2006 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.
The sax swings freely rising and falling on the notes he coaxes out, dancing around the bass’s rhythm, the brushes caressing the drum heads. You close your eyes and allow the music to carry you off. It is at the set’s end when he unfolds the white cane that you see you share a common blindness.