Friday, August 28, 2009

so, news. i've got stories coming out in september in the legendary, leaf garden, necessary fiction, and word riot. i'll post links as soon as those go live.

meanwhile, a story of mine is up at for every year, a webjournal run by crispin best. here's the link:

also, here's a story called "the air show," which can't find a home.

The Air Show

There was an air show. It was summer. The street festival on Locust would start later in the afternoon. It would reach all the way up to Bradford Street, where we lived in our little house. The planes in the show were a part of the festival. They flew in shapes under the clouds.

I left the house to meet Joyce at the coffee shop where she worked. The shop was on Locust. Her plans were to come home after her shift, but I decided to take her out to look at flowers in the store down the street.

On the corner before Joyce’s coffee shop, a woman in a yellow bandana was setting up a tent. She was alone, looking overwhelmed and troubled. Next to her were boxes of candles, a table, and two folding chairs. When the tent finally fell to the ground I walked to her to help out. She laughed me off at first, but then accepted.

We talked.

She said, “My husband and I are trying to sell some candles. Go ahead and take one when we’re finished. For your help, I mean.”

“Thanks,” I said. “That’d be great, yeah.”

Other people were setting up tents and carts on the street. Across from us was a young couple behind a crepe stand. Down the way a little was a hot dog vendor. Farther down was a tent full of coolers for beer and soda.

“I’ve never been here during the summer,” I said.

“You mean Milwaukee?”


“The festivals are fine,” she said. “I can usually sell a lot of stuff. Tom’s going to help me this year.”

I assumed Tom was her husband. He wasn’t around though, as far as I could tell. The woman’s name turned out to be Rita. That’s what she told me. She looked older than the other people setting up their temporary businesses. The bandana, from far away, made her look younger and less haggard than she really was.

“Where’s your husband?” I said.

“Over there.”

She pointed across the street to a bar. Someone had put tables out in front. A man was drinking beer and looking in our direction.

“The one drinking the beer?”

“We got married last week,” she said. “Here.”

“Last week?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Here.”

Two bars stuck out of the ground, partially holding up the awning. She put my hands on one of them to hold it all together, while she took the other two bars and put them, one at a time, into the grips in the awning.

“Let go now,” she said.

I did. I let go. Then she let go too. The tent stood well enough. She started to talk, but as soon as she opened her mouth two planes flew by, sounding off loudly so that all I got was Rita’s lips moving. This made her look small and sweet, like a doll. Like something you could hold.

Rita took me to the box of candles and sifted through. Tom came over while we looked for one I could take.

“Honeypie?” she said. “Vanilla? What scent sounds good?”

Tom said from behind us, “What are you doing?”

“Tom,” she said.

“I’m Josh,” I said.

“Tom,” he said to me.

We didn’t shake hands. Tom’s face showed that he had things on his mind. Rough things. I didn’t hold those things against him. He got the table and set it up. It all looked a little shaky to me when the two of them started silently putting candles on display.

“We forgot a price sign,” said Rita.

Tom just kept working.

That was when I left them. That was when I left Rita and Tom. I held the candle that Rita had given me. It turned out to be the one she had called Honeypie. I never actually burned it. Joyce and I really didn’t burn candles in our house. Not back then. But I carried it with me anyway.

We’d been living together for about six months. We moved from Colorado. Together.

And we have a thing that we do. But we save it for special times. What we do is, I kind of sneak up on her and then gently pull her arms behind her so that her hands touch on her lower back. The she hums a little bit and steps back into me.

I greeted her this way after I left Rita and Tom. We did our dance, proud. Her hair smelled like coconuts. I just smelled her and did my best to make sure that we were right.

The flower shop was closed, so we went to a cafĂ© back towards where Rita had set up her tent. We sat upstairs and looked out of the window at the street. We watched people. That’s another thing that we do.

We watched Rita and Tom through that window. They were in the distance, looking young again.

Still I knew they would never be new again.

The table that Tom set up must have had screws loose, because it fell under the weight of all the candles. Joyce and I watched the two of them fumble around, sitting on the ground like they had died in some way. The candles looked like exotic fruits when they spilled from the table. I fingered my candle. I told Joyce that I bought it from the people outside.

That time watching Rita and Tom reminded me of the first time Joyce and I watched someone. It was in our then-new house, our first house, the one on Bradford. We could see into the neighbor’s kitchen from our bedroom window upstairs. One morning, while looking outside, Joyce noticed the woman over there cooking naked. Later we would find out that she lived alone, but that’s not what I assumed upon seeing her. I assumed first that she was living with someone else, and that somehow over the years her nakedness had become an absolute given in the household, like she and the other person were forever colliding. Vulnerable, but in a good way. This made it all the more precious for me.

It was what I wanted. It was what Rita and Tom didn’t seem to have.

That day Joyce and I had watched the naked woman until we couldn’t stand it. Then we made love.

The air show kept going. Joyce and I stayed through that afternoon. We kept watching. A solo plane passed, making a sound like it had cracked open the sky. I waited for the stars to fall through. Eventually Rita lay back onto the grass, tired with the broken table. I remember trying to explain to Joyce later that night why Rita’s giving up like that made me feel like a boy again. It was something about grace, I said to her, something about the way that old woman seemed to fall asleep out of nowhere. Something about the way she moved, so musical.

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