TOBY WAS JUST TRYING to be helpful.
He said, “Your stories have no gravity.”
“All I want,” I said, “is to be published in a print journal with more than 5,000 readers.”
Toby shook his head.
“I don’t see it happening.”
“The first time is the most impossible.”
“All I want,” I countered, “is to receive a personal rejection letter from the Glimmer Sisters.”
“One Glimmer Sister.”
“Even less likely.”
“You’re starting to get me down.”
“I do what I can.”
“You say I have no gravity.”
“What does gravity even mean?”
“Your stories are too funny.”
“I can’t help it. It’s the way my mind works.”
“You need a damp, drizzling November in your soul.”
“You may be hopeless.”
A soft sound of thunder gets my attention. I look out the window. The slow rain that’s been coming down all day isn’t letting up. I like days like this—they cheer me up. Inexplicably, two birds light on the birdbath at the same time. They look at each other and one of them says, What the hell are we doing here? They fly away. Or something like that.
“All I want,” I say, “is fame and fortune. And a book tour.”
“You may be incorrigible.”
Toby stands up.
I say, “Are you leaving?”
“My work is done, here.”
“All I want is fame and poverty.”
Toby sits back down.
“I know what your problem is,” he says.
“You can always see your reflection in the water.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Well, don’t do it around me.”
I look back out the window. The same two birds light on the birdbath again.
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MY LITTLE BROTHER MIKE and I are sitting in the audience of our high school auditorium watching our mother play a lush in the local theatre production of “Bessemer’s Follies.” Bessemer is our hometown, and I laugh now at the idea that anyone could capture the town’s follies in a two-hour stage production. Back then, our mayor had been in power for 20 years and had just been quoted in a national news magazine as saying that the McGovern delegation to the ’72 Democratic National Convention was a bunch of “damn queers.”
In another few years, a bomb will go off at Bessemer City Hall, killing a policeman and wounding many others. No one will ever be arrested; no one will know for certain who did it, but a former high-ranking city official—a self-avowed “practicing Christian”--will self-publish a book claiming to “shed new light on the subject,” although this writer will be considered by many to be the bomber himself. The book will be sold at the local BBQ joint, alongside various sauces and t-shirts. Waitresses will offer their own half-formed theories about the crime which patrons like me will listen to and half-believe.
In years past, Bessemer had been proclaimed as a Klan-friendly town, or at least it kept a sign from the Klan on the outskirts of the city welcoming everyone, right next to Lions and Kiwanis Club greetings.
Poem of the Week
who have experienced
on a large
i tell raif
i think my
might be dead
haven't seen her
& her car hasn't moved
for two weeks.
you would smell it
passing me a plate
of triangular shaped bread
slathered in jam.
Story of the Week
DARLEEN SQUEELED into the empty spot as soon as the gleaming white Mercedes pulled out. "We got lucky," she told Montana. "Even on a Monday night, this lot is killer."
Montana rolled her big blue eyes. "Whatever."
The eleven year old had better things to do, like text her friends. Incessantly, as if she had a tic. The kid hadn't wanted to shop tonight, but Darleen insisted. This was their first Christmas without Paulie and the girls needed to stick together. Darleen's ex had been nasty lately and mediation had hit a cement wall. Montana wasn't aware how dangerously close they were to losing access to Paulie's vast and unreported wealth.
Montana sighed dramatically as she yanked open the door of the Porsche Cayenne and tumbled out. She didn't pause in her texting.
Darlene checked her face in the rearview mirror. The most recent fat transfer had been wildly successful. She loved her new lips. Grabbing her Gucci bag, she hopped out of the front seat.
Her daughter trailed her into the mall, thumbs flashing on her phone keypad.