There is an old man who often forgets his own name. I can see
him now and I can tell from the near panicked look in his eyes that he is lost.
I follow him and we become lost together. It is not an unpleasant experience as
we meander and I think about the last time that I spoke with the old man. He sat
by an upstairs window in his large, empty house. Tears streaked his face. I
asked him to tell me why he was crying and he looked at me for a long moment
before collecting himself, before speaking, uninterrupted, for almost two hours.
A child sits at the sidewalk’s edge and sighs. A car passes
by and the child does not look up even though the driver cries out the child’s
name. I have heard from some people in authority that the child might possibly
be deaf. Perhaps that is so.
A woman, fingers strained with growing and deepening
arthritis, sleeps and dreams of her first time. She talks in her sleep, mumbles,
and her husband leans over and wakes her gently and asks, “What are you
“I can’t remember,” she lies in answer.
A young man stands next to the green garbage dumpster behind
the laundromat and smokes a cigarette. He finishes the cigarette then crosses
the street and enters the all-night diner.
Two men refuse to speak to each other. One man sits upstairs
and stares out the window that overlooks the small garden. His hands shake. The
other man sits downstairs at the dining room table and smokes a cigarette as he
mutters violent curses beneath his breath.
A stranger greets a woman. His arms are open wide. The woman
turns and begins to walk the other way. The stranger follows her and she walks
faster and faster and faster and then she is running because the stranger is
The woman screams and screams and screams for help but no one
No one even pretends to notice.
A lonely housewife watches the rain streak the large bay
window as she sips from a mug of coffee. The television is on in the living
room. She runs a hand through her hair. The puddles begin to grow larger in the
yard. Once, years ago, this lonely housewife showed me some poems that she had
written. After reading them, for some reason, I told her that they were terrible
even though they were not that bad. She broke into tears and I felt guilty and
tried to comfort her but it was too late.
A man grimaces on the subway. He begins to shakes his head
violently. All the passengers pretend as hard as they can to believe that he is
invisible. Some passengers try to hide behind their newspapers. Others behind
Gordon dies alone in his room.
The window is open and a light breeze jostles the blinds back
and forth and back and forth.
A young girl holds her mother’s hand as they walk through
the brand new, still less than a year old, shopping mall. The girl points to
many things that she wants. The objects of her desires are perfectly placed
behind the glass of the brightly lit shop windows. The mother tries her best to
ignore her daughter’s endless demands.
A man plays chess with a friend in the park as his younger
brother looks on. The older brother playing chess wears a tattered tweed coat, a
leftover from his intellectually pretentious salad days. His younger brother,
who has a large black scar on the side of his face, wears no coat although it is
quite cool out.
Two pennies lurk in a puddle. One penny is hideously rusted
and should be removed immediately from circulation. Two boys who are just about
to escape their youth spy the pennies and squat down and pick them up. The two
boys hold their pennies up to a sun that has just broken out from behind dark
The man in the movie theater masturbates as discreetly as
possible as the woman on the screen does three guys at one time.
“So was it okay?” a young wife asks her husband as he
lights a cigarette.
Two men stand with the crowd and cheer as the ball finds its
way into the gap.
Two runs score.
A homeless man crouches and slips beneath the turnstile. In
the pocket of his decaying coat is a five-dollar bill. He hopes to take the
subway four stops to the shelter. He feels that he needs to take a shower.
And it is Anna who finally discovers Henry. His head is face
down on the desk. Blood covers the wall behind him. Her first instinct is to
scream but she suppresses it.
Jack stumbles through the empty streets. He is thirty-eight
years old and still thinks he is a poet. He has never published a word but he is
a trooper and keeps at it. His friends pretend to encourage him when they are
not laughing at him behind his back.
In his heart of hearts Jack knows that his mother, although
outwardly supportive of his attempts at profound creativity, secretly despises
Ned decides, in the end, to pick up the check. He watches as
his brother dabs the corners of his mouth with a napkin.
All in all, it was a pretty good meal.
Two women, one young, one old, pray in church. The older woman
prays for her grandson. He lives with her and is a junkie. She has not seen him
for three days. The younger woman prays for her husband because she knows that
he has been having an affair for quite some time.
The infant screams. Mr. Jordan opens the door and enters the
dark room and picks up the infant and holds him close.
“There there now,” Mr. Jordan coos into the infant’s
ear. “There there.”
The woman in the park tries to stand. She has been beaten and
raped by a man she thought was her close friend. She stumbles and falls onto her
face and then turns over onto her back. She searches but cannot find the
strength to call for help.
Two teenagers smoke a strong joint in the backseat of an
Edgar sings passionately as he drives. As the song climaxes,
the tortoise-shell glasses slip from his face. He lets go of the wheel as he
fumbles for them and the car swerves into the oncoming lane.
A beautiful young couple sit on their front porch and watch
The man whispers into the woman’s ear. She smiles.
I watch the old man as he visits the grave of his father. The
old man had been in Europe fighting against the Nazis when his father died from
a massive heart attack. When the old man returned to the United States, his
father had been in the ground for quite some time.
A child heads for home. He walks carefully along the sidewalk’s
edge. He feels hungry and he hopes that his mother is cooking something good for
dinner. Maybe meatloaf. Maybe mac and cheese.
A woman contemplates her affair.
It is late at night and the cold is affecting her arthritis.
She lies in bed and stares into the ceiling and does not notice her husband’s
snoring. She does not blink and thinks of her new lover’s hands on her thighs
and how she feels like a little girl every time he enters her.
A young man smokes a cigarette in a diner. He asks for a third
refill of coffee and then flirts with the almost pretty waitress who says she
has a date after she finishes her shift.
Two men hold hands in a movie theater. One of the men begins
to cry as the movie reaches its touching, emotional climax.
If only the real world contained such selfless people.
The stranger grabs the woman from behind and covers her mouth
to stifle her screams. She struggles but he is just too strong. He forces her to
the ground as she tries to bite his fingers.
A lonely housewife watches television. The rain has stopped
and slants of sunlight crisscross the living room floor.
A man sleeps on the subway. His head leans against the window
and vibrates in rhythm with the forward movement of the train. A newspaper is
open on his lap. A thin line of drool breaks from the corner of his mouth.
Gordon’s mother pours herself a strong drink as she listens
to her favorite Sinatra song. She takes a sip of her drink and puckers her lips
and thinks about adding just a touch more water.
A young girl watches the puppies as they frolic behind the
glass of the mall’s pet shop window. The puppies are so full of life and they
make the young girl smile. As her smile begins to fade she looks away from the
window and her eyes begin to search for her mother.
The brother playing chess cannot figure out his next move and
so he curses. It has been ages since he has won a game. His scarred brother,
moments before, had asked him for a small loan. The brother playing chess
pretended that he heard nothing, that his brother’s voice was nothing more
than nonsensical murmurings in the wind.
Two boys buy Cokes at the corner drug store. They sit on the
stools in front of the high marble counter. One boy closes his eyes as he sips
through his straw. The other boy traces circles on the counter with his rusted
After climaxing into a Kleenex, the man leaves the theater and
contemplates his next move. He still feels aroused and so he thinks about taking
a trip around the corner in the hopes of finding a woman who will have sex with
him for less than a hundred dollars.
The young wife reads a thick paperback romance as her husband
sleeps next to her. The light from her lamp is dim and she strains her eyes to
make out the words. Her husband snores but because they are still in love she
does not mind.
Two men stand with the crowd and cheer as the ball just clears
the right field fence.
A homeless man picks the butt of a cigarette up off the
street. He slips the butt into his mouth and asks a man in an expensive camel
coat for a light. The man in the camel coat obliges then remarks: “I’m
trying to break the habit myself.”
Anna covers her mouth as she sprints to the bathroom. She
falls to her knees. Her body trembles as she vomits into the bathtub.
Jack sits in his room. He leans back in his chair and stares
at the revolving ceiling fan. He smiles as he runs his hands through his greasy
Ned drives as his brother sleeps. They’ve been on the road
for almost two days now. Ned takes a quick glance at his watch. It’s late and
he’s starting to feel a little tired.
Two women pray in church.
The older woman prays for her mother. Her mother has begun to
suffer from Alzheimer’s. The younger woman prays for her brother. Her brother
is a cruel man and sometimes, when he is drunk, he beats his wife mercilessly.
Mr. Jordan holds the infant until the child returns to sleep.
He places the infant back into the crib and watches the child for a long moment
and allows a wave of emotions he thought he could no longer experience to
Lightning flashes and fills the room with blue light.
The woman in the park stares into the night sky. She finds the
strength to reach up into the heavens to pluck out a star.
Two stoned teenagers laugh themselves silly as they walk home
in the early evening. They both have final exams in the morning and they find
this to be terrifically amusing in their altered state of mind.
Edgar’s car is struck by an oncoming station wagon. He is
not wearing his seatbelt and his body smashes through the windshield.
The beautiful young couple returns home.
He reads the afternoon paper.
She pours two glasses of red wine.
The old man sits in the restaurant. He stares at his plate but
feels no motivation to eat. I close my book and watch him. He runs one wrinkled
hand through his thinning gray hair. The waiter stops and asks him if everything
is okay and the old man nods. I open my book and return to my reading.
A child eats dinner. His father sits across from him and
lights a cigar. The child’s mother is in the kitchen washing the pots and
pans. The child finishes his food. His father exhales a large ring of smoke.
The child gestures, asking to be excused. His father nods.
A woman wakes to the sound of rain.
She rubs her eyes and sees her husband standing by the window.
The woman feels a swell of irrational fear rise within her and then it abates.
Her husband is watching her and he notices this moment of fear and smiles a
knowing smile the woman does not return.
A young man regrets kissing the waitress as he walks home
alone. She had been in his arms and after kissing her he felt nothing and so he
simply said goodnight and ignored her expression of intense confusion. The young
man lights a cigarette as he passes from streetlight to streetlight. He thinks
to himself that he will return to the diner the following day. He vows to speak
with the waitress to straighten everything out.
Two men share a laugh over cups of espresso.
They sit at a sidewalk cafe table near the fountain. It is a
warm day and many people are milling about, doing nothing more than enjoying the
weather. A group of musicians has gathered close by and begins to play
traditional Mayan folk songs. One of the two men remarks that it hasn’t rained
in quite some time.
“It has been a dry summer,” the second man replies.
The woman’s throat is cut by the stranger from ear to ear
with the blade of his dull pocket knife. He stands over her body for a long
moment before raping it.
He will not climax.
A lonely housewife contemplates dinner. She sits at the
kitchen table and flips through the glossy pages of a newly purchased cookbook.
She lets her eyes wander from the cookbook to the window. It is quite pleasant
out but she only allows herself to think about scalloped potatoes.
A man wakes on the subway. He feels a moment of confusion. He
had been dreaming about the house in which he was born. He realizes that he is
filled with feelings of nostalgia. He blinks his eyes and the nostalgia begins
Gordon’s brother is catching hell from his boss. The boss is
deep in debt and has no idea how to get out from under it. He never tells anyone
about this major financial problem, not even his wife, and so his repressed
anxiety manifests itself in irrational explosions of rage. Gordon’s brother
listens as his boss screams and thinks about murdering him, about bludgeoning
him with the large golf trophy on his desk.
“And you’re fired!” the boss screams and suddenly Gordon’s
brother snaps out of his violent fantasy.
A young girl rides home in silence. She watches through the
back window of the station wagon as the mall recedes from her line of sight. Her
mother hums along with the radio. It is hot in the car. All the window are
rolled up and there is no air conditioner. The girl’s mother accelerates and
the station wagon merges with the freeway traffic.
“I understand,” the scarred brother says as he watches his
brother play chess.
“I’m sorry, but that’s the way it has to be.”
The scarred brother nods as he watches his brother contemplate
his next move.
“Then I guess that’s the way it has to be.”
The scarred brother turns and walks away as his brother curses
under his breath, unable to find the one move that will unlock a victory.
Two boys sit at the river’s edge. They watch the barges come
in and sidle up next to the giant iron cranes. It is dusk and the sun has just
begun to set. One boy holds up his rusted penny so that it eclipses the light of
The man orgasms and the woman beneath him pretends to orgasm.
The young wife drifts in and out of sleep as she reads her
thick paperback romance novel. Visions of Norsemen run through her head.
The two men stand with the crowd and cheer. It is the top of
the ninth. Two outs. They watch the pitcher, a young man from Salt Lake City, as
he leans in and takes the signs.
A homeless man is given a bed in the shelter. It is not
comfortable but it is better than sleeping outside. He has showered and feels
almost full. The priest who runs the shelter is a wonderful man although he does
have a bit of trouble maintaining his vow of celibacy.
Anna just cannot get herself to think straight. She sits in
the small space between the toilet and the tub. The small bathroom is filled
with the aroma of her vomit. She curls her body into a tight ball and begins to
rock ever so slightly back and forth.
Jack awakes to the sound of rain.
It takes him only a moment to realize that he is terribly hung
Ned pulls over for a cup of coffee. Dawn is breaking and he
sips his coffee as he watches his brother through the gas station’s
convenience store window. Ned’s brother sits on the hood of the car and lights
The older woman leaves the church. The younger woman continues
to pray. She has been praying for over two hours now and never once noticed the
older woman’s presence.
Mr. Jordan returns to bed. The rain is falling hard and he
reaches over and turns on the lamp and stares into the cracks of the ceiling.
His thoughts turn to his wife and how he misses her so very much. He does not
know if he can do it all alone.
The woman in the park is discovered by a man out for his
morning jog. The woman is alive but she is aware of nothing except for the star
she cradles in her hands. The man calls the police and stays by her side until
Two teenagers study for their exams. One teenager looks up
from his textbook and contemplates the DNA molecule that floats right in front
of his eyes. It is hard for him to concentrate but he feels that, overall, the
studying is going well. The second teenager sits on his bed and lights another
joint and leans back as he watches Andy Rooney discuss the merits and demerits
of laugh tracks.
Edgar’s skull shatters when it strikes the road. His body
rolls over and over until it comes to rest in a ditch.
The beautiful young couple make passionate love.
I watch the old man as he lights his pipe. I watch him begin
to engage in lengthy, imaginary conversations with no one in particular.
A child locks the bathroom door. He has one of his father’s
pornographic magazines tucked beneath his arm. In a moment, the child will open
the magazine to his favorite page and will become aroused and then masturbate.
After masturbating the child will feel a keen sensation of guilt because he
knows his mother would disapprove.
A woman contemplates the upcoming afternoon as she breakfasts
with her husband. Her husband is hidden behind the sports section and she
realizes, as she spoons cornflakes into her mouth, that she has been feeling
just a bit too guilty lately in isolated moments.
She often wonders if guilt is something that one can truly
A young man returns to the diner. He asks the woman at the
register about the waitress and is told that she has called in sick for the day.
The young man curses under his breath before taking a seat at the counter,
before ordering a short stack of blueberry pancakes with a side of sausage.
Two men drift on into sleep in each others arms. It has been a
difficult week for the two and they made a vow to never fight again. The two men
really are very much in love but within two days the vow will be broken and one
of the men will batter the other into a state of near unconsciousness.
The stranger leaves the woman’s body behind. He feels and
remembers nothing. He walks slowly, his hands deep in his pockets, and thinks
about the time when he was a young boy and how he had watched a perfect monarch
butterfly walk delicately along the rim of a glass filled halfway with red wine.
A lonely housewife greets her husband. He has suffered through
a hard day of work.
“What’s for dinner?” he asks and she tells him that ham
and scalloped potatoes are waiting on the table for him. The husband nods and
sets his briefcase down and she watches him as he scuffles towards the dining
room. Her lower lip begins to tremble.
The man ascends from the subway station. He has lost track of
the time and is very confused. He pulls at strands of his hair as he makes his
way in zigzag fashion down the sidewalk. He calls out the name of a woman who
had died giving birth to his child. He stumbles and falls and cuts his chin on
Gordon’s phone rings and then goes silent.
Gordon’s phone rings and then goes silent.
Gordon’s phone rings and then goes silent.
His mother has been trying to call him all afternoon. She
wants to have her boys over for dinner. The roast is cooking in the oven and she
wonders why Gordon just won’t answer his phone because it’s jut not like
Gordon not to answer.
A young girl screams as the oncoming car swerves into their
lane. The young girl’s mother slams on the brakes but it’s just too late.
The scarred brother returns holding out his hand.
“Please?” he asks. “I’m down to my last five dollars.”
But the brother playing chess now refuses to acknowledge his
scarred brother’s presence.
Two boys throw their pennies across the river. One boy gets
his rusted penny to skip five or six times across before it dips beneath the
The man returns home and pulls a copy of The Canterbury
Tales down from his bookshelf and begins to reread the introduction he wrote
for this edition. He has a class to teach in the morning and he feels thoroughly
The young wife is awakened by the hooting of an owl. The thick
paperback romance is on the floor. She reaches down and picks the novel up and
places it on the night stand.
Two men stand with the crowd and cheer as strike three is
called and the game is over.
A homeless man leaves the shelter as morning breaks. It is
cold but he thinks that he just might get through this day okay. He fingers the
five-dollar bill in his pocket and stops at a diner and has a cup of coffee. The
almost pretty waitress refills his cup as he reads the grisly headlines off a
newspaper that a customer has left behind.
One woman assaulted.
One woman murdered.
Anna returns to the room and picks up the phone and dials 911.
She tells the operator, in a slow, methodical tone of voice, that her husband
has shot himself.
Jack picks up his pen and places it to a blank sheet of paper.
He lets some words bleed out and then sets the pen down. Within an hour he is
sitting on his favorite barstool sipping from a shot of whiskey.
Ned sleeps as his brother drives. Ned’s brother leans over
and turns up the volume on the radio. He lights a cigarette. The road is
straight and narrow and the driving is easy. The city is close now. They only
have a few more hours left to go.
Two women, far removed from one another, one older, one
younger, resume their lives of quiet, passive denial.
Mr. Jordan dreams. He listens to the chirping of the crickets
outside and sips from a bottle of beer as his wife reads the evening paper. Mr.
Jordan glances at her. She is very pregnant and he thinks that she looks
The woman assaulted in the park has trouble recovering her
senses. All she can do is sit by the window and stare at the unkempt grass of
the institution’s courtyard. She cradles the star in her hands. It is the only
thing she feels, the only thing keeping her alive, and she knows that once its
light goes out she will die. She tried to tell several of the doctors this but
she knows they don’t believe her, she knows that they don’t know how fragile
life can truly be. Somewhere in the distance she can hear the sounds of children
playing a game of stickball.
It is a nice sound.
Two teenagers pass their final exams. The one who studied
feels that he has done well. The one who did not study also feels that he has
done well, and strangely enough, he is right. He receives the higher grade of
the two because of his innate ability to perceive things in a way that sometimes
makes it difficult to relate to others. He smokes marijuana because he feels
that it is a necessity because it takes the edge off his sense of perception
that, if left to its own devices, would drive him mad.
Edgar is not killed instantly. It takes him some time to die
in the ditch as his brains bleed out of his skull. And as the long moments pass
he hears the high-pitched screams of a young girl before he slips into oblivion.
The beautiful young couple has come to realize that the end is
near. Their prophet has told them about the coming end of all civilization and
how the space ship with the benevolent aliens will soon arrive to take all
believers to the Planet of Utopia. And so the beautiful young couple, because
they are so concerned about the human race, have taken it upon themselves to
sell everything they have and to spend each remaining day of their lives
standing on a street corner in order to spread the truth to anyone who will stop