Saturday, July 19, 2014

I Get Lucky


We were listening to jazz on the patio of a bar in New Orleans.
It was a cool night and the band was passing around a solo.
The light was dim and everywhere there was a feeling of wellness
being edified by drinks.

My girl said she had to go to the bathroom
and when she'd stood up
and went
the guy at the next table
leaned over and said,
“Mmm mm Mm! I wouldn’t mind going home with that every night!"

He had cut-off jean shorts and insane blue eyes
that I followed across the patio
to a thin and beautiful woman holding her purse
winding through the tables in a silky green dress,
my girl.

I leaned back in my seat,
remembering how it was to be driven mad
by the sight of women--not love at first sight,
which implies a sort of serendipity,
but the indiscriminate sexual craving
that is like hunger
and has nothing at all to do with chance.

I looked at him and felt no fire.
I’d hit the jackpot
and forgotten how it was to be alone,
forgotten the old way,
forgotten my people,
perhaps even become arrogant,
which is the greatest sin.

If he was loneliness come back to visit me
I owed him something more honest
than knocking his teeth out.
I figured it was only a matter of time
before I was back on his team anyway.

“Sometimes I get lucky,” I offered and he nodded,
but he was thinking “Bullshit,”
and I thought he was probably right.

I’ve never been much of a gambler.
More often than not I put up more than I can afford to lose.
I never turn down a bet, especially when I’m hurting,
and I don’t care about the odds.
If that’s luck, then I’m lucky,
but I don’t think that’s it.

It’s recklessness
and if you’re true to it
like I am
you better learn to enjoy the payouts.

I listened to the music and thought of how to explain this.  
The drummer was soloing.
The naked sound of percussion marched
the melody of the previous song out of my head.
He stretched it out and improvised and just when it seemed like noise, he stopped.

Some things you can’t explain.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Robbing a Priest

The only thing Pablo could see were a pair of outstretched hands.
-Tell him to turn slowly, Concho said.
-He speaks Spanish.
-Turn.
The priest’s black garb rose and spread and fell and he turned. The lights of San Esteban were behind him and to Pablo he looked like a part of a starry sky with no stars. Concho motioned toward the priest with his lips, like a kiss in the air, and Pablo put the pistol into the waistline of his shorts. It had been tucked away there for hours while they waited, but now, in returning it, it felt very heavy and cold against his skin.
-Empty your pockets.
-Don’t turn around, Concho added.
-I don’t have much money, the priest said in English.
-Put what you have on the ground. Then walk to San Esteban.
-What did he say?
-You understand English, the priest said to Pablo. That’s good.
Concho took a step forward.
-What did he say?
Concho’s angular nose and feminine lips pointed at the back of the priest as he addressed him in a gentle voice.
-I am not as young as my friend, Father. Tell me what do you say to my friend?
The priest did not answer and Concho allowed the shotgun stock to fall from his shoulder into his hand.
-He was praying, Pablo said quickly. That we might not hurt him.
Concho nodded.
-Take thee home, Father.
Then the priest was down the hill and onto the road, passing through the shimmering leaves of the Munoz family banana plantation. Pablo did the math; in five minutes he would pass under the light of the farmacia. In ten minutes he would turn and begin the hill to San Esteban. In fifteen minutes he would walk past Pablo’s front door. He might look at it, or even knock on the door for help, but he would not see his house. Not in the way he should.
-What does Mayachusett mean? Concho asked. He was sifting through the wallet.
-It’s the name of a state.
-Yames Pahtreek Carney? Concho laughed. What does that mean?  
-His name. Let me see?
-Maybe I could sell it for something.
-It’s not a visa. It doesn’t do anything.
-Then you keep it.
Pablo handed Concho the pistol.
-I’m going home.
They walked down the road. At the farmacia Concho pulled a bill out of the wallet and held it up to the light.
-It’s a shame to think we stole from poor people, he said, but at least it was already stolen.
-It was your idea Concho.
-Possibly this is your mom’s lempira. You can return it to her.
He held out the bill. The road was empty and still. The scattered lights on the hills above San Esteban looked like stars or lamps on docked fishing boats.
-Oh, let up.
-Forget it. She’d only give it back to him. We’d have to keep it in a safe place. It wants to go back, but we mustn't let it.
-You’re crazy.
-Sure. So you should keep it. Or give it to your sisterno, I’ll give it to your sister.
-She’d ask you where you got it.
-I’ll say your mother gave it to me.
Pablo started into the tracks of the priest.
-See you later, Concho.
-Already?
-Because my mother and sister are waiting for me.
Concho mumbled something that Pablo did not hear. Then he called out.
-Pablo!
-What? What is it?
-Feliz año nuevo.
-Happy new year, Concho.
-Let’s split the money now.
-Tomorrow.
-Tomorrow then. Go make your resolutions.
Pablo reached the bend in the road and when he looked back toward Concho, he was under the light shaking his head and looking at his hands. Pablo let his eyes adjust and saw that he was really just counting the money, passing the bills from one hand to the other. Concho looked up, saw Pablo was watching, then turned and walked down the road to the orphanage.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Chess Ghost



I was out on the balcony, teaching a ghost to play chess.
It began with a spiel,
just a general idea of the game,
and he interrupted me.
“I get it,” the ghost said.
“You sure?”
“Yeah. No problem.”
He chose white and went first.
In five moves I had him in checkmate.
“Where’d you learn chess?” I asked.
“Where? From you.”
“No, no. You already knew how to move the pieces. I barely told you a thing.”
“I’ve been watching you play.”
“Me? When? I hardly ever play.”
“Your whole life.”
“No, every game?”
“Every game.”
“Get out of here.”
“You learned from a book with pictures. You read it in the bathtub.”
That was true. So, I had a chess ghost.
He looked around.
The downstairs neighbor’s kid was playing in the sandbox in the yard.
“Well, what can I do for you?” I asked him.
“Nothing really. I don’t have anything else to do.”
We decided to keep playing without the king,
and I finished him for real;
every straggling, struggling pawn,
one after another
with my queen and bishop,
until he had one piece left:
a solitary white horseman, a knight
in the corner.
The ghost looked over the board.
“And this,” I said, dragging the queen, “is checkmate.”
“Wait, what about here?” he said.
“No,” I said, pointing. “Check.”
“Here?”
I could see through his arm, which was nice.
“The queen,” I said.
"Fuck." He stood suddenly, as if he’d just remembered
that he’d left something cooking on the stove.
The little girl down in the yard was looking up at us,
her pudgy hands curled into fists at her sides.
“Whowuh awe youw talkin’ towuh?” she asked.
"Let's keep playing," I said.
“I want two moves every turn,” the ghost said.
I said OK
and whooped him five more times.
Then he said, “Let’s play without the pieces.”
He said he had a side full of knights.
I used only castles,
16 of them.
I barreled down like a wall.
Must have beaten him ten more times.
He seemed especially depressed for a ghost.
“What’s my record?" I asked. “I always wanted to know.”
“16 wins, 0 losses.”
"Not today. You know, all time.”
“Oh. Ghosts don’t have a special skill for remembering things," he said.
“Well, that’s probably why you suck at chess," I said. “Sorry."
He put his head down, but didn’t disappear, as I expected him to,
and I didn’t disappear.
The little horses didn’t start hopping around.
Then he said, “Let’s play without the board.”
I said, “Well, what the hell are you waiting for? Your move.”
Then he disappeared.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Opposite People



Recently I’ve been feeling patriotic.

A Babe Ruth picture nearly brought me to tears.

It's strange. I've always disliked authority. Always sided with the underdogs. Patriotism always seemed far too obvious. Plus, in the United States, it seems irrevocably tied to an anti-intellectual, conservative worldview, which is not in line with my upbringing.
A far cry from the Yankees Bambino that drank beer between innings and waddled out of the dugout only to hit 410 foot home runs, here is a quiet, concerned spectator. It's a picture of vulnerability. Someone trying to witness what bought him the seats he's sitting in, and the clothes, and the solitude. He looks so embarrassed you feel he really must love the game.

The same feeling grabbed me during the NBA post-game show. The white communications major deferring with such ease to the black high school graduate, the former player, the former food-stamp beneficiary. Tell me your story, he seemed to say. It was a nod to history. Harmony. Two hosts.

It struck me again, this time as I watched the commercials during a Bulls game from 1986, Michael Jordan's rookie year.

Alka Seltzer. No matter what shape your stomach is in, when it gets out of shape, take Alka Seltzer. Alka Seltzer calms the nervous feeling, relieves heartburn, relieves the stuffy feeling, and relieves the stomach ache. Better than any other antacid. Better than anything you can get without a prescription. Anything. Alka Seltzer. It’s the best.

There was something refreshing about the language. It was unequivocal, unashamed.

And then a commercial for Dristan, which appeared to have been financed by the Arizona Department of Tourism:

When hay fever pollen invades your sinuses, brings runny nose and watery eyes, take Dristan. Dristan is like sending your sinuses to Arizona. Yes. Dristan is like sending your sinuses to Arizona. That is, Dristan helps you breathe free and easy: as if you were far away from pollen or allergy irritation. Yes, Dristan is like sending your sinuses to Arizona. You see, Dristan tablets shrink swollen, congested, and irritated nasal and sinus passages. So, when pollen invades your sinuses, causing hay fever misery, don’t wish you could be in sunny, dry Arizona. Just remember: Dristan is like sending your sinuses to Arizona.

It was bold. It was direct, not yet the post-commercial world, where people try and make themselves appear to be everything, anything, but what they are.

It was so...American. 

Even the McDonald's commercials were fascinating.

Ronald McDonald wore a cheap red wig and ran around hugging kids. He even spoke. You could see the crows feet under the facepaint. He seemed genuinely happy, which was a relief. What scares people about clowns is their humanness, not the makeup. The emotions being concealed. The falsity.
McDonald's isn't trying to sell me hamburgers anymore, they're trying to sell me a lifestyle in which I would eat hamburgers. Ronald is largely absent. Now he's a cartoon, or a life-sized cardboard cutout waving goodbye in the restaurant by the door, pushed one more dimension toward abstraction. "BYE!"

I was seeing America for the first time, and I loved it. I worried my true colors, as they say, were starting to show. Have I been living a lie?
With all I've said in my life about being a liberal, what have I actually done? I didn't vote for Obama, either time. I don't appear to be any more prejudiced than your average person, but I really may be much, much more.
Maybe I'm an Opposite Person.
Opposite People have fears that are so overwhelming that they cannot allow them to be felt. So they display the opposite. The ladies man that's afraid of intimacy. The libertarian that's actually uncomfortable with people being free. The hippie, a person that cares so crushingly about what people think of their appearance, they forgo it altogether. Replace it with an image.  
Then there's patriotic people, who are almost uniformly dissatisfied with their respective countries. Some say that they don't acknowledge the authority of the federal government, yet wear American flags as T-shirts. They benefit inordinately from government relief, yet often, on ideological grounds, refuse to pay taxes. It's the love of something that’s no longer there, something that never really was more than an idea, that turns people screwy.

But isn't this the way? Don't we attack outward expressions of what we fear we are?

It must be something about balance: equalizing some pressure to ensure we never do exactly what it is we want to do. Self denial prevents us from becoming monsters, but maybe it also prevents us from realizing the small truths that exist on our dark sides. Performed too vigorously, self denial turns you into an Opposite Person. 
Perhaps it's best to try the other side out, to embrace those things you have spent your life opposing, even just for a moment. Some people take drugs precisely for this reason. 
I did my fair share of that, but for the wrong reasons. For me, drugs turned out to be just like the commercials.

So, what if trickle down economics is actually the best way? 
What if we really are liberaling ourselvies into the ground? 
Why don’t I pull myself up by my bootstraps?

Why must I travel? What else could I hope to be, in the end, but American?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

IDs




Spring

The DMV is like an electric church. The windows are some sort of black plastic that is reflective from the outside. Everyone is faced in the same direction. Heads twitching and twittering in the pews. Or maybe it's like a hospital: Everyone is missing something. Everyone gets a number. Everyone is waiting for their number to be called.
There is a system that’s visible to customers, though they can’t make any sense of it. A red scoreboard displays the counter and customer numbers and a voice, not a human voice, but a computer generated noise that sounds female, reduces these numbers to a vague, tentative concept. Almost a question.
Now serving customer: Zero. Zero. Nine. At counter: Nine. Teen.
The number nine floats out and away without seeming to end. Nineteen is not a buoyant little iamb, bum BUM, but two separate, emotionless noises. Nine. Teen. Like a church bell: BUM BUM. No inflection, no terminus.
Jones thought a lot about numbers. He said they were holes where the light of God shines through.

Summer

DMVs, like airports, are places where diverse groups of people wait together after being questioned about their identities.

Now serving customer: Two. Six. Nine. At counter: Nine. Teen.

A man, appearing as if he’s just clawed out of a mudslide, walks toward the counter with a briefcase trembling in one hand.
This is Joseph Makowski.
Joseph is skeletal, cranial, very frail. He needs a replacement drivers license to see an eye doctor. He has no passport and no Social Security card. His family was emotionally distant and had ties to the Communist Party.
Looks like he was dressed by his mother for a class picture.
“How can I help you,” Todd asks.
Todd had a bow-cut. It made for the remainder of his body a mushroom-shaped pillar of shade that distilled his other boyish qualities: bushy eyebrows, uncorrupted blue eyes, and a thin mouth that instantly betrayed anything he felt or thought. He wore solid, primary-colored dress shirts with large, milky-white buttons made of plastic. They were uncomplicated, an extension of the face. When he asked: “How can I help you?” he wanted to know the answer. He was upset when people had wasted their time; when they lacked a document to get what they needed. Proof of birth. Proof of death.
“I need to see the doctor. An eye doctor,” Joseph said. He’d tried to get a new license, but he couldn’t pass the eye test.
“If it’s just to see a doctor, you can get a state ID. Do you drive?”
“I’ve driven for forty years.”
Todd noted the vision restriction on his previous license, 1F: side mirrors.  
“You’ll need to produce a piece of mail with your name on it and a Type 1 document: a passport, social security card, or a copy of your birth certificate.
“But I was born in Pittsburgh.”
“You can order a copy online.”
Joseph looked at Todd in bewilderment.
“Online?”
“Yes, online. It’s all electronic now.”
Like that, customer number: Two. Six. Nine. lowered his head and walked toward the black windows and out the black door.

Now serving customer: Zero. Zero. Two. At counter: Nine. Teen.

“How can I help you?”

Fall

In the fall, all the employees at the Glenbrook DMV are beset with definite ideas. Like Colombina who hides chicken feet between stacks of paper around her desk. And Evans the cashier who refuses to water the plants on his desk. There is nothing that makes it seem like they are not ex-cons. No sharp objects. Balding and losing his lower lip, Jones, a veteran in HR, was finally fired for wearing a Hawaiian shirt every day and lying about it.
“This isn’t a Hawaiian shirt,” he would say.
Jones had worked next to Todd for three years and usually confided in him that the office was hot. When they moved Todd from HR to reception Jones would walk to Todd’s desk covered in sweat and say, “Buddy, it’s hot in here.” The temperature is kept at a chilled and uncompromising 68.9. One could not say that 68 degrees is inhumane, but after being deprived of Todd’s enthusiastic listening skills, Jones had developed the habit of mimicking people.
One brisk fall day, Bob called Jones into his office. Bob was the boss. Bob came from a family with ample wealth. His choices had naturally carried him from minor successes to greater ones and lent to his character an aura of fatalism—the sort that did not provoke jealousy, but the faux feeling of prophecy one enjoys in re-watching a favorite movie. He was shy with women and feared that people did not trust him with their children. He had that skin disease that makes people white and black and splotchy at the same time. During the fall he looked yellow.
Jones sat down.
“Jones, I think you’re dangerous,” Bob said.
Jones leaned back in his seat and was quiet a long time. He put an open palm on the desk and made a little turkey out of sweat.
“Mr. Bob, I honestly think you’re dangerous,” he replied.
Bob looked through the blinds. “You’re fired.”
“But it’s Friday.”
“Sorry pal.”
“Sorry pal.”
It was Tuesday.

Winter

Todd enjoyed, most of all, the 16 year old kids coming with their parents to get drivers licenses. He also liked the near-universal smiles people wore after seeing the new pictures on their IDs. He didn’t have any definite ideas. That’s why Jones liked him.
He was not skeptical and had no sense of irony. He was good at his job. He had complete belief in people’s constructed versions of themselves and provided the solemness and respect their imagined authorities seemed to demand. It was Todd’s innocence that drove him toward older employees. They found encouragement in a young person that was also confused and embarrassed by the perplexities of modern life.
Todd ate lunch with Columbina and Radnitzer in the empty lunchroom. Most employees took lunch at one of the 15 or 20 restaurants that lined the busy road outside. Columbina, a first-generation Mexican immigrant, worked nights in an open-air market. She took whatever was going to be thrown away from the market and hid it in her desk. Sometimes there were half rotten pumpkins. There were always chicken feet. Feet are full of tendons. They make great soup. Radnitzer, a bespeckled raisin of a woman that outdated Bob, his predecessor, and the DMV regulation against decorating office spaces with personal items.
Todd provided Radnitzer and Columbina with a less-painful window from which to view the horrifying nature of the present world. They enjoyed watching Todd eat his healthy bagged lunches.
A typical lunch went like this:

“They only want hamburgers,” Columbina would say. “Hamburgers all day.”
“You can get three double hamburgers and a medium drink for four dollars from the dollar menu, but the meal costs five. It’s like an oversight,” Todd would say.
Columbina would smile. “He’s a bad boy! He tricks McDonald.”
“Four hamburgers?” Radnitzer would say, astonished. “You don’t buy four hamburgers do you?”
“No, but you can.”
“He eats four hamburgers,” Columbina would say, smiling and shaking her head. She was like an aunt with no children. She was enamored with benign naughtiness. It made her feel like she understood what it was to be a parent.
“I don’t! Yuck!” Todd would say.
Columbina would continue. “He eats the four hamburgers with his friends,” she would say.  
“I certainly hope not,” Radnitzer would say. But there was no way for her to know.  “If Charlie knew it was going to be like this for me he would have taken care of himself.”
Her affection came a heavy dose of despair. Then Columbina’s voice would change.
“Mr. Rad died just for the hamburgers,” she would say.
And Mrs. Radnitzer would say: “Please be careful.”
And Todd would say: “I promise I will.”
All lunches ended with a dramatic mood swing: Columbina’s playfulness replaced by a quieted awe at the depth of North Americans’ struggles and Todd doing anything to cheer Radnitzer up. He did not like to see such an old, lonely woman feeling depressed.
Usually he promised something. One thing he’d promised many times was that he would stop talking to Jones.
Then on a Tuesday that fall Jones had been fired and replaced by Rick.

Spring

An upright 28 year old of Irish stock with black hair and a thin face, Rick groomed himself and wore bright, expensive clothing. It didn’t come off as contrived. He understood that good people wanted good things to come to others.
Rick liked to be happy, so he was. It was not linear in that way for Rick, but it was that way.He was of the most obvious elite: a willful attractive person with muted emotions. He did not judge people who lived darker, more nuanced lives. They simply confused him.

Evans and Jericho were the youngest people in the office after Todd.  Short of talking to him, they found his presence a relief. Evans was a cashier that wanted to be a writer, like Tom Clancy. Jericho took ID pictures. He wanted to move to New York and occupy a vague, high-paying position on Wall Street. As long as Todd was there, they both felt like they still had time.
Then Rick showed up. He carried himself the way they imagined they would carry themselves if they hadn’t worked in the DMV. He was what they imagined themselves being in ten years.
The day he’d arrived, Jericho and Evans gravitated toward each other. Jericho found Evans’ neurotic sarcasm reassuring. Evans was on a roll.
He was talking to Jericho about the various depths of the Great Lakes when Todd and Rick approached his desk. “There’s a lake in Siberia that’s over 5,000 feet deep,” Evans was saying. “Superior doesn’t even crack the top 30.”  
“Sorry to interrupt,” Todd said, bowing with deep respect. “This is Mr. Surestaat.”
Jericho stood confidently behind Evans, looking bemused.
“Call me Rick,” Rick said. “I’m new in human resources.”
“You are human resources!” Todd cried, incorrectly repeating something Jones had often said: “I am human. Resources.”
Rick pointed at the plants behind Evans.
“Are those your plants?”
Evans half turned. The plants were dead. The pots were full of dead leaves.
Jericho blushed, feeling that he may have backed the wrong horse. He edged away from Evans, a slight but meaningful lean, like Judas in Michelangelo's Last Supper.
Two months earlier, Evans had realized that the DMV lacked a sense of hope and life. He decided to bring in plants to put around his desk. He would downplay it, pretending it was an easy, obvious thing to do. It would illustrate to his coworkers that it was them, in fact, that were not enjoying their lives. It would say: There’s a problem here. Now it’s yours.
He’d walked in the front doors with three plants, detached, hovering over himself, imagining the office around him: Todd enthusiastically nodding his head, Bob twitching in his office, eyes inches from the blinds, performing a professional reappraisa, and Gabriella, the spectacularly blonde Italian, was leaning over, asking Radnitzer “Who is that?” in a hushed voice. And Radnitzer was saying: “Name of Evans. An old fashioned type. Like my husband’s Navy portrait on the mantle. Quiet. With a man like that a woman doesn’t have to worry about being taken care of.”
Reaching his desk, barely able to keep himself from shouting something moronic to begin the orgy of recognition, he’d set the plants down as carelessly as he could manage and leapt into what he imagined looked like work, capitalizing on the spotlight he imagined was now focused squarely on him.
But it was not that way. He had underestimated people, in general.
His coworkers would not follow his example. Out of spite they resisted the urge to forge a close and lasting relationship with him. What was the saying? “The first reaction to all revolutionary ideas is fear.”
Weeks passed. He’s searched their faces, feeling his own existence, drooping, becoming yellow. Soon the plants had become a painful reminder, like bleeding gums, of a failure he could not bring himself to acknowledge. Watering the plants would surely signal some weakness on his part. If dead was the way they liked it, dead was what they were going to get.
Now here was Rick, whose sharp dress and easy smile served as another unwelcome reminder. Evans studied his face. Rick should just go back to the future, he decided.  Maybe they would be friends later.
“That one looks like it was a rubber tree plant,” Rick said cheerfully.
Evans nodded.
“Why don’t you water them?”
“I’m seeing how they respond to adversity.”
“There’s no way we can know what that means,” Todd quickly reasurred Rick. “Evans and Jericho are artists.”
Evans swiveled pensively in his chair as Rick walked away. He watched the material on Rick’s suit fold and unfold like an accordion. The pinstripes intersecting. Brought together for a moment before being pulled back apart.

Rick’s replacement arrived in March.

Summer

His name was Wayne.
Wayne was an HR specialist from the downtown department who was dodging a debt collector named Joseph Freewater who’d been hired by the Riverboat casino to find him. Wayne had requested a transfer to the Glenbrook department. Rick heard the news and headed downtown.
Wayne was a gambler.
For March Madness Wayne started an office pool. He pooled all the money. For the first time at the DMV employees were talking to each other over the tops of their cubicles. It was a lot of fun. Bob watched from his office. Wayne made him fill out a bracket. Todd filled out a bracket too.
Mrs. Radnitzer commented that Carnegie Mellon won the NCAA National Championship when her husband was a student there, although in those days it had just been Carnegie University. Mellon was a women’s college at that time.

He was always thinking up ideas for office pools. He thought of other matters, the lower-order concerns like eating and bathing that all humans must entertain in order to tolerate the privilege of consciousness, only in short respites.
He talked about gambling all the time—even on first dates. “You can even smoke inside the Indian casinos,” he would say.
Wayne never learned any of their names. In October he looked at Todd for the first time.
“You don’t wear glasses,” Wayne said to Todd.
“No, do you?”
Wayne’s face fogged over and his eyes dribbled out the window. “I’m hungry,” he said.

People worried about Wayne.

Fall

One day, a man in a grey dress wearing a grey wig and red-tinted aviator sunglasses arrived and sat in the waiting area. The wigged man tried whispering something to Todd on the way out, but he was being handcuffed and Todd couldn’t hear him.
Todd knew it was Jones, but he played along, not sure of what would happen next.
As the police lowered Jones into the police cruiser, a gust of wind blew the front door open. A bird landed in the entryway and Jones shouted something out the cruiser window. There was the rattle of cartwheeling leaves.
Todd saw these things all at once. His bowl-cut went vertical and he screamed, "Fall has a welcome sensation!”
The bird cocked its head.
Bob was watching from his office window, hoping the winged little creature wouldn’t get stuck in the office. It was hopping along the open doorway in the curious manner animals of flight sometimes reject their unique gift. Then door was slowly pulled shut by the opposite end of the same force that blew it open. Todd screamed and lowered his head darkly as the bird careened away on a 45-degree angle. He felt he'd just lost something precious and vital, but couldn't figure out what it was.
Then the moment snapped shut. Bob closed the blinds. Columbina reshuffled some papers over her chicken's feet.

It was winter again.

Winter

It was almost November when Columbina walked in on Wayne bathing in the women’s bathroom. He suggested to her that Grand Cahokia was better than Pottawatomie and put a handful of soap in his pubic hair. Bob didn't fire him, but by December he was invisible; in January pencils on his desk sat like trees in snow.

Then it was spring.