Category: Fiction

A Scaffolding for Five

By Israela Margalit

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            I see him during the day. His back to the street, on the edge of the curb, he’s positioned as far from the building as he can be while still under the scaffolding. On sunny days the wooden planks shield him from the heat. When it rains he moves inward, far enough to protect himself from getting drenched, but not so far as to disturb passersby. There are two battered shopping carts beside him, each filled to the brim with obscure items wrapped in plastic bags. He’s dressed in black, layered according to the dictates of weather. Often I see him comfortably seated in a chair. Sometimes he’s reading a book. At mealtimes, he unfolds a small table, places plates and utensils, and eats. He doesn’t look at me when I walk by, doesn’t solicit, doesn’t confront. Quiet and organized he protects his dual-purpose turf: the day station with a semblance of a home and the sleeping corner. It’s not exactly a corner, but a narrow patch of cement that hugs the building’s outer wall. Come evening, he moves his possessions to that space and goes to sleep. I’ve never seen him change from one domain to the other, but by the time I’m returning from a show or an evening out with friends, he’s there stretched out in his coveted spot, with four other men in black like him forming a row of desolate humans in makeshift beds.

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Summer

By Emilio Mascaro

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Our summer was as the city’s. Beautiful and provisional. The river looked beautiful and seemed to glow in the Sun’s light. I followed the river’s flow with my eyes until I couldn’t any longer, losing it to the horizon. It looked as if it eventually met with the Sun at the horizon. The bridge loomed up ahead, tucked under a seemingly cloudless blue blanket. The sky’s eye appeared to look at us like a concerned parent, watching us as we made our way towards the steps that would ascend us to the bridge.

“How’s it look?” She spoke almost excitedly. “Beautiful.”

“Am I?”

“Are you what?”

“Beautiful.” She now stopped and looked at me. She looked gorgeous even though she was veiled with a hat and sunglasses. I could feel her eyes staring deeply into mine through the lenses. I looked away from her. I hadn’t the need to look to answer honestly.

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Calling

By William Cass

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The grass had all turned brown.  Snow, crusted gray by car exhaust, hugged the curb.  A blare of shift change whistle blew at the factory a few blocks away; 5:00 pm and the gloaming of evening had already fallen.  From his bedroom window in the rectory, Father Francis watched the cold breeze tug at a lone leaf on the tree in the front lawn.  His own heart felt like that leaf.  He went down the hall to the kitchen to heat water for tea.  Although he’d only turned forty-six earlier that month, days after his mother’s death, he walked with a slight limp.  The rectory was as quiet as a tomb.

At the sound of the factory whistle, Sister Katherine glanced up and looked outside the convent’s basement window.  Above the rooftops, she could see the plume of smoke from the factory’s chimney against the ink-wash sky.  She paused at the ironing board in the laundry room where she was pressing the nuns’ habits.  The globe on the ceiling threw white light.  A glimpse of her ex-husband entered her mind, and she shook it away.  In the convent’s small chapel directly above her, she could hear Mother Superior’s quiet voice leading the rosary, followed by the answering chorus of the other nine nuns. 

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For Laura

By James Mulhern

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My grandmother sat on the toilet seat. I was on the floor just in front of her.

She brushed my brown curly hair until my scalp hurt.

“You got your grandfather’s hair. Stand up. Look at yourself in the mirror.”

My hair looked flat, like someone had laid a book on it overnight.

I touched my scalp. “It hurts.”

“You gotta toughen up, Aiden. Weak people get nowhere in this world. Your grandfather was weak. Addicted to the bottle. Your mother has an impaired mind and is in a nuthouse. And your father, he just couldn’t handle the responsibility of a child. People gotta be strong.” She bent down and stared into my face. Her hazel eyes seemed enormous. I smelled coffee on her breath. She pinched my cheeks.

I reflexively pushed her hands away.

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The Flute Case

By Adam Golub

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          On my morning run, I met a boy with a flute case. I was jogging up Highland when he flagged me down and asked directions to the library. He told me his school was closed because of a bomb threat. Then he started swinging his flute case forward and back.

         “I’m the only boy in school who plays. I get teased all the time,” he said.

         The boy was tall and thin with wet hair that fell over his face. He looked to be around twelve. I noticed he wasn’t wearing a backpack. I paused the timer on my watch.

         “I think it’s cool that you play the flute,” I said. “It’s different.”

         I kneeled down to retie my laces.

         “Why are you running?” he asked.

         “To get better.”

         He swung his case a little too close to my head. “Better how?”

         I was training for a race. But I was trying to get better in other ways. I didn’t feel like telling the boy about this.

         Suddenly we heard police sirens in the distance. The boy’s eyes widened. He hugged his flute to his chest and took a step back.

         “I’m not giving it to you!” he yelled.

         I rose and held out my hand to calm him.

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