The first inkling Frank had of the change that would overtake him came on the drive down. He was in the back seat, his hip aching from hours on the Interstate, listening to a radio show about snow geese migrating from the Arctic, big flocks miles high but always along the same route: migration corridors they called them. And all of a sudden Frank was up there flying among them, mile after airy mile in unison. Who knows how long it lasted before Kathy turned and spoke to him, words he didn’t catch but that startled him back down, into his body? He shook his head, a horse throwing off a fly; he was a practical man, not given to daydreaming. ‘How long till lunch?’ he asked Kathy who asked Tom who wanted to get another hundred miles at least.
My older sister Nancy and I love funerals. We go at random every weekend, ingratiating ourselves into the crowds, the friends, the family. We pretend to weep with the mourners, while we absorb things with the coldness of detectives, me in an oversized suit, borrowed from Dad. Nancy in one of Mother’s nice black gowns. We love the darkness, the garb, the somberness. The people gathered together, mothers and children, cousins, nephews, people with connections we cannot fathom. Being so close to darkness, a kind of whirl, excitement. We don’t know dead people, the wildness of loss. Mother and Dad are divorced, but that’s different. They wear fedoras and lavender and false civility. Even our grandparents still live, regaling us with tales of meeting Teddy Roosevelt and other trivialities.
Scrawny old Bill Jackson worked twenty years as janitor at the mine. He swept the lunchroom, washed and waxed the office floors, operated the snowplough and weed whacked the grass. He liked to see things clean. After the mine closed, he spent most of his time driving up and down the highway and side-roads picking up cans and bottles. “Without me, the garbage would just pile-up” he told anyone who’d listen. He hauled discarded tires, old couches, rotten mattresses into the back of his pickup and drove them to the landfill.
I just don’t know! What’s this world coming to? A security guard who is nothing but a slip of a girl. It’s not right.
But no matter. It’s the shopping centre’s problem. I have to admit that it’s nice that they give me my breakfast. But in saying that I’m paying them enough. She does check on me, I’ll give her that. But surely that should be a man’s job?
Hans returned home from the pub.
He stomped up and down on the bare floorboards of his living room. He grinned as he thought about the neighbours moaning at the noise but never complaining.
Hans turned on the radio, it was more static than station. He settled down on his white painted kitchen chair that sat in the middle of the living room. It was cold. The wind whistled up through the floorboards. He pulled the collar of his donkey jacket higher and pulled his cap lower and then put his hands into his pockets. He shut his eyes to sleep.
Something woke him.
Sadie puts a bottle of white wine in the fridge before she goes out for a long run. She figures that if the run doesn’t help purge her of the toxins from the day then maybe the wine will. And if that doesn’t work she always has that fifth of bourbon on the bookshelf that girl from work gave her for Secret Santa, red bow taped to the top, and a few oxy left over from her thumb surgery last summer stashed at the bottom of the clothes hamper. But she figures the run, or the wine, should do just fine.
Hunger growled in him, clamoring for attention. The old man went into the kitchen and opened the cupboard. There was one can of soup. Chicken noodle. A bowl and a spoon sat in the old man’s dish drain next to a small pot, the perfect size for heating soup. Late afternoon sunlight filtered through the leaves of a shady elm tree and filled the kitchen with dappled light.
“Hi, is this Mark? Mark Chance from Deakins High School?”
Shane was sitting in front of his laptop. On the screen, an image of two young boys standing in the shade of a half-pipe, their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. A date, digitally imprinted in yellow, told Shane the photo was taken the spring of 2006. The boy on the right had a bloody chin and was smiling, pushing his cheeks up and squinting his brown eyes. His hair was black with brown roots and hung past his jaw. Red speckled his white Thrasher shirt. The other threw his head back in laughter, his half-black-half-bleached hair unkempt. This one wore black pants and a black The Clash tee.
“It’s Shane Lynch.”
It was a bright Tuesday morning, and the city’s dense, forest-like clusters of residential towers were stirring to life like immense ant hills in the hot rays of the sun. Down on the streets, the waves of commuters came pouring out of the towers to converge on the massive Ninth Gen Maglev Station at the base of the main transportation bridge.
Sometimes you just want to try something new.
Last week I embarked on a project – growing a beard – and tonight, instead of trimming the Christmas tree I never bought, I trimmed my new beard. The electric clipper vibrated too close to my ear, drew blood, and snagged a chunk of my hair. So tonight I also shaved my whole head. It’s fine. Waiting to go bald is exhausting. Now bristly black stubble covers my head and I resemble a mugshot on the news.