Copyright © 2001 All Rights
pale new daylight upon the storefronts the main drag is bare, but the traffic
lights go through their colors, signal boxes clicking their slow cadence.
his nose at the corner, Carl Simmons. Tall, lanky and loose-jointed, knees
bending slightly the wrong way. His breath steams the air. He is
late for work, but more used to killing time than making time. He waits
for the signal though there is no traffic on the cross street. He sits
drinking pop on a stool in the stock room of his uncle's auto parts store.
Locates parts from the long rows of metal shelves. Knows the job
forwards and backwards: has had it four times over the years. When a part
is out of stock on a same-day order, he takes his uncle's car to another auto
parts store to get it. One morning a week, he comes early to help his
uncle do the inventory. Minimum wage. Plus assistance check. When he
doesn't crawl out of bed, the world doesn't stop.
after work his uncle takes Carl to his house in the suburbs, and Carl plays
poker with his uncle's group. Carl and three old farts from AA drinking
seltzers and smoking discounts. Carl winning close-mouthed, doing nothing
to piss anybody off, quietly cleaning them out. His uncle puts a bony arm around
him and says, "Carl, you're a real third-shelf kind of guy."
Carl stops pulling in his chips and sits there arched and uncertain, never
knowing what to do with a joke. When his uncle gets too sleepy to drive
him home, he sometimes stays the night on the couch. But when he does this
his uncle wakes him early the next morning to go to work. Usually Carl
walks the five miles home. Walking and smoking, dark of empty night on the
highway berm, shining eyes of the occasional deer in the occasional headlights.
nights he stays home. Occasionally he calls Francis, who is back from
rehab. Somewhere in the conversation, asks her how she's doing with the
limp. Other times he talks without picking up the phone. Sits in the
chair talking, though not much, as he is not much of a talker. Inside he
knows that doing this is crazy. He and Francis avoid seeing each other.
Lonesome, Carl buys a skin mag at the convenience store. Bored, reads the
articles. In the back of his mind, as far back as he can push it, the
question: How long?
his thumb deeper up his nose, pushing through to booger paradise. WALK.
He steps off the curb.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Evan Reminick is a writer living in Oakland, California,
USA. His fiction has appeared online in Eclectica, Comrades and The Duct