A Short Story

Every other Monday’s, that’s when Baker Jule’s sells us the really fresh bagels. His three-eyed cousin Jules — the owner — gives us the blind eye when we come by the backdoor. When we do swoop it’s always around 3 o’clock AM when even the metal stop signs are questioning their purpose and the rats are smoking and drinking their parent's cigarettes in busted cans of Budweiser heavy. Those cold mornings I wear my long coat made of wool and plastic, of the old and the new, along with a bandana I copped back in the days when I had no worries — when I was youngish. It was made of nothing special, which is why it was.

Hands, my love reminds me. Her eyes are heavy with sleep and worry.

Of course, I say. No worries.

Be safe.

I step out with my feet and hands enclosed. I see the moon. I wave even though I do not recognize the shape at first because it is friendly and cool. I’m used to the opposite. I must be.

Bitter guilt, I say under my breath. I hate to be distant but with everything happening there is still cordiality but more so issues so I must not get to close

I’m sorry, I say to the night and so the day and I fear all the time thereafter.

I walk.

And I see the tangerine clouds brushed by dusk. There are the wild parrots frolicking like licked and tossed popsicles from summer released school children. I take the hill north for Buena VIsta and say hello to a bush, a bush! They are lively and thriving, boasting slightly at their newfound position. I hesitate to ask how it’s been going.

I haven’t seen a cigarette in my face in days, a tucked flower says.

I don’t smoke, I try.

But you do.

Me? I try. I am not them.

Yes, you are. You are like all of them.

I’m just trying to talk, I say defenseless.

You never did before, a pine needle says amongst thousands.

I did, I plead. I did try and speak to all of you.

When?

No answer from pine, cone, or grass strand on the hill, mountain, or valley stretch.

It feels like I can’t breathe, I say.

That’s why I love mankind, the wind says. You really need me.

I step back and catch myself in the mirror of a closed cafe. An old friend said they were closing down. I guess they weren’t lying. I trudge, pass cardboard signs and long winding trails and fatalities turned realities with families in windows facetiming loved ones that laugh and tear up and feel a little better.

As I curl through the forest of liberal tennis matches and tossed religions, I find myself, a block from home, by an apartment made of blue.

It’s rafter jutted plain, with high tiers of acceptance and a soft acceptance of everyone. My neighborhood.

Hello, I said hugging myself.

Hello. A red-cloaked figure steps from the shadow. You seem unwell.

Today, yes.

Tomorrow?

We will see.

Before he stepped back into the darkness he said,

We are met.

We are met, I returned.

And we will meet again.

Mitchell Duran is a freelance writer. He earned a Master’s in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University in 2019. Find more work at Mitchellduran.com

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