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The Postal Worker Reads The Shadow of the Wind

I had almost come to feel I knew this town. Its surface and its depth. Its little dreams. Women who fall in love with who they want a man to be. Men who only want to be alone. I want to be alone in Barcelona. It’s brazen architecture, its streets that lead to painful histories. Please forgive my desire for something more. I had almost come to feel I love this town: its hard leaning, its desperate desires. Here’s where I’d put the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, if we had one. Every story inside would change your life. The stories that change us are our neighbors, here. I carry their sentences to them. One woman on my route never leaves her house. One man seems to leave every woman’s house. Children coax the feral cats with food. War is a faraway land we’ll never know. In the book, Barcelona dances like a woman through the song of war. I want to love her, to wander her like a child. I had almost come to need to leave this town. The nobody special of it. The never a character in a book of it. But I’m not a man for someplace interesting. For reading a city in a book and just up and moving there. I’m for here, for here, for good or ill.


The Methodist Preacher Reads Jesus’ Son

The only thing grows faster than corn here is despair. I see it in their eyes, gazing up at me. Asking questions I don’t know answers to. I want to believe that nothing is lost for good. We believe we’ll find our son one day, dead in a flophouse, a needle in his arm. To love is to embrace the thing that harms. Isn’t it? Forgiving the killing thing. We all have a killing thing, eventually. I imagine my son out there running the streets. I forgive him his long silences. I forgive him his dirty fingernails, his empty bed. I forgive him the fear in his mother’s eyes. I forgive him this book, and my odd need to read it, thinking maybe I’ll understand. Something in him calls out to the drugs. I forgive the something in him that’s not in me. I want to believe everything ends up found. Found safe, alive, at peace. I have to believe he’s going to end up saved. I believe in a God who finds what He’s looking for.


Gary Reads The Road

and it changes him. He can’t say how. His wife brought it home, and when she went to bed, he started reading between whiskey nips. He never stopped reading until the characters reached the beach. Gary was just drunk enough to cry. Once he had taken a trip to the ocean, when he was a boy. Its vastness calling to him like a god. The salt puckered his lips, dried on his skin. He wished his father had been around long enough for Gary care if he died. On the beach or anywhere else. The Road had somehow charged the summer air. The truth: survival was such a plodding thing. You walked, pushing a cart with a wobbly wheel, your feet blistering in old boots. Man, child, cart: Gary felt he was each. And then he was almost certainly the road. Once his father had walked out the door for the last time, and a sinkhole yawned open in Gary’s chest. Sometimes, the road spools out before a man like a challenge that must be met. Sometimes, after ending, the world goes on.