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Curbside Splendor e-zine | January 2014


Curbside Splendor

January 2014

Curbside Splendor Publishing Curbside e-zine January 2014 ISSN 2159-9475 Poetry: Two Poems by Tate Geborkoff Table for One Poems by Marta Ferguson Marionettes by Rachel Gleason Slow Song by Peycho Kanev Fiction: From The Girl at the End of the World by Daniel Foley Higgins Memorial Day by Leon Kortenkamp Cover, Light Through Glass, and Photography by Frank Cademartori Editor – Joey Pizzolato

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Tate Geborkoff is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and has worked as a playwright and poet for over 12 years. Tate’s poetry was most recently published by Burningword and he continues to have his work read nationally, both in educational and public settings.

“Modern Guernica” by Frank Cademartori

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Two Poems

by Tate Geborkoff

The Gin Man Silly little bespoke man. Heart of tweed, soaked in gin. I made you to be damned. Heart of need, always bled, I sewed you up with pins and thread. Then you fled far away. Now I hunt you every day.

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Pulp You sought me, fought me, wrought me, grabbed me, stabbed me. Speak easy. My heart is pulp.

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Daniel Foley Higgins is a writer, editor, ex- and current-musician, born and living in Chicago, Illinois, in the face of existential dread. He is looking to publish his first novel, Girl at the End of the World. What follows is an excerpt from that novel.

“Digital Light� by Frank Cademartori

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Girl at the End of the World: 1 – First There’ll Be Fire and then There’ll be Water by Daniel Foley Higgins When it finally fell I was already twisting that way, headed down the old familiar path and unable to stop it and so it wasn’t even a dividing point or a significant milestone, just another signpost along the way. We were deep in the season by then, the wind making sincere promises with each crack, with each snap and howl, and I looked back fondly upon the end of summer when I had just returned from my trip. I had yet to sink into the usual free fall, the one that always came with autumn and the death of the trees, the pathetic downward spiral—I was still foolishly optimistic, maybe it wouldn’t happen this time? I was still trying to decipher all of the complications I had with my old friend Walter in Australia, and then there was that unfinished business with Lora, and what about Sandy and me? She had left me a note in my suitcase that I didn’t find until I was packing to come home, the one that said, “Don’t swim in the ocean, there are very large sharks that eat people,” and it made me smile but also gnawed at my insides. Back in Chicago I tumbled out of the plane with hair in my eyes, still thinking that I was young and that the lag was a myth, but I had lost any sense of place and time. The past was the future and the calendar had slipped, and I was so tired that I felt incorporeal, like the invisible man drifting

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through the terminal. I got in and dropped my bags inside the door and slept for what felt like days, without even telling Sandy that I was home. Detachment and uncertainty. Falling off a cliff. Suddenly I was post-collegiate all over again, like the first September out of school when you wake up and realize that summer’s gone, so what now? I’d been laid off of a job a few months earlier and they were still paying me, which was nice, but I had no idea what the hell I was going to do next. All of my focus had been on this trip, and now it was over. Every morning I would wake up in Melbourne and smile like a free man. For two weeks I was blissful, floating along with barely a thought to my previous life and ignorant of any future. It was like I didn’t really exist at all. What was this life? It couldn’t be real. And so it wasn’t anyway. As Walter’s transformation became known to me over the course of my visit, I could feel rips at the seams and flashes of anger and then disappointment. We couldn’t talk the way we used to. The old and familiar lines of communication had failed. There were new boundaries and prayers at dinner. And then I was the ungrateful visitor. There was a haze and confusion coming back home to the dreary city—like reading a book and then losing your place. Where the fuck was I? I wrote to Ben in New York, scribbling down some scattered thoughts on a kangaroo postcard I had forgot to send while I was down there. “Everything feels a little off, old Benedict,” I wrote, and I wasn’t sure if it was Sandy or Lora or just the weirdness of being back home. “You forget things so easily, being away.” Now it was all flooding back in. I could see him shaking his head at me, wondering what the hell I was going on about this time.

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Sandy eventually came by and cooked me breakfast and listened to my blurry voyage tales, and it felt weird at first, like we had to reintroduce ourselves. It didn’t help that I had this lingering hangover and a weird tightness in my chest that wouldn’t go away. But then we made love and, for a moment, all of those strange feelings were swept under. We joked and laughed and kissed, same as ever, and I kicked myself for being so dumb. Later that night I sat wide awake while she slept—studying the map and trying to figure out where I’d been—and that anxious feeling started up again. I tried to convince myself that I was still in the throes of assimilation but it stuck with me for days. I kept losing thoughts mid-sentence and absentmindedly scratching my head. Sandy poked fun at me and dismissed it as “transmeridian disorientation,” but what I was really thinking of was Lora and everything that had happened before I left for Australia. If Sandy knew anything, she didn’t let on at all. She was good that way. We had met a few years earlier when she saw me through a bad breakup—it was a dark time, I had almost erased it from my memory. She had recently come out of a breakup of her own but she’d barely said a word about it. That was how she was, handling everything with some measure of dignity, unlike me and all of my pathetic wallowing and sad dog howling. I was such a wreck in those early days. To my surprise, we began spending nights in each other’s beds like lovers and Sandy was all acceptance and forgiveness, waiting patiently through drunken tears and embarrassing slips. I stretched it out in a slow burn, of course, with all of my diffidence and catharsis—I was so sure I could never love again. And then one day, it was like magic. I woke up before dawn and a little bird was outside the

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window nodding his head and telling me to buck up and move on. Suddenly the weight had lifted off and was gone, and I was no longer drowning. It was odd. There wasn’t a threshold that we crossed or some giant moment that would define our future; it was only day turning into night and then day again, same as always. I would sometimes think of it as an unnatural evolution: Sandy and I had arrived at this place absent the usual trappings of romance. There was no great story behind our courtship; there was no courtship at all. Maybe it was just that I had become conditioned to disaster and uncertainty and unexpected feelings. My history was spotty. I had always been thrown into romance like an innocent bystander, getting whipped around and tossed overboard and then splashing out of the water with an idiot’s smile. Of course there were sharks, yes, and large and hungry, so what? But I think Sandy understood that about me, or at least I wanted to think that she did. “I guess I’m ready for the fall,” I wrote to Ben in closing salutation, and I knew it was a weak finish but I sent it off anyway. It was difficult coming back, no matter where from or for how long. There was always that juxtaposition and knowledge, that last week at this time I was on the perfect beach…eating indigenous fare and drinking the local brew…talking to exotic so-and-so…with all the time in the world. It was an impossible reality—time and distance coming and going like everything else—and it made me wish I was able to enjoy things more as they happened. Instead I could feel this creeping ennui beginning to settle in. “So, what about the satellite?” Sandy said to me one day and I don’t think I even responded with words, just a grunt, like “Oh, uh.”

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“What do you think?” she said. “You heard, right?” It was funny, the way she said it—with such caution. It was as if she were waiting for my fragility to heal before she brought it up, like I needed to be leveled out and sitting down when she told me. “Oh, yeah…what?” “You know, HERO,” she said softly. HERO was the broken satellite that people had been talking about. “Right, what about it?” I said dismissively and her face dropped. “Oh, Sam…” she said, like I had drastically underestimated the situation. “They say it will be the same as if a nuclear bomb exploded.” My eyes widened in disbelief. “Really? Sandy, come on.” “No, really, seriously,” she insisted with charming concern. “It’s toxic,” she said. “It’s filled with bad shit.” “What kind of bad shit?” “I don’t know. Military shit. Nukes.” “Who says?” “People. Lots of people.”

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I held back a laugh and looked at her wryly. “I think we’ll be okay,” I said but she shook her head, like I didn’t understand the implications of it all. “You know this thing is going to fall in the ocean, right?” I said. “If it even makes it through the atmosphere,” and she smiled, but I could see there was something more behind her eyes. I tried to change the subject and began talking about Walter. “He’s changed so goddamn much, you wouldn’t believe it,” but she didn’t care; she hardly knew him anyway. Crisp sunny days turned into cool nights as autumn arrived. It was mid-September and I was still slowly adjusting to the idea of being home again. I was spending my days at The Impossible Hotel café with a notebook, trying to understand the nature of my visit to Walter and its eventual failure. My plan was to write a lengthy letter to him explaining myself and attempt some sort of reconciliation over what had somehow become our deep philosophical differences, but I kept getting stuck. Instead, I would write these little notes to Ben as a diversion, throwing them in the mailbox outside every day. The Impossible was this old run-down transient hotel in the neighborhood. They no longer booked any rooms and there was always talk of condos or knocking it down but nothing ever seemed to happen one way or the other. Now they had built a little coffee shop in the lobby and hosted occasional art shows and live performances. The satellite was big news at The Impossible. The story was that an American research satellite had somehow failed and was now spinning out of control back toward earth. The name, HERO-76, was nothing more than a meaningless acronym with a patriotic tail, and all anyone knew was that it was due to fall in the

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coming month or so. It became a fad of sorts. It was funny; we were doomed. But early on there was a bizarre kind of paranoia attached to it. The air was ripe for conspiracy and a number of wild theories caught on: That it was a secret military operation, that it was a weapon; that it was, above all, nuclear. No one knew anything, but more importantly, no one was denying anything. When the countdown to re-entry hit the two week mark, the madness took off. Everywhere you would look people were gripped with fear and excitement, it was odd and fantastic. No one knew when or where it might land but everyone, it seemed, was certain it was to be upon their own head. In the park across the street from The Impossible, would-be revolutionaries were giving long dramatic speeches about the satellite and clamoring for some kind of action. The atmosphere took on that of an anti-war rally. Pretty girls sat around wooden picnic tables in the grass, sipping lattes and clapping unenthusiastically while slacker boys smoked joints and cheered. I quickly fell in love with the idea of it; there was something about that weird heaviness that came with doom. I could feel a distinct change in the Earth’s pull, and I ended up having long mystifying conversations with impressionable beauties. “It’s like, constant adrenaline, you know, it just keeps shooting through my veins and I feel all shivery inside,” said one to me. “Like ghosts or power lines running under my skin. Are you feeling that too?” I nodded my head, sure. “You should really come to the tent city, it’s fantastic, man. Have you met Gerald?” she said. “He has the senses of a cat.” And on and on it went. Everyone was insane and impractical and reaching wonderfully strange conclusions. “It would be

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perfect if it fell right at this moment,” said another girl to me after we had made love in her car while her boyfriend ranted on stage. “Wouldn’t it?” Sandy began clipping out tiny articles and posting them on her fridge, tapping them as she recited the latest bit of news to me. I considered them politely and began to secretly wish it all were true. I think she was skeptical like me at first, but as the days passed I could see that she was swept up in the fever. “Why aren’t they doing anything about this?” she said out of the blue one day and I knew exactly what she was talking about. “Come on,” I said, “It’s not going to kill us off.” “Don’t think it can’t happen, Sam. Don’t think it can’t…” “Yes, but, Sandy…” I looked into her worried brown eyes and searched for the right words but I had none. A few weeks before the satellite fell Sandy and I took a long drive along the lake to watch the sky. We lit past the cold and empty autumn beaches before finally twisting over on Sheridan toward the North Shore. I ended up parking the car in a private lot and we sat like outsiders on the hood, sipping beer from paper bags and watching for cops as the darkness fell. She was mostly quiet that night and I filled the space with jokes, trying to put her at ease. I could see her staring up at the sky like it was a monster getting ready to pounce and when she spoke it was in a little girl voice, barely above a whisper.

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“I better learn to swim, Sam, don’t you think?” she said, looking out at the water and moving her arms in circles. “Why’s that?” “Oh, you know. First there’ll be fire and then there’ll be water,” she said and I thought about it for a second and then laughed. “Well, don’t worry, baby, I’ll build you an ark.” Now she laughed. “No you won’t, silly.” “Yeah…you’re probably right. That thing would sink like a stone.” She just smiled and kept looking up, her long brown hair falling down over her turtleneck. “You’re smart,” she said. “You know how to get out of doing things.” She was sweet when she said this, and then she looked at me like I was the one who was going to be there to save her. It wasn’t her fault. I was pretty sure I still believed it myself. I pushed her hair out of her eyes and thought about the words she had said to me when I was still in the black cloud, those sad days when I was trying to understand where love goes. “That’s what you do, is glorify the past,” she had said and it burned into my skin like a scar. Of course she was right. It was always the past, always that which I could not change. “Come on, Sam,” she said. “Look around. Be in the Now.” It felt like I had come a long way from those days, living for myself in the moment, appreciating life and not getting caught up in the old anxieties. I was becoming more

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of a man. But then I gazed up at an airliner floating across the clear night sky, lights flashing slow and dreamlike, and remembered how it was not so long ago when the sun rose for the last time at the bottom of the world. It seemed like I had just left, like I was barely even there. The whole world was in a fog sometimes. Sandy grabbed my hand and held it, silent, as the lights blurred up into a red burst, the long pause and then darkness. It felt like we were going to stay that way forever.

- -

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Marta Ferguson is a former poetry editor for The Missouri Review. She is now the sole proprietor of Wordhound Writing & Editing Services, LLC. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia and is currently coediting, with Bryan Dietrich, an anthology of comic book poems for Minor Arcana Press out of Seattle.

“Pixel Island� by Frank Cademartori

Table for One Poems by Marta Ferguson

The Blue Note, September 17


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Maybe it’s the beer. Maybe it’s Ani. Either way, I’m here, sprawled on the hotel bed of my own heart like I’m surprised to find it’s still beating in my chest, same as ever. I guess I figured two years no valentines, no sex, sweet wine and inept masturbation, I must have damaged something. But I can hear it, rolling through the floor tonight and up the walls. Sandy and I’ve got a pitcher of Bud Lite between us and we’re riding this balcony like it was the deck of the Titanic. Eat your heart out, Leo. Tonight, I can feel the skin in the soles of my socks. My arms are heavy in my arms. For the first time in months, I’m checked into my body like a long-term guest, and I think I’m here to stay.

Premonition after Neruda You smile and I come back to where I've never been,

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as though I'd never left. I met you yesterday. Already I have spent hours in love with the you I will know tomorrow and next week, the one I believe I've seen flashing in your eyes when you watch me take my hair down, the one I see imagining me as I might be right now, thinking of you, waiting.

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“Digital Saints” by Frank Cademartori

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Valentine's Day 1998 I'm sure now I could fall for anybody. My latest flirtation is outside this bookstore, rattling the window like a lovestruck Dustin Hoffman. Rattling for my attention, and me? I want to be Pattiann, Peggy Sue, or Emma. Someone who knows how to work this electricity between us, fold it like a rose or origami swan before it shatters like the pane he's rattling, the one I can imagine crushed, its million edges glinting like cold diamonds in the light.

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Sexing the Sphinx for Kel The riddle of the Sphinx's its sex. If we could check, rock over the block facade to the breathing underbelly, part the stones like fur, further inquiry might prove wisdom comes not in the mouth or at the head, but from the monumental testes, the hidden quarry cut, amorous, by the birth, the labored press of centuries.

Coda Too much, I know. I was always too much. Too much, too soon. You pointed out stars, I asked for the moon.

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Rachel Gleason is a poet from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“Arial Gradient� by Frank Cademartori

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Marionettes

by Rachel Gleason Her name is Harley after midnight when she straps six inch heels to her size seven feet, fastens a dog collar under her long, black hair, when she tightens her leather corset, and darkens her lipstick in the dressing room mirror. Her name is Harley after midnight when “Master of Puppets” blasts from the speakers and she takes the stage, stomping with pointed toes. And I can tell she’s had classical dance training I’m mesmerized by her precision, her graceful violence and I am imagining her stilettoed foot planted sharply between my legs, close to the crotch of my low riding jeans. Her name is Harley after midnight and she is crawling on her knees close to the edge of the stage. I want her to see me, to punish me, to cure me of my misogyny. I want her to strip me down to my faded Walmart sports bra, to my too big, boy’s cut panties, and look me in the eye. Her name is Harley after midnight and she is eating five dollar bills from between my smokey fingers and I am laughing with James Hetfield and I’m pretending I know why.

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Peycho Kanev is the Editor-In-Chief of Kanev Books. His poetry collection Bone Silence was released in September 2010 by Desperanto. A new collection of his poetry, titled Requiem for One Night, was published by SixteenFourteen in 2013. His poems have appeared in more than 900 literary magazines, such as: Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Hawaii Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Sheepshead Review, The Coachella Review, Two Thirds North, Sierra Nevada Review, The Cleveland Review, and many others. He has won several European awards for his poetry and he’s nominated for the Pushcart Award and Best of the Net.

“Modern Chicago” by Frank Cademartori

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Slow Song

by Peycho Kanev There are no airplanes today in the sky of Chicago. I guess they sleep beneath the fresh snow. And maybe, just occasionally from under the white covered fuselage appears a small glimmer, as if they wink at the people to tell them that they know the game. I guess that the pilots are somewhere warm, waiting for the snow to stop, waiting for their flight attendants to smile. So it goes like that in heaven. Or maybe I’m wrong? Here on earth the whiskey is perfect. Naturally with rocks, although that is somewhat stupid. I am known for living awful, when life is good. I have no money to build a chapel, but I light a candle, which ignites the icy diamonds in my glass and I walk towards the edge, I can hear the edge calling me quietly. It starts snowing again. The planes have the nightmares of all their fallen brothers. But now I’m here and I look out the window. The fresh snow falls deep and covers the phone wire along with two nestled pigeons. I am waiting for the call that will shake them off, back to life. - -

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“Modern Buddha” by Frank Cademartori

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Leon Kortenkamp is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and artist who lives with his wife, Ginny, in Belmont, California. They are the parents of five grown children. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. His work has been exhibited, published and collected throughout the United States. His recent writing includes short fiction illustrated with brushed-plate monotypes, and his recent exhibitions feature works on paper, paintings and mixed media assemblage. He is a professor in the art department at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California.

Illustration by Leon Kortenkamp

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Memorial Day

by Leon Kortenkamp The freeway traffic slows to a crawl. “Damn,� Walter says, slamming his hand on the steering wheel. His son will already be at the cemetery waiting for him by the time he arrives, and that will throw everything off. To his left, Walter spots a clump of debris in the roadway between the lanes of traffic. Drivers are trying to avoid it, and he surmises that it is the cause of the slowdown. As he draws nearer, he tries to identify the object, but it is not until he is actually passing by that he realizes it is not debris at all; it is an adult Canada goose sitting on the pavement, weaving its long black neck side to side and turning its head back and forth to follow the passing cars on either side. Oddly, it is not standing or making any attempt to fly or move from its resting place. Then, quite suddenly, the air is filled with what appears to be large snowflakes swirling over, around and between the cars. Feathers, goose down, a blizzard of goose down, Walter begins to put things together. The poor bird was struck down in traffic and is doing its best to avoid further injury by resting between the lanes of passing cars. The cloud of swirling down, goes on and on for several car-lengths, revealing the scale of the accident. Walter imagines the goose flying across the freeway and misjudging the height of a passing truck. He watches the bird fade from sight in his rearview mirror, and for a fleeting moment, it is another morning of mayhem on a muddy road in Vietnam, and Walter instinctively slams on his brakes. Someone has to help the

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injured bird, to take it to a place of safety, out of the traffic, to see what can be done about its injuries. It should be taken to a wildlife rescue center where wounded birds are nursed back to health. In the old days, he and his wife volunteered at one of those places, cleaning up birds caught in an oil spill on the Bay. That’s where the goose needs to go. His truck slows to a near stop, but the car behind him crowds his rear bumper and honks. There are two lanes of cars bumper to bumper to his right and another lane jammed with cars on his left. He is locked into the flow. There is nowhere to go but straight ahead. “Damn!” he says, pressing his brakes again. He has to stop or he will regret it the rest of his life. Again the horns, as the cars behind close on his rear bumper, but this time he brings his truck to a stop, steps out, and with a determined stride, begins to make his way back between lanes of traffic toward the downed goose. His lane is stopped, but in the next lane the traffic is picking up speed. A passing semi truck, snorts out a cloud of choking black exhaust and wheels by only inches away. Lunging away from the passing truck, Walter slams his shoulder against one of the stopped cars. "Watch it," someone complains from an open window. Walter pushes off and continues down the narrow passage between stopped cars and the lane of moving traffic. Someone in one of the stopped cars shouts, “What the hell are you doing? You can’t just stop in the middle of the freeway.” Another, “Move that piece of junk.” Walter’s rescue operation is becoming his personal Via Dolorosa, but he ignores them and walks on. As he approaches the injured goose, he is stunned to see it sitting in a pool of blood. He removes his jacket, drapes it over the bird’s back and lifts it from the pavement.

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The goose flails its long neck, pecking at Walter’s arms and chest. Something sharp pokes his hand, and realizing it is a broken bone protruding from the bird’s bleeding breast, Walter mumbles an apology, adjusts his grip and continues on past the long line of stopped cars toward his truck. A young woman in jeans and a bulky sweatshirt steps out of one of the stopped cars. “Can I help?” she calls out over the din of the passing traffic. “You can open the back of my truck…the yellow pickup.” Walter answers, motioning with a nod up the line of cars. The young woman lowers the tailgate of his truck and reaches to help Walter with the goose. “I got it,” Walter says, as he places the bird in the back of the truck. The goose’s neck and head, only moments before striking at him like a cornered cobra, now trail limply across the tailgate. Walter gently places them next to the bird’s body on the bed of the truck, studies them for signs of life, then turns toward the young woman and raises his empty, bloody hands. “You did the best you could,” she shouts. Walter is frozen in the confluence of circumstances. Taken by the young woman’s words, he vacantly searches her dark eyes, half-hidden by her long swirling hair; again he raises his bloody hands. The stopped cars, surprisingly quiet as Walter passed by with the injured goose, are again sounding their horns, and traffic in the next lane is speeding up and passing by dangerously close.

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Again checking the goose for any signs of life, he closes the tailgate and shouts over his shoulder, “Thank you for helping.” “Thank you for stopping,” she shouts back. Walter nods, watches her disappear somewhere down the line of stopped cars, opens the door of his truck, gets in and pulls ahead. Soon all lanes are again moving at freeway speed. His exit is a few miles ahead; he’s late and he’s covered with blood. Clicking on his turning signal he eases over to the right lane, strips off his bloodstained shirt, pulls the bottom of his tee shirt down over his pants and checks his watch. His son will already be waiting for him. Walter had hoped to have a little time with his sister before his son arrived, to go back over his heartbreak and rekindle the immolation of self-doubt, failure and blame relating to his impossible promise. Admiring the flowers on the seat next to him, Walter assures himself that he has made good choices and that his sister will love them. He recalls the way she pursed her lips and fought back tears when she saw something beautiful. Whatever she was feeling, she kept to herself. He always wanted to say something, to let her know he too was moved by beautiful things, but he was afraid he would sound sappy, so he never did. Once, when he saw her tears, he gently reached out, and she took his hand in hers and squeezed it tightly for what seemed like a long time. Right then and there, without telling anybody about it, he made a lifetime promise to look after her, no matter what. If he could have a little time with her first, he would be ready to meet his son and put flowers on the other graves.

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It’s the way he always does it, but that won't be possible this time because of the goose. He doesn’t regret stopping, but he doesn't like having to change things around at the cemetery. “You did the best you could,” the young woman’s absolution washes over him afresh. How long it had been since anyone had allowed him that grace. How long since he had dared to allow himself that grace. His sister spoke to him that way. She looked up to him. The young woman on the freeway was a lot like his sister some time ago, during her college years, before she got sick. Walter glances over his shoulder at the dead goose lying in the corner of the truck bed. Speeding cars rush by, but he is walking hand in hand with his little sister. They are children, and the high grass bordering their uncle’s slough is almost as tall as they are. They stop to pick cattail fuzz and toss it into the breeze, while red-winged blackbirds scold, and iridescent green dragonflies buzz and hover nearby. Suddenly, the sky is filled with waves of migrating geese, gliding and banking in tight formations overhead, celebrating their arrival at the slough with a symphony of song. His sister squeezes his hand in hers as the geese swoop by close and low. And, as if to touch them, she follows their flight with her other hand as they settle on the ponds with elegance and proprietary swash. - -

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About the Photographer Pixel Quirks Frank Cademartori Frank Cademartori has spent much of his twenties traveling east Asia, but now resides in Chicago, Illinois. He spends his time achieving amateur status at various activities and has chosen to daily relive the horrors of Middle School from the other side of the teacher's desk. More of his photography can be found here: (http://endlessframe.wordpress.com/)

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www.curbsidesplendor.com

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Curbside Splendor E-Zine January 2014