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WELCOME TO PARADISE Nick Zablocki Oakland University

A peculiar, October-like breeze ruffled the green porcupine trees. Liquid glass pooled around EPA-approved septic drains currently clogged with the offspring of the trees. I kicked a baby rock like it was a tiny soccer ball down the crackled blacktop. (Or perhaps I was a giant mid-fielder.) The stroll to Roger’s apartment was roughly 27 minutes, 35 if I was lolly-gagging with the casual pace I usually maintained, 19 if I was really in a bustle. Roger sold sticky bushels of rare plants for most of the neighborhood. He was the guy that made things happen for other guys, a real people-pleaser. He held the stars in place as far as I was concerned. If you needed a quick smoke, or a quick ball with a faded starlet, he had the numbers to dial. His doorway was a turnstile. Denizens of all genres passed through his checkpoint, though very few ever got acclimated enough to stick around. An auburn moss collected on his jawline, and a few of his teeth were severely tarnished. Still, his laugh was like a foghorn, and the twinkle in his eyes was a lighthouse for this crummy side of town. When I arrived, Roger was quick to let me in after inspecting me through the door’s fisheye. The peeling wallpaper kept the walls scantily clad; nonetheless, his small apartment was comfortable, if musty. Roger was on an unusual tune today, evidenced by the way he bumbled around the room. He looked like someone right after their beloved goldfish— named Perry, or Huck Finn, or something like that— died. Business was bad this week, he told me. “People just aren’t buying the bushels like they used to, Jack.” Even the regulars had moved on to brighter pastures or darker chemicals, it seemed. Myself, holding an almost nursery fondness for Roger, couldn’t stand to see him like that. I forked over nearly triple my usual payment for quadruple the product. Roger was real good at taking care of his regulars, even in times of crisis. I’d worry about making rent some other time. It wasn’t until I visited the watering hole a few stars later and ascended one of the rickety stools that I heard the news. Dancing embers had consumed Roger and all the goddess-forsaken people of that building. I attended the funeral in my casual Friday best. It’s what he would’ve wanted. “It juss ain’t right, is it Jack.” “No Marv, it really isn’t.” The vacuum had inhaled the wrong ball of yarn yet again. ZABLOCKI

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Profile for Oakland Arts Review

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

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