Midway

by Peter Krumbach

—for Ron Salisbury

Ron says in a lifetime we each swallow fourteen spiders. That’s about a spider every five years, I say. It’s 92 degrees. We stand on the sidewalk between Luna’s Psychic Reading and Happy Head (Foot Reflexology and Massage). Ron has been married four times, almost killed twice. The last few weeks he’s been contemplating building a canoe. To remind myself, he says, what birch-bark and cedar ribs can do for the spirit. What do you know about chickens,  I say. I raised chickens in 1954, he says, bought a rooster from Sears & Roebuck, the hens I got from one-armed Frank who had fifteen and ran out of space. I ask him about the ants in my kitchen, storming from everywhere like columns of Mongolian horse-archers. Almost blind, says Ron, inhaling for a long sentence about pheromoned bellies with which they mark their trails. The bus is late. A gray-haired man with a deep tan ambles toward us. Pushes a stroller. The small cardboard sign fastened to its canopy says Mademoiselle Michelle. Beneath it sits a black-and-white dog of an uncertain lineage, frail and old, the bottom of the rig stuffed with tightly twined bundles. The fellow passes with a wide toothless grin. Ron grins back. I study the dog, the man stops for me to get a better look. I can’t remember the last time I wept, but right there something sticks to me like a leech to a host. My fingers feel the warm neck of the animal. As I raise my head to talk, Ron begins waving at the approaching bus as if he knew the driver, or maybe to test if we’re visible.

 

Peter Krumbach‘s most recent work has been or is about to be published in Jubilat, The Massachusetts Review, Quarter After Eight, and Salamander.

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