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Four Stories

ISSUE:  Winter 2017

Illustration by Kristen Radtke


In a Hotel Room in Ithaca

April, the housekeeper,

has left a message for me

handwritten in red ink on a piece of paper.

It is lying next to the coffeemaker. 

She has written: “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

The quotation is from Socrates.

But the smiley face has been added by April.



Not Much to Tell

David writes me a note, delivered by Carol. He tells me, in the note, about a woman in a supermarket recycling center trying to redeem shampoo bottles for money. He thinks I’ll be interested. I am.

I ask, by e-mail, Please tell me more.

He answers, by e-mail, Oh, that’s all there is. There isn’t anything else.

I ask, When was it? Where? How many bottles? Why did she do this? What did other people do?

He gives in and sends me another note, subject line: “Not much to tell.” It reads:

Time—early morning, after breakfast, when geezers like to shop.

Place—narrow hallway in Watertown Price Chopper’s bottle return, sticky floors, stale beer smell.

Character—woman in her fifties holding a plastic bag of recycles, trying to get a nickel for a shampoo bottle. She’s having no luck, but she’s not frustrated and tries other bottles. A man next to her leans in, whispers, and she stops.



Community Notice: Redundancy Example #4

This is a reminder that today the community will be gathering this afternoon to come together as a community.



Sneezes on the Train

The young Asian man across the aisle from me and one seat forward sneezes. The man in the seat behind him, bald and wearing a pink striped shirt, says, “Bless you!” not loudly but very distinctly. The Asian man starts, looks apprehensive, but does not turn around. Then the man in the seat behind me sneezes twice in a row, quickly. I wait for the man across the aisle to bless him, too, but he says nothing. The Asian man sneezes again, but this time very quietly, carefully smothering his sneeze in both a Kleenex and a scarf, then slowly turns his head just enough to glance discreetly over his shoulder at the man behind him, who continues to remain silent. Much later in the trip, the Asian man is long gone from the train, and the man behind me has been replaced by a woman. Now this woman sneezes four tiny, high-pitched, suppressed sneezes in a row, followed by a fifth. I wait, and listen. Again, the man across the aisle in the pink striped shirt says nothing. Either he has lost interest, as he sits bent over studying his screen, or he feels that one bless-you per ride is enough.




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