by amy culberg
2003 Storycove Flash Fiction Award
I had a flirtation with the Chicago Reader delivery driver, while
I worked at Powell's bookstore in Hyde Park, with a seven-foot tall
Canadian, who didn't recognize me on the street, but read me pages
of poetry stained
in wine, at the cash register.
I noticed him too, but at that time, I liked the attention from
the almost stranger, Reader delivery driver, who brought me coffee
and stuff he found on the street, like dropped lipstick and single
earrings, who was trying to marry me to get his papers, from England,
that piece of land where
Tony Blair would lose to a prom queen, at this point, even thought
Brits normally like smart people with bad teeth, which I had,
but hidden behind tight lips.
Did you know that a long time ago, that in England, that they were
trying to transplant teeth, from dead young rich people into the
live old rich people? They died of bad teeth instead of old age,
which is strange, I think, cause I don't think of the British as
Meanwhile, here, in the States, hundreds of years later, I cooed
at the British Reader man, who would, years from the night of the
storm, hang up on me, but not before he said "Too late! Too
Which made me think we were either talking about Love or Visas,
which are both hard to come by, for both visitors and citizens.
He called me during our first shared storm, when I was living in
bario with two heroin addicts, who I used to talk to from underneath
a quilt, because they could smoke for hours with nodding heads,
dogs you put in the rear window of your car.
The sky was ripping open, like last night, lightning that bounced
off of my chest, like black-light that makes your socks blue, but
flashes, like an old-fashioned photograph behind a small black curtain.
I even thought I'd been hit, at one point, and I pulled up my t-shirt
up to check where the
light flashed, but I was inside, where I always was, not like the
first Chicagoans, who stood on naked ground and watched, like sunsets,
the prairie fires, born from dry winds and barbequing bison, burn
the competing forests. The reader man called from a Lakefront payphone,
his voice accompanied by the pitter-patter of rain on dry-tar and
crackle of spark-spitting
electricity that magnified his question.
"Did you see that?" He asked, soaking wet and nearer to
electricity, and those words hung onto me, like some voodoo glue,
so that every storm
since, the memory of him occupies the pavement below my window,
forever asking me to watch the sky crack open, with him, like he
bought that part of me on the black market.