by Paul Silverman
My dog, Gwendolyn, never heard of the List. Bent with sore bones, she creaked her way to the front door when she saw me get up from the computer. But I grabbed my coat and left her pleading on the threshold, holding in her poops. "Later," I said, master to slave. "Iíll be back."
It was a dirty November day, prematurely dark. The wind threw garbage and dead leaves at everything that moved, the ocean stank, and a bloated pus-ball of a cloud hung over everything—so black and bulging it looked ready to rain ink if a pigeonís beak so much as pecked it. I steered my last remaining status symbol into the strip mall that had the 7-Eleven, went in and combed the magazine racks. I went at it like an animal foraging for food. But they didnít have the one I wanted. Louisburg it was called, so said my old travel booker. Named for the arch-Brahmin part of Beacon Hill, with its billionaire brownstones. The publishers also did magazines about the Hamptons and Rodeo Drive. Why would a 7-Eleven customer in the shadow of the Revere Beach dogtrack, fifty feet from Revereís last peep show, give a ratís ass about Louisburg?
Back behind the wheel I had a little skiff of dread, not sure whether or not Iíd saved all the dayís unopened spam. You never know.
The skinny womanís name was Valerie, the best I ever had. She used to put me poolside in Santa Monica for the same price as a back-alley broom closet. Once she put me two doors down from Mike Tyson. There was a sunlit morning we shared the private, all-glass elevator coming up from the gym. Last I read, his manager was announcing a world tour where Tyson was going to fight girls.
They let me keep the car, their way of giving me the gold-watch kissoff. But gold ages better than sheet metal. I ride around on balding balloon tires, thick as four fat thighs, and the back seat stinks of Gwendolyn. Not all that long ago, Gwendolyn and I would run six miles on the beach together. Sheíd be flying, just like she used to fly at the dog track.
From the 7-Eleven strip mall I drove to Richdale, then on to CVS, Walgreens, Cumberland Farms, Líil Peach, Target, every last place I could think of that had a newsstand. Finally I put the whole North Shore behind me and drove through the tunnel into Boston, in search of neighborhoods that smacked of the Louisburg demographic. Gridlock and rush hour traffic slowed me to a crawl. I burned rubber squealing into any open patch of curb I could find: hydrants, fire zones, handicapped spaces. Finally, in the tony South End, I found four copies, and bought them all. While I was paying, the fat cloud broke and released a black torrent. I swaddled the four copies, pressed them to my chest like babies and flew back into the car.
I took off again, but the deluge had strangled the traffic even more. I was creeping down one of those South End streets that still had its bad blocks, its hulking rat mansions the sandblasters wanted no part of. Just ahead of me to the left was a single, street-level row of windows with a few human occupants—a dive diner, and I barreled in.
Over coffee I studied the List, all four columns of it, 96 names in all. Not numbered, not alphabetical. Mine was at the top of the fourth column, above some Wahlberg, not Mark, and after Affleck—yes, it said Ben. There was no copy explaining what the list was. There was no headline other than the words, the List. From the date on the cover I could see that Louisburg had been out a couple of weeks. For all I knew my hands held the last four copies. Who had the others? And who had seen the List—seen my name with Affleck and Wahlberg?
When I finally got home there was a new batch of spam, but no real e-mails. Not a voice on the phone either, not even Valerie checking back with me. Gwendolyn moaned, and finally I took her out to the unlit park, flashlight in hand. Gwendolyn squatted right next to the car, so bound up from waiting that when she finally squeezed something out it was thin as a string. Her bony ass shuddered in the flashlight beam, the hole straining like a mouth that had lost its voice. I stared at the beam and the hole and remembered how Valerie and I would joke before my trips. I remembered one day in particular. I was rushing by her desk and she waved me down and handed me an envelope, all without saying a word. In a flip way, I asked what was in it. Valerie peeked over her Gucci lenses and said, " a one-way ticket to Armenia." At the time, I laughed so hard the spit ran onto my chin.
All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.
Paul Silverman's stories have appeared in The South Dakota Review, Tampa
Review, The North Atlantic Review, Word Riot, Eclectica, In Posse
Review, The Pedestal Magazine, The Timber Creek Review, Alimentum, The
Front Range Review, The Jabberwock Review, Jewish Currents, The Coe
Review, Hobart Online, Amarillo Bay, The Adirondack Review, The Paumanok
Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Subterranean Quarterly, Thieves Jargon, The
Summerset Review, and others. His piece, "Getaway," published by
Verbsap, is on the 2006 Million Writers Award shortlist list of Notable
Online Stories. Byline Magazine, Lily and The Worcester Review have
nominated his stories to the Pushcart Committee. New work was recently
accepted by The Pikeville Review, Oyster Boy Review and Ragad.
Read the interview.
|Issue Sixteen (March 15, 2007): Heaven by the Highwayside by Mike Amato «» There Swells and Jets a Heart by Rusty Barnes «» Miss Hempstead's Brother by Myfanwy Collins «» This Is What You Left Behind by Tod Goldberg «» Ten Very Short Stories by John Leary «» Photographer and Model by Stefani Nellen «» On Mondays, Francesca Takes the Stairs by Cami Park «» Seven in the Morning by Max Ruback «» Baby in a Jar by Tom Saunders «» The Color of Moths by Holly Selph «» The List by Paul Silverman «» Glasgow Lullaby by Rob McClure Smith «» Night Birds by Craig Terlson «» Quake by Beth Thomas «» Deep in the Heart of Texas by Robert Travieso «» Disappearances by Jeff Vande Zande «» This Is Just Another Yarn by Ann Walters «» Travel by Nancy Zafris «» Interviews: Mike Amato «» Rusty Barnes «» Myfanwy Collins «» Alicia Gifford «» Tod Goldberg «» John Leary «» Stefani Nellen «» Cami Park «» Max Ruback «» Tom Saunders «» Holly Selph «» Paul Silverman «» Rob McClure Smith «» Craig Terlson «» Beth Thomas «» Robert Travieso «» Jeff Vande Zande «» Ann Walters «» Nancy Zafris «» Cover Art "A Gathering of Matisse" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor|