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The Speed of the Sound
by Patty Petelin

art by Amara Leipzig
art by Amara Leipzig
Tonight, for the first time, he remembered. When he sees the dark start to churn and the wind start to rise, he gets excited and distracted. But for you, this night, he has remembered the extra chair. And tonight is supposed to be real big. Would you like to sit with me and watch the storm come in, he says.

The chair is made of oak and it is straight-backed but not uncomfortable. He tells you he has seen every single storm from this very place beginning with the Monsoon of Veritable Doubt. You know. Just like this, he says. You know because you have watched him. He props the door open with a five-pound bag of Great Northern beans and you ask if he ever thought of building a porch.

In a way it's a shame because no one is sure how much longer the storms will be around. Around like this. East of here they started selling low-grade tropical storms to those with permits. Cats and Dogs, the merchant calls them.

Pretty soon they'll try to sell you your own suffering too, he says and links his hands together, resting them on top of his head. Elbows out like the arrow of a weathervane. But don't worry not us, he says, we'll join those brave fat sisters in Corpus Christi Bay, though we'll need to get some lawn chairs. He laughs but he doesn't look at you. God loves them, he says.

The wind is gaining. The clouds are almost black now and stewing. You hear him say something softly, not to himself but not to you either, about how after all the years and all the storms he still can't be sure which one comes first, the light or the sound. Seems sound is catching up, he says. You hear this clearly. And: I'm sorry that for so long I forgot the extra chair.

You didn't know men like him said they were sorry.

His hands are still linked, elbows still out. You tuck a knee under you. The trees are really singing now, a howling chorus of leaves. You close your eyes and see the Sanchez sisters in their lawn chairs, waiting at the lip of the Gulf for the next big one, protecting by watching. And beyond, way beyond, hills like hiccups and ducks so proud no one dares feed them.

Read the interview.

Patty Petelin is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives and writes in Chicago.

Amara Leipzig was born in Los Angeles, CA, and currently resides in Chicago, IL. Working mainly with narrative multiples (comics, prints, artist books, and writing), Amara investigates indeterminacy, non-space, perception and identity through the experience of reading an artwork—in the space that exists between the hands and eyes. You can find more of Amara’s work at

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2015 by its authors.

Issue Thirty-Eight (December 17, 2012): Call Me Your Unbroken by Chuck Augello «» Slow Dance by Andrea Danowski «» Moms' Advice by Amy Denham «» Crushed Ice by Gary Fincke «» Second Runner-Up by Faith Gardner «» The Fear of Something Happening by Nick Harmon «» Christopher by Annie Hartnett «» Messing with Texas by Anderson Holderness «» Exercise in Translation by Naira Kuzmich «» Boy Cyclops by Helen McClory «» We Were Always Laughing by Mark O'Neil «» The Speed of the Sound by Patty Petelin «» The Earth Drowns Us by Brenda Peynado «» Shit To Do with a Wedding Dress by Angela Readman «» The Invitation by Amy Scharmann «» The Abridged Biography of an American Sniper by Linda Simoni-Wastila «» Dark Times by Matthew Smart «» Parameters of a Kingdom by Laurie Saurborn Young «» Interviews: Chuck Augello «» Andrea Danowski «» Amy Denham «» Gary Fincke «» Faith Gardner «» Nick Harmon «» Annie Hartnett «» Anderson Holderness «» Naira Kuzmich «» Helen McClory «» Mark O'Neil «» Patty Petelin «» Brenda Peynado «» Angela Readman «» Amy Scharmann «» Linda Simoni-Wastila «» Matthew Smart «» Laurie Saurborn Young «» Cover Art by Josh George «» Letter From the Editor
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