Another Day of Quarantine The morning sun bathes our bedroom with soft light on a morning more than serene, a real gift on another day of quarantine. Cool March air via a slightly opened window drifts in. I welcome the freshness of the air and the sunlight. They bring the end of night, and assurance that darkness won’t prevail. The true blessing, of course, is being quarantined with you, having you beside me, the halo of your silver hair soft upon your pillow. The morning air billows the window curtain, offering a badly needed certainty that normalcy remains, will sustain us to the end. I abhor the thought of living through this quarantine alone, for you are bride, lover, companion and friend, and if the end is at hand, we’ll weather it together. I will, however, put that thought off for another day. We have breakfast to get, exercise waiting, reading aloud in the late afternoon, absolutely every fine detail of life still to glean on yet another day of quarantine. ** What Boys Do Stay in the neighborhood, my mother said as I headed out the door. I don’t want you getting up to no good, which meant avoiding those things boys do to challenge their fear of death. I met Skinny and Dan in the empty lot behind the billboard. We walked through the weeds, bottles and cans strewn about, and stood looking up at the back of the billboard, two stories high, as if it were Mt. Kilimanjaro high above the Kilimanjaro plains, and we Masai warriors climbing to meet the gods. We’d not tried it before, but had seen older boys do it, one even walking along the top, his arms stretching into eternity like The Great Wallenda. We stood, our necks craned, until Skinny asked, You candy asses gonna stand here all day? and he began to haul his corpulence up the slanted beams, his powerful hands and legs working steadily as he ascended. Ten or twelve feet above us he looked down, spat and laughed, then clucked like a chicken, so we followed his lead and began our own ascent. Skinny called out encouragement as he neared the summit, and though my arms and legs were beginning to quiver, I forged on, fearful of being the one who couldn't cut it. Finally we were side-by-side at the peak puffing, our legs trembling, relieved to be gripping the 2x6 that ran the length of the billboard looking down on pedestrians, cars, and busses below all ignorant of the spies looking down on them. Don’t anybody spit, I warned. Okay! Skinny challenged. Who’s gonna walk it? Not me! Me neither! I felt my chest tighten and my hands grip the 2x6 like a storm pelted sparrow clinging to a branch. Chicken! He scorned, clucking once again, but he stood quietly, the sound of traffic rising to our ears. The fear was palpable. It’s a long way down. I’d make a helluva splat. Oh Jesus! Dan whispered. You don’t have to pray, Dan, I’m not going to do it. Dan's eyes were wide. My mother just came out of the hardware store. Sure enough, Dan’s mother was headed up the street away from us. Spooked, we descended ever so carefully, relieved when our feet touch the grass of the Kilimanjaro plains. We didn’t speak during our walk home, never said See ya as we parted. I slipped in the through the back door to find my mother on her hands and knees washing the kitchen floor. You’re back early. She said. I’m tired, was my reply. Tired? What have you been doing? We climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, Well, no wonder you’re tired. Why don’t you lie down and take a little rest? ** From the Window of the Studio A red pickup truck sits askew on concrete blocks, looking indifferent, aloof, unconcerned about the rain beating a tattoo on its roof. It sits amidst wet winter weeds, wrappers, beer bottles, and the ubiquitous white plastic chair which lies on its back, tipped over when its occupant dashed indoors to escape the rain. It has probably driven its last miles, though the loving and talented hands of the right mechanic may eke out a few more precious turns of the odometer. Where in laying down all those miles did it go? On what desert highway did its radiator boil over? What wrong turn did it take and follow along to the end of the road, where it fell into the rabbit hole, pleased the Queen of Hearts because it was rose red, and she’d never ridden in a Chevy pickup before.
About Michael P. Aleman:
I was raised in a Mexican-American home in Chicago. The Mexican influence was strong and appears in my short stories regularly. I was a reader early, and loved playing with words. Word humor was always interesting and fun for me. Still is. I have a Masters Degree in English from Gonzaga University, a fine school beyond basketball. I taught English for thirty years and spent four years teaching Education at Whitworth University before returning to the public schools. I spent my youth in Chicago, and Powder River and Casper, Wyoming giving me as broad a range of experiences as one could imagine. I have a modest publishing portfolio with poems in the penwood review, The Atlanta Review, Elysian fields Quarterly and a few other journals. I’m well retired and write at will.