Monday, July 14, 2014

House Envy

The middle house on the street's east side resented its west side counterpart. Staring at a solid mahogany front door opening and closing so perfectly made it angry and do things like, when there were no people around, shout profanity. Not that people could hear or understand house language anyway, nor could dogs. Cats understood and saw it all, but they were no help - they sat on window sills and listened and meowed. Houses just ignored them.

Limestone headers above metal paned windows on the west side's middle house added to the constant dismay of the east side middle house. For years, east sneered at west. West laughed at east with its peeling paint and water damaged brick. The laughter infuriated east further and its shouting would ensue until a point of exhaustion came, a defeated state of frustration. East felt hopeless to change its situation because no matter how much noise it made, it remained stuck in place. A house could scream and make a fuss, but it couldn’t move.

Years passed and people bought and sold the houses. Neighborhood cats died and others were born and still others were brought along by owners or renters. Dogs came and went too, but the houses paid them no mind. The middle house on the east side couldn't see itself as it underwent renovation inside and got a new coat of paint out front, but it felt the changes as they occurred, and it eyed the reaction of its nemesis across the street. Its nerves were raw in anticipation of something it couldn’t affect, something it had no choice but to accept. It knew everything was okay, though, when it saw the west side middle house cringe with jealousy.

When the east side middle house finally looked across the street with confidence, it missed the drama of the screaming it used to do. Cats missed the screaming too – they slept on the window sills in peace instead of meowing with eyes wide. Dogs went on as if nothing had changed.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Keep Calm and Pass to Mertesacker

"Honey, can you run out for some bread?"

Tactic number one: ignore. Mark kept his eyes peeled to the screen as if he hadn't heard his wife's request.

"Honey?"

Tactic number two: plead. "But it's the middle of the Ghana Germany game. Can I go when it's over?"

Sheila frowned. "The rest of the food will be out any minute. Isn't this why we have DVR? Can't you pause it?"

Moments later Mark walked up 22nd Street, cursing under his breath. He looked around him – people's windows were open. He'd have to avoid hearing any loud cheers or shouting as any errant word could give away the action of the match and ruin the rest of it for him. But how could he shut himself off from the sounds all around him? Ghana had only just tied the score at 1 – 1 when he'd left the house.

At the market he was careful not to make eye contact with anyone. While he doubted that shoppers were, say, following the game on their smart phones and/or chatting about more recent play than he'd seen, he didn't want to take any chances. He paid for the bread and began his walk home.

Then it happened: a man stepped out from a row home and Mark's gaze fell upon the man's shirt, a shirt that could only belong to a Germany fan:


Without thinking, his eyes moved from the man's shirt to his face, only for an instant, and Mark started to panic. What was that expression? Certainly not elation, but not downright depression either. Mark looked at his watch and saw that twelve minutes had passed since he'd left his house. How much could happen in twelve minutes? A lot. A lot can happen in twelve minutes in a match. That Germany fan in the Mertesacker shirt looked defeated. Ghana must've taken the lead. No, maybe he just looked stoic. No, perhaps he stepped out to catch his breath because he'd recently been screaming with unbridled joy. No. No, no, no!

"Sheila, here's your bread." Mark practically leapt past her and back onto the couch, fumbling the remote as he reached for it.

"Come on Mark, keep calm."

"Keep calm?!" He turned to his wife. "Are you in cahoots with that Germany fan down the street?"

Sheila had no idea what Mark's question meant, so she sighed and decided to use tactic number one herself. She ignored him.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Riding to South Philly (on Pure Slush)

(This week's micro story, Riding to South Philly, is one I submitted to Pure Slush for their 2014 travel theme. You can read it by clicking here. Thanks once again to Pure Slush's fantastic editor, Matt Potter.)