He looks at it without surprise, as if we’d talked about it many times before.
‘Ah. This was when I went to work for my uncle Francesco –they used to call him Frank over there.’ He looks at the back of the picture: “New York, 1974”. It didn’t work out. He missed the sea too much, he says. He places the Polaroid on his chest. I’m by his bed, and it’s a quiet moment. The pale spring sun plays with a glass of water on the bedside table.
He hands the photo back to me. I found it yesterday inside one of his old wallets. In the picture, Dad looks as if he’s not too keen on her. She tries to hold on to him, and he looks uncomfortable.
‘What was her name?’
He coughs and my body tenses, ready to call the nurse. His hand grips the sheet and then relaxes. He looks at me and shakes his head. It’s not one of his coughing fits.
‘You look scared in this picture.’ I insist.
He gives out a brief laugh. ‘Scared!’ His eyes sparkle and say: “Son, my body was strong and demanding. A body designed to eat and drink and love, and you should know these things by now.”
There isn’t much left of him in that bed. Skin and bones, as they say. I swallow and take his hand. It’s light and brittle as some of the shells we used to collect in the summer.
His breathing, for a moment, is relaxed and silent.
He glances at the door to make sure no one is listening.
‘Her name was Ruth,’ he whispers, as he did when he revealed to me the great mysteries of the currents and the winds and the clouds.
Story by Fabrizio Ghiandai
I remember meeting her at the bar on 8th street. The “Kat’s In The Bag” bar, they specialized in tropical fruity martinis. She didn’t drink, so she ordered a virgin Shirley Temple. “Extra Cherries”. She had blonde hair so ashy and white that it was almost grey. Her eyes reminded me of blue jays, and her lips were plump like vineyard red wine grapes. She had a delicate touch, and her face looked well rested. Before the date though, I had just got off work from doing maintenance on the new Hospital in Jefferson county. My eyes look as if they’re being dragged down by the weights of my forgotten responsibilities, but she was there and she made me happy and that was all that made me happy at the time. She was something out of a movie and I felt like a mere peasant in her presence, but she loved me after a while. After this date we sat in my car on highway 70 listening to Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock”. She grabbed the hairbrush out of her purse and song her little bird lungs out until she was strawberry pink from her forehead to her cheeks. I remember watching her, she reminded me of a little kid. She seemed to never run out of energy, and she was always optimistic. Being around her gave me energy, and gave me hope for a better life. After spending 4 years with her after this date, I decided to ask her dad for permission to marry her. Of course he was hesitant, just because she was his little girl. But when I took her back to the “Kat’s In The Bag” and proposed to her, she was ecstatic and she enthusiastically screamed “Yes!”. The bartender took our picture, and we left to go to Vegas to celebrate. It was a good day, to say the least.
Story by Brittany Swanger
Back in the 80’s my wife and I ran the most purest coke organization, I mean we owned the whole city. It all started back in college she was much older than I but I didn’t care, she was young with perfectly bleach-blond hair. My best bud Ken introduced me to her while we were on the beach in California on spring beak. As she approached me and Ken with Ken’s girlfriend, Cindy, she waved and said “Hello, I’ve never met you before…”and then Ken said, “Oh Bell this is my best bud Jack.” “Jack this is Cindy’s best friend Bell.”
“My name is Isabell but Bell for short.” “You could call me either or.” And I said “My name is jack but you could call me Jack.”
She was the only one besides myself to laugh at my corny joke and at that moment I knew I had to have her. She was a flight girl who accommodated people on their flights to and from their destination. See we were the perfect combination; Ken introduced me into dealing coke. If it wasn’t for him I’d be nowhere. She would fly to my connect and bring everything back and she was happy about it, never discouraged me. What Bell didn’t tell me is that she had a tumor on her brain. 2 years later she had passed from lung cancer and I ended up in jail. So you see this picture is about the best thing that ever happened in my life. Thank you Bell.
Story by Shavon Thomas