A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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September 2005, vol 1 no 2

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Michael McClintock

Great Rockaway

tin cans rattling
in a bag—
the music of Paradise

I'd been retired for a month and it was time to arrange for the payout of those special investment funds I'd squirreled away for the past twenty years to supplement the meager pension. Several of my work colleagues had done the same, and from one of them, who heard of my plans, I received this strange letter:

I, too, had funds with "Great Rockaway." Let me know what you plan to do when you at last come to realize it was all a myth, a spun-sugar fantasy. I could have warned you about all this, but decided not to, as I wanted to observe how you would react to the situation—a sort of a rat-in-the-maze kind of problem. I have always had a clinical-type interest in you, not unlike the entomologist's feelings for his subject. This should now get really interesting. Thank you for bringing me such happiness and pleasure. Yours, -

I folded the note away and made a quick, uneventful trip to Glendale. I easily found Central Avenue and drove on to 500 North Central, where I saw a large building with a strange shifting sort of sign. I could never quite catch the name of the building. I parked in a trash truck lot conveniently nearby and trekked to 500 North Central.

ah the city
tumbles under
the sun in
blue gulfs
of air

Once there I took the elevator to the 2nd floor, expecting to find room 220. I went down the hall to the right of the elevator, and found 200 and 210, but no 220. So I went to the left of the hall and found 230 and 240, but no 220. All the doors were locked so I could get no help. I went down to the lobby but it was abandoned. There I found an old gent leaning on his broom, apparently a custodian. I asked him where I might find the Great Rockaway office, or room 220. He asked if I had tried the 5th floor. I said no; he said you might try that. I went up to the fifth floor and found only scaffolding and construction, but no people. No 220. I went back down to the lobby and found the old gent again. I told him I could not find 220 on the fifth floor. He looked bemused and shook his head, saying, "Hmmm, it was there last week." He thought a while and said a lot of times people came in and couldn't find 220. He said it seemed to move and shift and some never found it. I said I HAD to find 220! All my money was there. He asked if it was much money. I said it was to me. He could tell I was quite agitated and said I might go try 260. Sometimes people got help there. He said the entrance to 260 was off a janitor's closet and pointed the direction. I made my way there and up a flight and a half of stairs until I found a door labeled 260. I timidly opened the door, and found a ceiling only four or five feet high—it was a half floor! I crouched my way in and saw no one. On a desk was a stack of papers saying "Take One," then some complicated directions on this half floor that would lead to room 220. I worked my way from there, following the instructions. I began to smell the warm aromas of comforting food. I approached a door and emerged—into a MC DONALD'S! I turned over the instruction sheet and found a coupon for free French fries, with the words "We have moved and have no forwarding location. Enjoy the fries. Great Rockaway." Bereft, I made my way back to where I had parked. As I walked by 500 North Central, the sign continued to shift—it seemed to be winking at me. My car was gone and the lot locked. I walked over to the Glendale Library, where I sit now. I booted Miss Ross off an Internet computer and got into my email via MailStart. I am going out to pick up cans and see if I can make cab fare back to my place. Wish me luck.

Animal Control
took my cat this morning
my caged bird stopped singing
months ago
now I'm alone and bitter


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