A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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December 2007, vol 3 no 4

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Richard Straw



Bright spots are rare in this small town, even on Christmas Eve. Earlier tonight, after watching a campy movie in a cold theater, I joined a couple of older friends, Junior and Jesse, to go caroling. Rather than ask them to drop me off at home later, I agreed to chug-a-lug beers at their apartment above Jack's TV shop. Then, on Junior's dare, we almost got shot at by Foxy on Senate Street because of something Jesse said to one of Foxy's girls. We got separated at The Attic after I was pushed down the wide wooden stairs for getting up on the bar with a go-go dancer.

In the shadows of an Erie freight train slowly creaking behind me, I catch my breath and wish Weller's Grill were open so I could get a coffee. From the airplane I hear, the street lamp next to Joe's Cigar Store must look no brighter than the match I'm using to relight a wet cigarette stub. Some never can be relit. I think of the boy my older sister and I both knew who returned from Vietnam last spring in a body bag. And there's Thomas Merton, a writer I've been reading nonstop since getting his autobiography at Goodwill a year ago. He was accidentally electrocuted in a Bangkok hotel room earlier this month. What can I do after graduation next spring—should I wait to be drafted while working at the Whirlpool plant to save money for college, or should I try for CO status? Maybe the Trappists in Georgia would accept me as a lay brother...

I'm fumbling now in my jacket for the silver pocket watch I bought earlier at the cigar store. But its hands aren't moving, and I'm too tired to look up and ask for the time from the stern, luminescent faces of the courthouse clock. I press on and push against the dark plate glass doors of Henney & Cooper's drug store where mom made sundaes for teenagers during World War II. But the store's clock is in shadows. I pass the permanently locked Marion Theater where dad, because the military doctors didn't OK him to serve his country, ushered kids in to see "B" westerns on Saturdays during the war. Dizzy, I stop at Wiant's Book Store where artwork by grade-schoolers is on display. My crude world map from 6th grade was once in that same front window. Mom and dad were so proud. Dropping to my knees on the sidewalk, I retch against the wall, say "I'm sorry," and then head home to start the day anew.

trash day drizzle
leaving Sunday's funnies
atop the bin

Note: The title for "Katallagete" is a Greek word, spoken in the imperative, that means, "Be reconciled" (see 2 Corinthians 5:20).