Fiction by Daniel Ellis
Out there, the unevenness of the rustbelt hides prosperity. In here,
everything is exposed: exposed ducts, exposed brick, exposed beams.
A soft breeze blows in the crisp white drapes, fluttering the late
afternoon sunlight on the wood floors. This is through my front window,
which looks out over the city. The windows along the side of this room
look down across the alley. I am trying to read a poem. Across the
alley, the neighbor idly swings open and then slams shut her screen door
over and over again: Bang. Bang. Bang. She shouts “Hey!” to several
passersby as a preface to yelling to them that she has locked herself out
of her house. In the poem I am trying to read, a boy who works in the
co-op is talking up a girl who makes pottery and wears a tight skirt.
The boy plays drums in a band called Sex Not Sexy. Her hair is a long,
ravishing mess. He has not showered today. They drink and smoke in
a dark and ragged afternoon bar. Sometimes they feel desperate, while
other times they simply put on the appearance of desperation. What the
neighbor has not locked out of her house is a case of Olympia, which I
watched her carrying back from the drug store down the hill, and
which, presumably, she was going to get at the moment when she pulled
the door shut, locked, without her keys. Her two pit bulls, locked inside,
bark at each bang, and again at the subsequent bang. Her old man, she
yells to a passerby, is on contract work at the refinery in Bradford.
Broken plastic furniture and odd tangles of tarps cover the porch.
Another Olympia is opened. Pssh. Crack. The boy and the girl tumble
out through the sunlight and into an unsound car. The landlord arrives.
The door is opened. The car starts. On either side of the front window
are two Japanese woodcuts. In one, a crane stands in a shallow pond,
beak pointed down, gazing intently into the water; in the other, two
cranes fly about each other, legs and wings twisted around characters in
dark brush strokes. The smokestacks and skyscrapers of evening rise
up from the city.
Daniel Ellis teaches writing and literature at St. Bonaventure University
in Allegany, New York. He received his MFA from the University of
New Orleans, and PhD from Temple University.
Place drove this story’s composition. In earlier drafts, I was
imagining it in the small town where I live. There was a neighbor
thing going on, of course. Some good images came from that, but
the piece wouldn’t come together. I set it aside, and I also moved.
Then I took an overnight trip to Pittsburgh, where I’d never been,
and about which I know almost nothing, and it was as if that city
was what the story had been waiting for. No particular details
came from the trip, and I wouldn’t say it’s set in Pittsburgh, but
just moving through that place for 24 hours made the story break
open for me in a way that it hadn’t before.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Volume 8, Number 1
Copyright © 2013
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to
in the Apple Valley
Review are retained by
the individual authors