by William Michaelian

There is something I need to tell you early yesterday morning I was walking along the railroad tracks there was a frantic mother bird a killdeer trying to rescue one of her babies from between the ties but a train was coming a long train I could tell by the sound it was moving slowly loaded with lumber dragging its burden along Front Street howling with grief as it approached the crossing the baby bird was scared by the noise it couldn�t fly it started to run in the wrong direction it ran under the train the mother and baby both were killed

They don�t see me but I see them they are blind to everything but themselves safe in shiny cars little prisons that slide over hot black sandpaper talking always talking they hold plastic toys up to their ears and talk they talk all day and I see them but they don�t see me they don�t know who I am they will never know my name or the meaning of my life if it has one or that I need a new hat or that last year my mother died oh how I loved my mother when I think of the way she sang to me when I was a boy and pointed up at the stars it really breaks my heart

The gospel mission is a place to eat I saw a man there pushing a shopping cart the man said his name was Ted I said how do you do Ted my name is shoot I don�t remember what my name is maybe later I�ll remember and you�ll be the first to know ha ha you�re new here aren�t you the food is not that good what do you know about the Bible do you believe in Jesus Christ it won�t get you any more food but it won�t hurt you either amazing how one Jesus is enough to go around at least that�s what good old Mike says see that�s him over there he runs the place

Today my feet hurt I think they�re going to split wide open maybe I�ll walk down by the river and give them a bath clean off the blood I wonder if I should find another town then again I�m used to it here I like the park by the courthouse where the kids feed the pigeons yesterday I found a bag of French fries on a bench and a hungry squirrel was looking up at me I said no not today you don�t I have my own problems oh well here I guess one won�t make any difference not in the overall scheme of things after that he wouldn�t leave me alone which I appreciated

Tell your grandmother thank you it�s important you don�t know how lucky you are she buys you ice cream that costs three dollars give her a big smile go ahead hold her hand when she takes you across the street she is proud of you you make her feel like her life�s worthwhile all the toils and troubles let me tell you you can only imagine once there was something called the great depression people waiting in line for a bowl of soup curling up in alleys looking for a place to die so they could sleep forever and wake up when it was all over and find the sun smiling again

This is what I want to tell you if the world ended today a lot of people wouldn�t even notice because for a lot of people the world ended the day they were born so don�t go thinking you are special because you read a newspaper or because your wife makes you breakfast or your husband plays golf the only special thing is waking up in the morning and finding out you are still alive finding out you are just as dumb as the day before finding out you have another chance if you don�t realize that then the world might as well end today and we can all go fly a kite

Three years ago I think it was or maybe it was a little longer I found a dog with a broken leg must�ve been hit by a car or something I�m not sure but I carried him down by the river and cleaned him up we sat there all day watching the water go by you should have seen his nose twitching taking in all the scents the blackberries the old cottonwood trees there�s a million things to smell by the river not all of them are good either I talked to him told him stay calm boy you�ll get through this okay stay calm that leg of yours�ll be ready in no time and bless his heart he believed me

The summer has been a long one I remember ten years ago we had a summer that wouldn�t end I was sleeping in an old warehouse with the spiders and the mice trying to keep cool got pretty sick from breathing chemical fumes of some kind there were empty containers in there I should�ve been more careful but this summer is really hot one hundred and four degrees without a breath of air the sky is brown my lungs hurt I notice they hurt a little more each year god I hope I don�t have cancer on the other hand what�s the difference sure wish it would rain

Thunder rattled the buildings last night I pictured the bricks in the old seed mill falling down but I checked later and they didn�t I found a young woman and a baby in a doorway on Front Street the mother was scared to death by the noise that was a sad sight to behold I gave her the rest of my doughnut apologized for not having more the baby was nursing making little smacking and sucking sounds she had no idea where she was or that she and her mother were in trouble and would never remember this moment but I will I swear I will just as long as I live

There was something else I was going to say I went to the library to cool off and give my feet a rest fell asleep in a soft chair by the window woke up there was a little girl looking at me her mother was looking at books several feet away the girl smiled at me do you know what it�s like to wake up and be smiled at by a little girl that�s just about the best thing that could happen to anyone I wanted to say thank you but didn�t because her mother might�ve heard me and gotten scared I looked at the little girl and did something I haven�t done in a long time I smiled back at her

William Michaelian�s newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelian�s other books and links to this site�s other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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