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Cars as far as anyone could see ahead and as far behind. This was to be expected, a tax for driving. Three or four snuck through on green when the signals changed but only to the next stalled stack, never to open road. Although we had all driven here deliberately, nobody wanted to be in this place long enough to look at it. We wanted it behind us. With clear highway ahead we might have felt less vagrant, but stuck on hot black asphalt between a service station and a comically cheerful liquor store at the intersection of who can remember and please don’t remind me, we couldn’t pretend we were headed anywhere. The car to my right was so close I could hear the driver grinding her teeth. The driver to my left was spinning his steering wheel pointlessly back and forth. We sat through two light changes without moving. I had spent a small dog’s lifetime trying to follow a metaphorical map, rushing without looking through years as forsaken as this crossroads. Now, sitting here in a sealed container which, because it wasn’t moving, had become my world, I was gagging on my own spent breath. A driver pulled into the intersection with nowhere to go and shut his engine off. His one car going nowhere by choice amid hundreds of cars going nowhere out of necessity seemed thrilling and defiant. Otherwise people get killed, I thought, when drivers with tempers feel trapped and blame other drivers. I shed my seat belt and pulled myself up through the moon roof. Standing on the seat with my shoulders, head, and chest released from the car, I squinted toward my destination and tried to picture myself happy there, climbed out, left the engine idling, and walked away from it all.

The 5:42 to Belgenhagen left the station without our engineer. He chased it desultorily to the end of the platform waving his pastry in vain at the empty locomotive car as we pulled out from the shed into the icy dawn with certain questions. Read the rest of this entry »

I had no magic as a child. I would have used it if I had, to stop the Boots from kicking me where I hid. Flat against the bedroom floor with the floor of the sky just inches above my nose, I knew no safer, more anonymous place to be, Read the rest of this entry »

A simple man named Abraham Kosofsky watched his tiny town of Berezovka grow tinier every day. Fannie, he asked his wife, What will become of us when all our neighbors are carried away by this coughing fit and buried? Read the rest of this entry »

The light I saw flickering in my wife’s eyes as we sat at the little table we use for dinners that don’t involve watching reruns and the radiant golds that shimmered behind her, framing the face I love best after my own, Read the rest of this entry »

We haven’t always envied clerks and stockers at the Big Box store. Now we chat with Carl in appliances or listen to Edith at register 6 and we dream of following them home for a hot dog dinner and a night with the TV. A night in the family room. A porch. Read the rest of this entry »

Between the weeklong mentoring retreat and the four-day money migration futurecasting conference, Temple had only one day left for work, and perhaps because of that pending workload, Read the rest of this entry »

I promised my daughter my heart, forgetting it wasn’t mine. You were there, fat with her, already weary of the burden and beautiful, intolerably beautiful. You made demands: a hairbrush, a mirror, not that hairbrush, ice yes but not ice chips, a delivery date— Read the rest of this entry »

Summer camp for boys had been a nightmare of fellowship and other itchy rashes. For weeks, he had tried to find somebody he could like or a hiding place, but they had pestered him with bows and arrows, canoes and climbing ropes. The ropes he liked. Read the rest of this entry »

It so happens I’m sick of being a man if this is what it means. I won’t be home today or at the office either. I’ve been summoned and nothing else matters. Permit me to narrate. Read the rest of this entry »

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299-WORD NOVELS

Character, conflict, emotional impact. And sentences! Everything you want in a novel, without one extra syllable.

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The pen name David B Dale honors my parents Beatrice and Dale. David+B+Dale = davidbdale

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