Flat building. Flat windows. Flat sky. Flat sun.
Alex kicks a can. It ricochets off the building wall. Chips away the white paint, creating a fresh wound of the red brick below. Above the rift, his eyes drift to an open window on the ground floor. A window that leads into the apartment of an old man with a ski slope back. With a face permanently scowled. Once I asked mom why he looked that way, and she said that’s how some people ended up when they missed others and were not themselves missed.
Alex lifts himself on the sill to peek inside the old man’s home. When he’s sure the coast is clear, he picks up a slice of newspaper, balls it and throws it inside. Next, an empty can, which yelps tinnily as it hits the kitchen tiles. The rest of us nervous titter and for Alex that’s enough of a pat on the back as he darts down the alley and returns with a broken-necked beer bottle and lobs that in too. A few of us laugh again as it shatters, but more of us shuffle our Keds and our Reeboks and suggest playing manhunt or hide-and-seek instead. But Alex is already returning from the basement by then, lugging a bloated garbage bag, which he splits open like the belly of some beast. The insides spilling out putrid: mushy tomatoes, diseased banana peels, leaky milk cartons, cracked eggshells still oozing their yolks and our heads shake no no no as he bundles it up and forces it through the window. After, keeling with laughter so intense spit gathers in the corners of his mouth as he hugs his gut.
And then the old man is in the alley too, his slope making him appear the same size as us. The worn brown suit and old-fashioned hat. That brown cane, like a giant finger pointing at us as he shouts. Alex dancing around him, dodging that waggling finger. Some of us run away as Alex taunts him. Others watch from a distance with our hearts thumping off beat. Others look down at our crisp, new sneakers again as the old man palms his chest. And we watch the ski slope back slope nearer to the glass-spattered ground of the alley. And hear the siren that we will later swear was wailing you you you you to anyone in its path. Just like the cane. That finger pointing.
L. Soviero was born and raised in Queens, New York but has made her way around the world, currently laying her hat in Melbourne. She has an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. Recently, she has been nominated for Best of the Net, longlisted at Wigleaf and spotlighted in Best Small Fictions. Check out more of her work at lsoviero.com.