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Grant Currier

Cement and Timber

Down the Alley by Max Grau

Still in the midst of everything— that year’s resolutions included getting rid of the fourth round of his boxes— she managed to fit in a morning run, though she didn’t feel conditioned enough for the approaching marathon. Two of her children had told her a woman of her age shouldn’t be running long distances, shouldn’t be running alone. She agreed, but didn’t bother with their advice, having wished the youngest had joined in the admonishment and broken her four years of silence.

In their swinging her hands had felt empty. They wanted to revert to their old stiffness, the way she held them in front of her to grip the handles and push him along so he could enjoy the common graces of the sun and the paved path.

Others in a practiced but tepid domestic koan told her she had her life back now, that she could for the first time in decades concentrate on herself. She could travel or learn a language, garden, bring back the old chrysanthemums or persimmon trees. You make the best persimmon and bresaola, was their argument. She knew she did. But she wanted neither a new life nor her old one; she had liked the old one too much, and newness was no longer something attractive or sanguine.

Maybe she wanted distraction, and maybe that was all they were trying to give her. Without the weight of his chair she moved faster uphills and over the flat stretches where pin oaks, the crowns of which were a leathery colorlessness, cast leafless shadows on the pathway.

She came back sweating and stinking and set her keys on the parlor table. next to the bowl of homemade plum fruit leather he had always enjoyed. She probably wouldn’t ever empty the bowl. The quiet stabbed her once, perhaps twice, so she stepped back outside while the sun was still warm, with maybe an hour or two left of sunlight. On the unpolished wooden ramp they had had installed sometime last year—(she couldn’t remember the exact date)— she stretched herself. The grain tickled her calves, the tips of her fingers as they spread against it.

Her children had urged her to remove it, the ramp, because it would be many years before she would need it. His need for it had come unexpectedly. Like a gift, she thought, setting us apart from them. Down the road she could see the hulking body of her son’s jalopy. Her tears, her snot-glossed lips she could blame on the wind and the run. Which she regretted, good as she felt. Patting her eyes, she stood to greet her son, her firstborn.

She might accuse her children of moving away from grief too quickly, of being insensitive to his memory. Or of being fuller forms of their mother who had, in a moment of exhilarating selfishness, plucked some needless fruit from the branches of the dead.


About the writer:
Grant Currier’s stories have previously appeared in Waxwing, ZeitHaus, and The Rubbertop Review. While earning his MFA, he received the Coulter Emerging Writer’s Award. Currently, he teaches composition and literature courses at local universities.

Image: Down the Alley by Max Rau (contemporary). Fine art photograph. No technical information specified. By 2018. By permission.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

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