Explore O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press offerings on Amazon.
Subscribe to the O:JA&L YouTube channel.
Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.
Follow O:JA&L on Facebook.

Richard Sleboe


Sun Above the Roofs by Aristarkh Lentulov

I open the mailbox. It’s stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. We get nothing for days on end, and then all this on a single day? I strongly suspect the mailman is cutting corners. I take out the mail. Most of it is junk. I throw it out right away. I close the mailbox and walk over to the elevator. I press the call button. It lights up. Except for the skylight at the top of the stairs, the pale orange glow of the button is the only source of light in the darkness of the lobby.

The elevator arrives. The call button goes dark. The elevator door slides open. I step into the car. I press 7. The door slides shut. The ancient engine starts up with a jolt. It’s a long way up, and the elevator is slow. Plenty of time to look at the mail. A picture postcard from my brother. I can’t really make out the picture in the murky light of the elevator car, let alone read my brother’s message. I put the postcard at the back of the stack. Moving on. The gas bill. A letter from the co-op. An invitation to the opening of Daniel’s new show at the Black Maria. Finally, an official-looking envelope. I don’t like official mail. It’s usually bad news.

The elevator door slides open. I step out into the hallway. I put the mail in my mouth while I unlock the three locks of the door to our apartment. I kick the door shut behind me and drop the keys into the wooden bowl on the cabinet by the door. I put the mail on the kitchen counter. I turn the radio on. It’s tuned to WKLG, Lucy’s favorite station. It’s not my kind of music, but I let it play anyway. Lucy always says she has better taste than me, and she’s probably right.

I load the coffeemaker with Blue Bottle’s Beta Blend and fire up the stove. I take a closer look at my brother’s postcard while I wait for the coffee to percolate. The picture looks like a hole has been punched out of the sky. The caption says Roden Crater. I try to decipher my brother’s message, but his handwriting is illegible. I put the postcard on the fridge door.

The coffeemaker hisses. I switch off the stove and pour myself a cup. I take the coffee and the official-looking envelope to the balcony. The balcony is small, but there’s just enough room for a table and two chairs. I sit down and open the official-looking envelope. It contains a single sheet of pale orange paper that has been folded twice, Leporello style. I unfold it.

Disruption of service

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is to inform you that the sun will be shut down for maintenance at 5 pm on May 24. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Kind regards,
S. Wilson (on behalf of customer service)

May 24. That’s today. I check my watch. Half past four. Half an hour to go. This must be a joke. I check the sender. Helios Holdings, 10502 West Thunderbird Boulevard, Sun City, AZ 85351. I check the date of the letter. May 1. That was three weeks ago. Maybe the mailman has taken a vacation. I put the letter on the table and weigh it down with the ashtray so it doesn’t get blown away.

I hear Lucy’s keys rattling in the door.

“I’m home”, she shouts.

“I’m on the balcony”, I holler back.

Lucy takes a shower. She always does when she gets home. She says she needs to wash the world off her skin. Eventually, she steps out onto the balcony with a cup of coffee in her hand. She sits down on the chair across from me.

“That coffee must be cold.”

She takes a sip.


“I’ll make a fresh pot.”

“No need. I don’t mind.”

She picks up the letter.

“The sun?”, she asks.

I shrug.

Lucy lights a cigarette. I watch her smoke. I could watch Lucy smoke all day. It’s the best show on Earth.

“This is a joke, right?”

“That’s what I thought.”

“It has to be.”

“Could it be one of Daniel’s pranks?”

“It’s possible.”

And then the sky goes dark. The light doesn’t fade the way it does when the sun sets. It just goes out, like someone flicked a switch. I can’t see Lucy anymore, but I can still see the tip of her cigarette glowing in the darkness. For all I know, and all I care, that tiny orange dot is all there is now. It’s not much, but it’s not nothing.

About the writer:
Richard Sleboe divides his time between New Orleans, Louisiana, and the French Riviera. His short fiction has been published by Soigneur, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Spadina Literary Review, Metapsychosis, Q5, The Things I Have Found, Vigilius Mountain Stories, and in a number of obscure anthologies.

Image: Sun Above the Roofs- Sunset by Aristarkh Lentulov (1882–1943). Oil on canvas. 25.5 x 30.5 inches. 1928. Public domain.

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.

Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.