Storyglossia Issue 33, April 2009.

When Me and Theodore Look at the Sky, We Pray for Rain

by Mary Hamilton


I put a pick up truck in the back of my pick up truck and drove to Milwaukee to look at the lights and the water. And I set myself down there in the snow and I watched the fires burn on the train tracks. Fires like the earth had opened up and the center heat was bursting out right there in the middle of all that snow. I sat there and watched the fire and waited for the train. Because when you get this close to the tracks, when the train goes by, it sprays you with all this water and snow and it sparks like camera flashes and if you're lucky a piece of ice will fly up and get you in the eye.

Milwaukee is a good place to get lost in. It's an easy place to be nobody. It's natural to be another outline. Another blurry shadow when the windows go rambling by.

I set myself a camp by those train tracks and I waited. I dug a hole. I did some exercises, sit-ups and push-ups and jumping jacks. I poked at a dead rabbit with a stick. And then I took that stick and put it in the train fire and when I twirled it in the air I made words out of the light the fire left behind. I took that stick and the coal ash it made and I wrote a poem for my ma on the side of a garbage dumpster. I kicked around in the dirt and snow for some spare change and I made like a play piano out of a saw bench turned on its side. And I put myself down in the snow right by the tracks and I waited for that rumble.

I came to Milwaukee to look at the lights and water. I set myself down there next to the train tracks and I put my head back in the snow like I was going to make an angel, I put my eyes on a streetlight and got mixed up by the snow and rain and light all together. In a past life I was a streetlight. In a past life I lost my left hand in a bet. I was a long stretch of road.

You know what they say, if you get lost, just walk in a circle and you'll be back to the beginning. Maybe it's not where you want to be, but at least it's home. So circle, here I come.

I suppose this is when a stray dog came and put himself next to me. Put his head right on my ribs. He got all cozy there like he knew me. And I didn't mind because as skinny as he was he was warm. And he was keeping me warm and I had just been thinking maybe I would sleep out here and see if I woke up even and this dog, he would make that harder with his heat and his cozying up like this. And, fuck, maybe this dog thinks I'm the one to provide the heat. I should figure some way to tell him I'm no source of salvation. I'll take all from him all I can. And I want to push him away, I want to kick him hard, I want to teach him a lesson. But he rolls his head like he's nuzzling and it just breaks my heart so I scratch him behind the ears and promise to never let him go. Together for the long haul, and he sighs like yeah, that's all right.

Copyright©2009 Mary Hamilton

Mary Hamilton is a writer, teacher, and optician living in Chicago where she is also the co-founder and co-host of the QUICKIES! reading series. Her stories have been published by Eclectica, Thieves Jargon, Fiction at Work, JMWW, decomP, Pindeldyboz, and Featherproof books, among others.