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Just Listen

It’s a warm summer evening, the kind that radio loves. Down at Rochambo the tv is on the fritz, vanquishing CNN, ESPN, and a whole slew of letters. Lou, the regular, can be heard saying, “the way things are going these days, I don’t know whether to laugh or shit or go blind,” as bartender Marty futzes with a radio. It crackles to analog life. Old school country, and Brady (semi-regular) applauds. “This is a different station,” says Marty. Then the DJ mentions “Abilene” and Lou slurs, “shit, this is coming all the way from Kansas.” A beautiful anomaly, Brady thinks. Thank you, atmosphere.

Jess strolls in. And here is the regular anomaly. At 22 and wearing shirts that read “Well-Behaved Women Don’t Make History” she doesn’t belong. But she argues politics with the old-timers shaking dice. Mostly likes to pull up a stool next to her old History teacher. “Evening, Brady.” He ceased being Mr. Stimpson mere nanoseconds after graduation.

Jess pontificates something she read online. Lou either echoes or argues, hard to say, as Brady’s attention tightens on the radio. A voice says,♫ take that summer dress and hang it on these lazy days…. ♫ Right on. “Where are we going and why the hand-basket, is what I ask,” Lou mutters. “You gotta agree,” Jess beckons.

“I don’t care,” Brady mutters and exits through the rear. They chased off the Abilene radio, and he hoped, by miracle of summer heat, he could sense it humming in the long grass out back.

Seconds later Jess is there. “Something wrong?”

“Something’s right.”

“You taught me to care about those things, back in class.”

“I did?” Shrugs. Waits. “You ever really look at the stars?”

“Sure. They’re beautiful.”

“No. Do you ever. Really.”

“Well, we won’t be able to if we keep pumping all these greenhouse gasses…”

And Brady isn’t listening anymore. The stars free-associate into snowflakes, falling in Cleveland. He is young and writing poetry in a cheap apartment he shares with a woman too much like Jess. He was a poet who killed the inspiration to celebrate the grief. He was socially-conscious, but was he awake?

How’d he end up teaching Jess to mimic that? Didn’t mean to.

“Let it all go,” he croons, hoping that’s enough to change her, to absolve him of wrongs done. The grass is humming. He can hear it now. “Just listen…”


Martin Brick’s fiction has been published in many places, including The Beloit Journal of Fiction, Vestal Review, Pindeldyboz, and Sou’Wester.  He was raised in rural Wisconsin, but currently reside in Columbus, Ohio,


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