A simple premise; a bold promise
To present one story per day, every day—providing exceptional authors with exposure and avid readers with first-rate fiction.


There’s this fella from out of town who stops at the convenience store about once a month and he’s always telling me he don’t never want to move here. Last week I asked him why he always says that and he said he’d heard a lot about this area, and then he mentioned Ed. I told him Ed was a friend of mine and this guy from out of town says that everyone knowed the Bridgeton fire department coulda come an’ cut them chains off Ed if they’da wanted to, and the whole thing never woulda ended the way it did.

I don’t know about that.

When I first seen Ed walking on up to the Hotel Sterling I thought he was there to watch it come down, just like the rest of us was. Seemed like the whole city was there that day, to see the demolition of this historic hotel and all. People was mad as hell about it, too. Some there was carrying Save the Sterling signs, but most of us was there just to bear witness. Bunch of us from Joe’s Diner; we’d just decided that mornin’ to go take a look. Ed always got the special at Joe’s every Saturday, but I don’t recall if he ate there that morning. I been going there fifty years and I think Ed has too.  I used to get the pancakes, but had to stop that on account of my high sugar.

Anyways, we see Ed come up to the Sterling. He walks right past the police barricades, carrying these chains — long ropes of thick metal links that musta weighed fifty pound or more. He’s got one set over his shoulder and carries two others in both hands, like dumbells. He just goes right up to the front pillars of the Sterling — ya know, the grand entrance with them marble pillars — and attaches himself to one pillar with these chains, wrapping and wrapping, then takes out a couple padlocks from his pocket and locks them all together.

Now, I’ve knowed Ed Stanislaw ever since I can remember. He comes from a good family, good church-going people. Think he had one brother who moved away a while back. Ed and I served in Korea at the same time. When he come back, Ed married Patty Markowski, his high school sweetheart, and they moved into the same house Ed growed up in, with his parents. He was planning on following his Pop into the mines, but then the old man was one of those that never made it out during the Knox mine disaster.  It was unfortunate.

So then Ed had to figure how’s he gonna take care of his family with no jobs in the mine no more. But the company must’ve gave the family a little bit o’ money on account of his dad’s passing, and he and Patty used that money to open up a travel agency down there on Main Street. Stanislaw Travel they called it. Specialized in group packages: bus trips to New York and Atlantic City. People weren’t sure at first if they wanted to ride all that way on a bus to places like that, but after a while it seemed to catch on. After all, it was only for a day and they could be home to sleep in their own beds.

Ed and Patty closed up Stanislaw Travel about twenty years ago now. The building’s still there on Main Street though, and the sign.  Sometimes out-of-towners stop at the convenience store to ask for directions to the casino down here, and I tell them to just go straight down Main and make the left at Stanislaw Travel. One time a guy come back and says to me, he says “Don’t you realize Stanislaw Travel’s been closed some twenty years?” And I says, “Yes sir, I sure do, but that don’t mean I can’t give directions by it. The sign’s still here. The building’s still here.” See, some of these out-of-towners coming in, they got no respect. Don’t appreciate our history, the things that make this city such a great place to raise a family.

Now, Mayor Davis already was there when Ed showed up. And the Bishop too. It was damn near like a funeral for that Hotel Sterling. People was crying and what have you. Some of ‘em wearing all black. So, Mayor Davis and the Bishop walk on over to Ed and they says to him ‘Ed, what in the hell you doing?’

And Ed looks them in the eye and he says “I need some water. Somebody needs to get me a drink of water.”

Well, I’ll tell you, it was hot that day. Sweat was collecting on my back, that sort of sweat, you know? The kind of day where if you sit down, sometimes you stick to the chair on account of the humidity. And Ed was not looking so good.

Mayor Davis sends one of his boys to fetch water, then asks again, “Ed, what are you doing?”

Ed spits and then says “Billy, you said when you took office that you was going to make sure to preserve this place, restore it, make it great again.”

Well there’s nothing the Mayor could say to that. It was the truth. But the Bishop steps up and he decides to bring up Ed’s wife Patty. I mean, no one ever done brought her up with him before, least not that I heard of.

First you should know that Ed and Patty never did have kids of their own. Don’t know why, but I suspect it was something they weren’t happy about. Course they never talked about it or nothing. Some stuff you keep to yourself. But my wife was real friendly with Patty through the church and my wife says Patty sometimes would have a good cry about it.

And she used to be real generous with the kids. There ain’t a lot of kids ‘round here no more. There used to be. You could ride your bike halfway ‘cross town and your ma wouldn’t be worried none. Heck, there was days I’d be down by the river fishing, then go to Aggie’s for some pagosh, then we might ride bikes over by the railroad tracks. But you don’t see kids out these days. I dunno why that is. Seems like there just ain’t any families much ‘round here no more, not like when I was growing up. But about a year or two ago, some of those Spanish-speaking folks started moving into the area. Don’t know where they come from or why they come here, but some of them moved in right next to Patty and Ed. And Patty would keep an eye on the kids there, you know? Not formal or nothin’ but she’d bake ‘em cookies and try to talk to them.

Well, one day, she’s sitting out there on the porch. Ed was inside watching TV. And Patty says to those Spanish kids “No, no, honey, stay out of the street, don’t chase that ball out there.”

They don’t pay no mind to her. Probably didn’t understand what the heck she was saying. So Patty gets up and plays with them. Now she was nearly seventy years old mind you, and every time those kids’ ball would roll into the street, she’d go chasing after it.

And wouldn’t you know it, bam! Some guy in a Buick hits her. Kills her, just like that. Right in front of the house. It was some guy fresh out of county lockup for holding up a convenience store. And Ed comes running out, hearing the sound and all. Eh.

So the Bishop I guess must have figured maybe Ed chained himself to the Hotel Sterling cause he was losing his mind, with Patty gone. Like all that grief was catching up to him. He was lost without her. So the Bishop looks at Ed and says “Tell me about the times you and Patty spent here.”

Ed sneers and says “Father, you know my parents was born here and died here. Patty and I was born here. We growed up here together. We’ll lay together in the ground.”

So the Bishop and the Mayor just look at Ed, not understanding nothing he’s talking about. And Ed asks again, “I’m really thirsty, can I please have a glass of water?”

He started wriggling around in the chains, like he was uncomfortable. The Mayor says “Ed, where are the keys? Where are the keys so we can unpadlock you out of these chains?”

And Ed shakes his head like he don’t know. By then the crowd is gathered ‘round. The police couldn’t hold ‘em back. Ed was everyone’s hero, being as how he was stopping the progress of the demolition.

Someone shouted out “Ed, why is the Hotel Sterling so important to you?”

Ed looked confused right then, like he’d no idea what the Hotel Sterling was. So he says “The Hotel Sterling’s been closed up damn near forty years, son. I ain’t never been in it.” Then he looks at everyone in the crowd, like he’s never seen none of ‘em before, and says “Ain’t none of you never been in it either. Any one of you been in this building?”

No one answered. ‘Cause come to think of it, it had been damn near forty years or longer that place had been closed up and we’d all been waiting for something to happen with it.

Well, everyone started getting real excited then. Talking about how they’d forgotten the place had been closed up and vacant for so long. The Mayor and Bishop got nervous, like they was worried there was going to be a riot or something, so they both held up their hands, like in peace, or surrender, depending on how you’se are looking at it.

“You can’t stop progress,” the Mayor said.

“Let us pray,” said the Bishop.

And that’s when Ed had a heart attack. Right there at the Hotel Sterling. Damn shame. There was just no way to disentangle him from those chains.

But you know, he saved that hotel. They couldn’t knock it down then. It’s still there. You’ll pass it on the way to the casino.


Dawn Zera is a journalist living in the Pennsylvania mountains and pursuing an MFA.


To comment on this story, visit Fiction365′s Facebook page.