Amy Stuber





On the roof, he was king:  Paul D., with the Flaming Lips blasting up from the open window of his bedroom, the sky and stars, a couple of people he barely knew taking bong hits in the living room, the nighttime crests and arches of houses around him, people coming back from bars, laughing and tripping over the loose ends of shoe laces, over each other, until they fell through slap-back screen doors and into houses and sleep. It was 1995, and just short of the drainpipe and the stuffed-in leaves from a fall and winter long gone, Paul D. could stand and look at the possibility of 2 a.m.

But at 7 a.m., in the restaurant kitchen, with Eli Von Hassel in a tantrum, throwing eggs that sliced airborne by his nose and smashed against the stainless door to the walk-in, it was different. Orders lined up, a rat skated by his tennis shoe, his soles became slippery with grease, eggs on the grill turned crinkly and overdone at the edges.

Paul D. didn’t have any specific reason for being there, Kansas, a mainly rectangular state known for flatness and weather. Nine months earlier and five hundred miles west, his wife Lori, pink hair, black fingernails, black fishnets, “Go home, you schmuck” tattooed on her right thigh, had cut her hair, bought a stack of cardigan sweaters at a thrift store and moved to a studio apartment near a college where she’d enrolled, mid-year, in all the first-year requirements. They were twenty-five, and Paul had a job washing dishes in a place with wall-mounted TVs, a place connected to a motel off of a small southern Wyoming highway. They’d gotten married in matching plaid pants in front of the garage apartment they rented from an older couple who never left their house. At the time, Paul D. collected old cameras, even told Lori he wanted to be a photographer, and so they drove to Fossil Butte for a weekend where he spent a few days taking pictures of bones and rocks and the withering carcass of what he thought was an elk, until he felt ridiculous about trying to make something that lasted and mattered.

After Lori moved out, Paul D. quit his job and started driving solid hours without a destination, through southern Wyoming, Northeastern Colorado, and most of Kansas, with coffee, Vivarin, cigarettes, whatever it took, until his car died in a college town just east of the rock-studded hills that made green ripples out of the center of the state. And this was what he’d ended up with, a kitchen full of aimless, oversleeping punk kids strong-armed by a stumpy, goateed kitchen manager who liked airborne food, food as ammunition, food on the floor.

In the winter, Kansas was a different kind of brown from Wyoming, which was rolling with low hills and a million crazy antelope that blended with the brown until they smacked into front grills of highway trucks and then just stared horizontal roadside accusations at anyone willing to look.

The Kansas summer was heat that hung over the sidewalks. Students threw burned-out Salvation Army couches in alleys by dumpsters and headed out of town. Paul D. sometimes sat outside when no one else was, sweating until he couldn’t stand it, and then went back into air conditioning so cold it was almost painful. There were no cliffs, no vistas, no reddish rocks circling a body of water. Instead, there was a constant green in the wavy lines of hot air, people on bikes weaving through closed-car traffic, people standing smoking outside of coffee shops, Amish women selling cream cheese brownies at the farmer’s market. This was when Paul walked to work, through the early morning and the alleys that separated the backs of houses, past the same man in all his sweaters with a shopping cart that he pushed in front of him, past the same thin cats, past the dumpsters thick with grease, food spilling out into the alley, the dragged and abandoned bounty of rats.

The restaurant where he worked was a new diner designed to look old: tin ceiling, black and white tile floors, chrome stools at a chrome-rimmed counter. They served breakfast all day and night: eggs in the morning, eggs in the afternoon, eggs close to midnight when people slouched down in booths from too much drinking, kicked each others’ feet unintentionally under the tabletops, and made their voices loud. Paul liked the place best then, when all he could see through the plate-glass front windows was the dark navy of night, and all he could see through the open back door were the loose-edged outlines of people moving through the alley, from bar to home, from car to bar.

On Labor Day, they were the only open restaurant on a street of shutdown storefronts. The jewelry store windows were empty of rings and necklaces and instead displayed small blank velvet pillows. The bank clock was stuck flashing a yellow-orange 8888 into the morning. A girl with black hair counted pennies on a bench.

It was hot even in the morning. It had been hovering at one hundred degrees, unbroken for four full weeks without rain. The leaves were turning crackly and dropping early. The ground broke apart, broke away from foundations, slipped too far from tree trunks in places so that whole trees toppled onto cars and even houses.

Eli Von Hassel was in the kitchen, and he’d scrubbed the place to shining. Paul D. could tell he felt violent about it. They’d all left early the night before, without mopping the back, without pulling up the rubber mats, beating the rugs, and putting all the food away. Eli had stacked dirty plates and glasses in ordered towers and was listening to opera, top volume, with two dish towels under his feet, skating across the newly mopped floor to dry it. In the movie version of his life, Paul thought to himself, this would be the moment of vulnerability that was supposed to make him go warm-hearted over Eli, to think, he’s not so bad. But it didn’t change anything. All Paul D. could think was, Evil little motherfucker.

Through the window where they passed food, Paul D. could see the front-end manager checking his teeth in a hand mirror that belonged to one of the waitresses and then slipping the mirror back into the waitress’s hand. The front-end manager was tall, good looking, and he knew it. He took the silverware tub and slid it under the counter, smoothed the front of his blue button-up shirt, and turned the front sign from closed to open. It struck Paul as odd that Lori, someone he’d met selling beer illegally to teenagers at a punk club in a cinderblock building at the edge of a small Wyoming town, was probably now preparing for a semester where she’d take a philosophy class or an English class and sit too close to and smile at someone just like the front-end manager.

One of the waitresses in front turned the radio down, and two others applied lipstick and tied their aprons on. One wore brown corduroy pants and a blue striped t-shirt cut at the bottom so that Paul could see the skin of her stomach for a second before the apron covered it.

There were two other cooks on with Paul and Eli, Brian and C.J., one to prep and another to work the line. Brian stood by the back door and changed from a black t-shirt into a white one and pulled an apron on. Almost every night after work, Paul D. ended up with Brian and C.J. Sometimes they went to the Game Over for cheap beer on the back patio, the heat lamps off for the summer and shooting from concrete like silver giants. Sometimes they went to the Grey Room to stand in a crowd of people nodding loose heads to live music. And sometimes they went to the Parrot to watch overweight strippers in old bikinis dance badly on a poorly lighted stage.

“I saw a dead cat on the way in,” Brian said while he took the knives down and lined potatoes up on a cutting board. “Seriously, man, it was completely peaceful looking, but it was also one hundred percent dead, just lying in the middle of the alley. But it was kind of cool, almost artistic or something.” Brian lit a cigarette and set it in a saucer. He had a downy mohawk sidled over by an American flag visor worn almost sideways.

“Tell me more, tell me more, man,” C.J. scooped the last of a bowl of Fruit Loops up in his spoon. He was wearing a t-shirt with a big green question mark on the front of it and a yellow and black mesh baseball hat that read, “Criqui Dozer Service” in stitched-on red. He threw his spoon across the room and into the sink.

C.J. made short movies that were usually dark and blurry, and he had salvaged and fixed three broken video cameras from his father’s electronics repair shop. One night Paul, Brian and C.J. stole three bikes, duct-taped the cameras to the handlebars and rode all over town: next to the railroad tracks by the river, through the small trailer park that flooded every spring, by the fogged-up front windows of the bars on the main street, and through all the chipped brick alleyways where cat eyes lit up yellow in a flash of passing, and bums sat smoking on steps. There was something about the mad dash of coming to know a place at top speed instead of slowly that made Paul go faster, pedal his bike ahead of C.J. and Brian and make crazy quick turns down alleys or through side yards until they all decided to call it quits, and they left the bikes in a huddle on Paul D’s front porch and went up to his apartment to drink.

“Art isn’t disgusting, and it isn’t ironic. A dead cat is by no means art,” Eli Von Hassel yelled from the hallway that separated the kitchen from the basement steps.

Brian moved his free hand in the air in front of him to simulate jacking off, and then he took a knife edge and swept the marbled ends of red potatoes into a rectangular trash can.

“Who fucking asked you,” C.J. said under his breath.

Eli made bad woodblock prints of Leonard Peltier or Che Guevera against backdrops of rivers and hills, and he was always talking about what art was and what it wasn’t. Paul D. would never say it, but he thought art was movement, or, more than that, he thought it was the coming together of all different kinds of movement in one series of stop-time frames. Or maybe it wasn’t something he could name, and it was pointless to try. Once he’d seen Lori through the half-open door to their bathroom, a mildewy place with a plastic, all-of-a-piece shower plugged in over the top of who knew how much rotted-out tile. It was the middle of the day, and the light was almost silver through frosted glass, and Lori was sitting on the floor in front of the shower, not moving, maybe just thinking, and he didn’t know of what. Her hair was wet, and it looked phosphorescent, the unnatural pink alive with drops that, when she stood up, shook onto her shoulder and onto the floor. When she saw him, she closed the door slowly but with a slight slam as exclamation, and he saw her eye next to the wood just before the door fit in a pronounced way into the doorjamb. Now that so many months had passed, he could look back and know that he should have said something, opened the door, or at least knocked, but instead he was caught up in the colors, the brown flash of eye, the shine of water on skin.

From the kitchen, Paul could hear the click click at the front of the restaurant, silver being rolled in napkins. The back door was open, and a man walked by pushing an old desk on a dolly. A few minutes later, an old woman wearing a shirt with an iron-on bumble bee on the front stopped right in front of the door, leaned her head in, nodded at Paul and then kept walking.

The busboys, two teenagers who went to high school down the street, were lying flat on either side of one of the booths, waiting to be told to get up. The dishwasher wasn’t there yet. He usually rolled in just before the bus boys brought the first tub back and put on his headphones and started up the Hobart.

Paul stood by while Eli poured water on the hot grill and scraped it clean. He turned up the temperature on the fryer, dropped a piece of a tortilla in and watched as it went from moldable to crisp.

When Paul looked back up through the window, there were two booths seated and more people at the door. For a few hours, he knew it would be nothing but orders, noise, shouting, slipping, the cold feel of raw food through a plastic glove, fast-running trips up and down the basement stairs to the other walk-in, heat from the grill, quick looks from this waitress or that, a flash of people at the counter, and then it would suddenly be over, and he would go home and maybe sit on the roof, and then it would be morning, and he would walk the alleys to the restaurant and do the same thing again. If he let himself think about it, the idea of too many forgettable days passing could make him drink, and so he tried to look at things without thinking: a loose gate that opened onto a back yard full of weeds and sculptures made of wires and cans, the thrift store where homeless men gathered to eat old bread out of donation bins, a woman standing in the grocery store aisle with oranges in each hand, just looking out the store’s plate front window.

By 2 p.m. the whole restaurant was crazy with customers, and Paul D. had highjacked the radio. He was playing Pavement at top volume, and he knew it was feuding with the cable radio in the front, the faux fifties pop that people liked to hear while in a diner, so they could feel that everything in their immediate surroundings fit together.

Brian’s prep work was abandoned. He was smoking in the alley, and the dishwasher couldn’t even be seen. Plates were stacked around him. Some time in the early afternoon, they’d broken into a couple of boxes of dishes in the basement, extras, and lugged them out. They’d run out of potatoes and had started serving scoops from a batch of improvised grits instead, and a customer up front had pounded his fist on a formica table top and yelled, “How does a fucking diner manage to run out of fucking potatoes?” Paul looked up from the grill to see one of the waitresses shudder when the man’s fist hit the table. She wore a flowered see-through Western shirt, and her brown hair was cut shorter than his, and it came to a point at the base of her neck. Paul D. hadn’t slept with anyone since Lori, and he’d sometimes fallen asleep thinking about the waitresses, their sneers when the food came up late or burnt, the backswish of shirt fabric when they turned quickly with plates stacked up forearms and made their way to tables.

For a while, Paul had watched the clock and the door, he had worried. There was a line out in front. People were checking their watches. People at the counter rolled their eyes and complained about the slowness of the food. All the booths and tables were full. Even the front-end manager was sweating so that his shirt’s underarms were a darker blue than the rest of his shirt. The waitresses were dropping things, and a whole tray of broken glasses just sat in the hallway that led from the front end to the back.

C.J. yelled out orders, and Paul D. and Eli worked the grill, the fryer, pulled things out of the upstairs walk-in until, after a couple of hours, it just became a rhythm. Get the order, cook the food, get it ready, put it up. And then C.J. poured cheap vodka into a pitcher of orange juice, and while Eli was in the basement looking for more pancake batter, C.J. filled plastic Big Gulps for all of them that finished off the whole bottle. And that made everything more wave than particle, a slow-time of food, flipping, noise, almost graceful, the kind of scene you’re in but can step back from to look at yourself. And that’s when Paul started sending the wrong food out: scrambled instead of over hard, blueberry pancakes instead of banana walnut. The waitress in the Western shirt put two wrong orders down hard on the counter of the pass-through window. She rolled her eyes, and put her hand at the back of her neck. “Get it right the first time, my friends, if that’s possible.” She chewed on a pen, shook her head, and then walked off.

Eli threw a spatula against the back wall of the kitchen. He looked at Paul and then shook his hands into fists that were hummingbirds out in front of him. “I’m guessing you probably wouldn’t get the message if I told you about the supposedly amphibious tanks that rolled off of ships during World War II. They were meant to just glide right over water and up to land,” Eli ook his hat off and pulled the skin of his forehead back tight with one hand. “But they fucking sank right to the bottom of the ocean.” Eli got off the grill next to Paul and threw a stack of tortillas in the air, and they sailed slowly to the ground like a bunch of inept wheat-colored parachutes. “Get it?” he yelled.

People were at the counter drinking espresso milkshakes. Paul could see one guy in big black thrift store glasses gesturing like crazy about something Paul couldn’t quite hear. The girl he was with put her head on the counter in a way that said, please stop talking. Two men in work pants sat down by the end of the counter, and Paul could hear them saying something about the year’s corn crop.

The Mountain Dew tapped out, and one of the waitresses, tiny with green eyes that were so bright Paul D. almost couldn’t look at them, asked him to get another canister from the basement. The white slips on the spin-wheel were doubled over. He knew it wasn’t a good time to go downstairs, but he still wanted that cool quiet of underneath, of dark corners and the cold moments in the downstairs walk-in where he could smoke a cigarette before going back up the stairs.

He took the stairs two at a time, got the canister, set it up by the stairs, and then went into the walk-in. Something was dripping from an upper shelf into an open container of meatloaf. Fat was congealed around the meatloaf so that in a child’s science project the fat would be the frozen lake and the meatloaf some rough mountainy island of ice in winter.

He kept his tennis shoe in the door and exhaled smoke out through the crack that led back out to the normal dank basement air. And then Eli opened the door wide.

“I know I shouldn’t bother going into some big treatise about how annoyed I am by malaise, by your malaise. You and your fucking slacker buddies with your dirt bikes and your sad little pseudo-punk aesthetic. It’s embarrassing. You’re like seventh graders but without any hope.” Eli grabbed one of the flat, covered pans of chicken breasts marinating in something dark and oily.

“I mean, you could care even one percent about what you do. This is food. It’s important. People need it.” Eli shook the pan a little, and the congealed grease shuddered and cracked in places.

After picking up the chicken, Eli grabbed a few green peppers and threw them onto the plastic wrap that covered the pan. “You guys are so pathetic. You don’t care about anything, you don’t do anything,” Eli said and made for the door to the walk-in.

It was true that Paul D. didn’t care about his work, but he didn’t think he was supposed to. It was bad food in a bad restaurant in a bad year of his life in a new place where nothing standout had happened and all he could think about was what had happened before.

Without thinking, Paul D. shoved Eli hard back into the stack of half-frozen bread, and a few cheesecakes toppled from an upper shelf. It was a series of photographic moments, and it made Paul D. think of a crinkly movie about public safety he’d seen in a grade school health class: the word “Danger” flashing in block letters on the screen every time the actor did something that resulted in accidental bodily harm.

In the walk-in, Paul watched as Eli looked up at him, Eli’s eyelids hanging low over his eyes. The cheesecakes were in a mess of graham cracker crumbs on the metal floor. The chicken breasts Eli had been carrying were everywhere: small slabs of pink looking like twenty or so tiny slippery hands, on the floor around Eli’s shins and a few hanging onto wire shelves. And then Paul was out the door, shutting it tight behind him, and then leaning back against the closed chilled metal while Eli hit into it from the other side with his fists. Paul stood still, took two or three long breaths, and walked upstairs.

Just for a few minutes, Paul thought to himself. He knew that he’d be fired when he opened the door, and some part of him wanted to slide through the heat and motion of the kitchen in a busy hour before anything was allowed to change.

As he took the stairs two at a time, he thought: I’ve never hit anyone in my life. He’d been hit, sure, by a couple of guys who’d cracked one of his eye teeth out in eighth grade and then again by Lori who had, drunk and angry, elbowed him in the jaw. He’d had a cap put over the ragged half-tooth, and the egg-sized yellowish bruise on his jaw had healed so that it was just skin again, no evidence of anything.

Back in the kitchen, he turned the fan from medium to high and turned the music up. The ice in discarded glasses melted next to the dishwasher, and soda turned muted and filmy instead of the vivid yellow-green or bright orange or dark brown of drinks straight from the machine. For probably an hour, he cooked eggs in every way he could imagine. He did one tofu scramble for a hippie girl at the counter who gave him the peace sign when he looked up.

At four, the front manager turned the sign to closed, and the busboys went crazy on the front, loading up tubs as people cleared out, bringing them back to the dishwasher who groaned and stamped his black boots every time more dishes came back. It was a holiday, and they were closing early, and everyone had worked a long shift, early morning to late afternoon, and they were all covered in food stains and walking half-asleep or edgy from hours of nothing but caffeine. The waitresses started smoking cigarettes and rolling silverware at the counter. The front manager told everyone he was having a barbecue and a few of the waitresses who were probably in love with him perked up for a moment and asked for his address.

Paul D. poured water on the grill and scraped it clean and cooled it. When he felt sure no one else was down there, Paul went down the basement stairs and listened for noise at the door to the walk-in. It was quiet when he opened the door. Eli wasn’t there. It was like some magician moment when the black cloth is pulled up and it’s all air, no body. Paul wished for a camera to chronicle the order the walk-in was in: everything re-wrapped, plastic wrap doubled up, everything organized by food type, wire rungs wiped clean of drips, Eli’s dirty apron in a folded square on the floor. He backed out and closed the door, ran back up the stairs and looked around. A waitress at the counter was counting out ones.

“Goddamnit, don’t distract me,” she said to another waitress and then stacked the bills up again and started over. The other waitress stirred a straw through her drink, let her face go blank, and looked up at the window, her eyes squinting into the sun and the dust that carried through the strips of visible light in the air.

Paul and C.J. took the fryer oil outside to dump it. There were browning pieces of lettuce in the alley, soaked in grease and black at the edges. Someone had spilled a milkshake, and it had melted out in all directions. An old house across the street had been torn down, and some construction crew had started putting up a brick house designed to look old. A huge elm tree spread out over an empty lot, and Paul wished he could climb up into the tree and live without need of anything for at least a few days.

On the drive from Wyoming, Paul had stopped in a field in western Kansas, a landmark with a cluster of red rocks rising out of the flat upward slanting line of high plains headed imperceptibly upwards before hitting the incomprehensible obstacle of miles of mountains. The rocks were nothing, nothing like what he’d seen in Wyoming or Utah. They were sad, almost, in their striving. But you could see them from all around: static red rock in the middle of nothing but flat fields of so many things growing.

Behind the restaurant, the elm tree rattled in his peripheral vision, a small piece of wind shaking through the branches and leaves. He stepped on a large beetle and felt the jello-like squish under the sole of his shoe. The sun was hot, and everything on the street seemed baked through and hunkered down. Paul’s shirt stuck tight to his back, and no amount of fanning himself cut through.

C.J. elbowed Paul D. and motioned with his chin over to the parking lot’s corner where Eli and one of the waitresses stood, their hands touching in a bridge between them.

“Now that’s interesting,” C.J. said, imitating the little shudder Eli sometimes got in his voice when he was angry.

Paul D. shook his head and looked away. He was glad Eli had gotten out. And he couldn’t muster what it would take to be disgusted by the fact that Eli was having some kind of moment that might be captured in one of those soft-at-the-edges greeting card photos. In the dry hard light of late afternoon, he didn’t have it in him. Instead, he thought of a pool in a canyon, the small puddle inside of a rock lip where people could sit and watch a waterfall, maniacal with motion, dive right by.

A car passed, and a girl in a halter hung out the window and threw a bottle rocket up into the air. It popped and then dropped down onto the sidewalk. Paul could hear the happy screams of the girls in the car as they faded up the street. A few weeks before, he’d wandered into an outdoor concert a few blocks from his apartment where boys in college t-shirts whooped and yelled at the stage, and girls in bikinis batted a beach ball up over the crowd. He wondered: what series of choices led a person to become a frat boy on a dried-out school lawn on a hot day drinking beer from a plastic cup?

When Eli walked back past Paul D., back into the restaurant, he punched Paul on the upper arm, hard, but he was smiling.

“Comic genius, Pauly,” he said and then held the hand of the waitress with the bright green eyes. The waitress had hair that fanned out around her ears in little fluttery hummingbird pieces that twittered with the air of motion. The waitress and Eli walked in to the back door of the restaurant close to each other, and C.J. literally fell onto the asphalt to make a statement of sheer and dramatic disgust.

“Shit, the ground is hot,” C.J. said and wiped a few crumbs of loose asphalt from his palms. “No, really, man, we’ve got to turn that film we took on our bikes into a movie or something. We gotta do something with that.”

Paul D. had kept the bike he’d stolen, and sometimes he rode the gravel roads that bisected farm fields, rode down them at night when cars were pushing fast over the road or when the road was empty. He thought about the ghost quality of night, when you were right out in it, no window, no door, no screen, just pedaling fast and squinting forward, feeling certain that whatever came in front of you, you’d be able to quick swerve to avoid.

That night, instead of going out, Paul walked on the levee trail as it was starting to get dark. It was a butter colored path of dirt and gravel that topped a wall of rock that wrapped the river in. He watched men fishing illegally off the dam, with hot red faces and white plastic buckets full of dirty river water and a few finger-length fish. The water rolled by them, and the river bed was low, with sand strips making humpbacks in the water. The water angled down over the wall of the dam and then moved downstream and out of sight.

A man sat on the gravel of the levee path carving small faces out of soft rocks. He chipped a mouth out with a tiny pocketknife.

“Don’t stare, man. It’s just what I do,” he said to Paul D. and then hunched down over the stack of rocks and the one he was holding tight in his right hand. The man wasn’t wearing a shirt, and he had sunburn lines in the shape of a tank top on his back. The last time Paul had seen Lori, she’d been lying on the cement square in front of the garage they’d shared, her white skin going red in the sun. She had stacked her books in boxes in a small city around her, and she was just waiting for him to get back from washing dishes so she could say goodbye. “I’ve got all my stuff,” she said, and then he helped her put it in the back of her car: a yellow Datsun with salt-rusted wheel wells. “Let’s get a beer or something next week,” was all Paul had said, and later he’d felt ridiculous about that. She hadn’t called him, and he hadn’t wanted to be the one to call her.

On the way home from the riverbank, he passed the public library and then the swimming pool where kids were shooting out of the blue plastic tube of the waterslide and into the surprise of lukewarm, end-of-the-day swimming pool water. The lights were on, and bugs hung in their halos. It was the last day the pool would be open, and Paul could see the mania in the kids’ eyes as they ran up the stairs to the top of the slide.

When he got home, he opened his windows but left the window air conditioner running. His room smelled like food and old grease that was trapped in all of his scattered clothes. If he thought about it, what he really wanted was precision, the icy sharpness of a moment in which everything was lined up just right, but it seemed impossible, and so he’d unintentionally settled into its opposite, disarray, aimlessness.

He picked up the phone to call Lori or somebody but then put it down and instead turned on music and tried to think about a hotel made of ice that he’d read about once. There were a million tiny ants swarming one off-brand cheerio by his foot. He opened the window and stepped out onto the roof. An old man wearing a hat walked a small dog over to the side door of the house next door. There were plastic cups all over the street from some earlier Labor Day party. A girl stood up from the porch steps across the street. She looked up at Paul and smiled and waved and then started walking toward the corner.

For a second, the trees shuddered in the short wind, and their leaves looked white and rich in the light from the street lamps. He could tell it would be weeks before it would feel like fall. He leaned into the house wall and felt the day’s heat falling away from the shingles. The window air conditioner made a loud vibrating noise and then settled back to a hum.

In Wyoming, it would be getting cold. The garage where he had lived would have air coming through unsealed cracks. The winter before, he and Lori had ended up watching an ice sculptor in front of a shopping center, a man in leather pants with bad hair leading a chain saw into a block of ice so that shavings made feathery arcs around his gloved hands. “Is it a bird?” Lori asked the sculptor when he put the chain saw down to take a drink of water. “You’ll see,” he said. People formed a semi-circle around the man, and a woman from the newly opened Russian restaurant he was working in front of came out to pass out tiny sample cups of borscht to everyone in the crowd.

“Is this a joke?” Lori asked Paul, and they both started laughing while they watched steam rising off the ice that was beginning to look more and more like a sun.


Copyright © 2004 Amy Stuber.  All Rights Reserved.


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