The Distance Between Here
and Elsewhere: Three Stories
by David Meischen
Crossing at the Light
Albert Decker and Grady Smith, July 14–15, 1965
Albert woke at 6:30, aware in the instant that it was Claude’s birthday. He made up the Murphy bed he’d slept in since 1934 and folded it back into the wall, bands of summer sun along the seams of the closed window blinds suspending the room in a glow that brightened perceptibly as he stood watching. He shared the little apartment—and the package store below—with his mother, his days dispensed behind the counter, selling liquor to the locals, inhaling the dust they trailed behind them as they browsed these narrow aisles, five thousand miles from the one place he could imagine inhabiting. Still, each morning until Mrs. Decker woke—each morning was his.
After a quick breakfast of toast and jam, Albert fetched his cosmetics case from the cabinet beneath the bathroom sink and flipped the switch for the makeup lights he’d had installed around the mirror. He didn’t like what he saw. He’d always enjoyed being slim, but the skin at his throat had begun to let go, a sag at his Adam’s apple the brightness exaggerated. Before attending to his face, he unfastened the top shirt button and laid his collar open to the burn scar—like the negative of a shadow across the left collarbone—a private reminder of his mother’s skillet, the frying grease splashed from it so many years ago that without the scar he might not credit memory.