Wanna read the latest
from Clever Magazine?
by Deanna Morris
Deanna is a second year MFA student at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her story "Charlie" was published at Subtle Fiction, "Orchard" was published at A Small, Good Magazine and "Birthday House" is being published in the February issue of Scissors and Spackle literary magazine. Her poem "Sewing Room" was published in IUPUI's genesis [sic] literary magazine as Best in Poetry.
Summer, Louisville 1960, hung heavy in the air until about midnight when most nights a cool breeze filtered through the screened in windows, along with the call of a lone night bird and the sound of the next door neighbor, Mr. Earley, stumbling up his front steps. The Earley’s dog barks, the front porch light comes on and Mrs. Earley, standing there in curlers and her husband’s plaid robe, tells him the same thing every night.
“You do this one more time and I’m locking you out."
One night, about the middle of July, Mrs. Earley did indeed lock out her husband. He banged on the front door of the wood frame house for half an hour before the neighbors started yelling, “shut up, people are trying to sleep” except for Harry’s aunt who slept right through it. Harry stared out the bedroom window at Mr. Earley who was hunched over on the front stoop smoking a cigarette. He was a stick of a man with a bit of a paunch. Drinking and middle age were wrapping around his middle and graying his hair.
"Hi Mr. Earley,” Harry called out.
“It’s me, Mr. Earley. It’s me, Harry. I visit here every summer.”
Mr. Earley squinted in the moonlight over at Harry
“Why aren’t you sleeping?”
his face up against the screen. "I was thinking."
“I was thinking about why you drink every night."
Why do you want to think about that?”
“You mean your auntie’s ice tea. It is kind of strong come to think of it."
“No, I drink the real stuff. I pack it in my bag before I come to Louisville. Real Kentucky Bourbon from my father’s liquor cabinet. By the time he gets back after a summer in Europe, he can’t remember what was in there.”
Mr. Earley stepped on his cigarette butt and ground it out. His hard, line face softened in the moonlight. He had nothing else to do and no one else to talk to, so he walked over to Harry whose face was checkered by the streetlamp shining through the screen.
“Well, you are way too young to be drinking. What are you about ten or eleven?”
“I’m twelve, Mr. Earley.”
“Oh twelve, well then.”
Mr. Earley pulled out another cigarette. “You don’t smoke too, do you’?”
“No I just drink. But only a little.”
“What’s a little?"
“Just a Dixie cup full to help me sleep. Two pints lasts me all summer.”
“Yea, well, it seems to me a kid your age ought to be able to sleep.”
“Do you sleep Mr. Earley? I mean after you come in at midnight?”
“After Mrs. Earley stops yelling.” Mr. Earley frowned and covered his ears.
“She’s a good yeller.” Harry said.
Mr. Earley laughed a deep, smokey laugh. “She sure is.”
“My parents never yell.” Harry, wide eyed, stared at Mr. Earley, “It’s true.”
“Everybody yells sometimes,” Mr. Earley countered.
“No, I mean it. I have never heard them yell.”
“That must be one happy house,” Mr. Earley replied.
Harry looked up at the moon. “You know, my parents can see the moon even though they’re in Europe. And there’s the Big Dipper.”
Mr. Earley lit another cigarette and looked up at the sky. “They can see that too Harry.”
Harry leaned into the screen. “Look, at the freckles on my face. If you connect each one, they form the shape of the Big Dipper.”
Mr. Earley peered at Harry’s face. “No kidding. When did you discover that?”
“One day I was just looking in the mirror and I saw it. You know how something can be right in front of you and then all of a sudden you notice it?”
The Earley’s front door opened and Mrs. Earley stepped out on to the porch. “John Earley, you get in here right now.”
“I bet she’s real pretty without those curlers and robe Mr. Earley.”
“Yea,” Harry answered him.
“Good night Harry. Get some sleep. Sorry we woke you.”
“Oh, I never sleep until I’m sure you’re home Mr. Earley.”
Mr. Earley nodded, blew a smoke ring at the moon, and walked back into his house. Harry slid off the bed, pulled out his suitcase from underneath and tiptoed into the bathroom for a Dixie cup. The bourbon ambered in the light from the street as Harry filled the cup. He only took two sips that night and poured the rest back into the bottle. He crawled under the covers, the freckled side of his face to the night sky.
© No portion of Clever Magazine may be copied or reprinted without express consent of the editor.