Home > Fiction > Shards and Crosses
Published: Tue Oct 15 1974
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Destruccion por un remolino del aire Xocomeel del Lago Atitlán / Destruction from a Vortex of the Xocomil Winds around Lake Atitlán (detail), 2014, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
AGNI 3 Travel Youth Relationships
Shards and Crosses


On the commuter train. Homeward bound. A winter evening. Chicago. The city covered in black mist. Now the conductor comes calling for tickets with false heartiness….. “Upper deck please, gentlemen.” The only sound is the clicking of his punch as tiny shards of commutation tickets fall—descending.
_                                                  _*
_                                                     _*
_                                                       _*
_                                                         _*
_                                           _on trousers or lodging in
_                                           _the crevices of attaché cases.

A pool of light through the dark of the window. The golden arches of McDonalds with the flag at half mast in the rain. They mourn for Truman and Johnson. Then the light is gone and the city is hidden again. The train picks up speed, accelerating through the west side ghetto and suddenly there is a cr-aaaaa-ck at the window. A bullet? A stone? Heads duck. Papers rustle. The passengers stare. The man seated next to me brushes at the glass slivers he thinks are on his shoulder. He has a tan from Mexico and a wife full of frenzy for Inca artifacts. I say nothing. He brushes at the slivers. The window is mottled by the blow of the object. The conductor continues with his punch and again the shards descend.

As the conductor clicks,…….“Lower seats gentlemen, please.”
_                                                              _*
_                                                                _*
_                                                                  _*
_                                                                    _*
_                                                        _ lost in a cuff or cascading down
_                                                        _ a stocking as the leg is crossed.

Each shard of paper    *    resembles the pattern the stone (or the bullet?) has made on the win     *   dow.

Mr. Cozumel tan man looks to me for reassurance. I give him none. Let him find solace from the wrinkled dolls of Yucatán his wife collects, her hands mottled from the winter sun as the window is mottled. Each from some unknown fury. His glasses slip to his nose in a practiced gesture of exasperation. I turn to the crossword.



At Timmy’s on Captiva Island. Off the Florida Gulf Coast, across the bay from Fort Myers. The waitress stands in the doorway. She is eighteen and wears a cotton sun-dress, bra-less, the cross of her bathing suit straps etched in white on her bare back.  ———|———  Her sandals slap on the concrete floor as she brings your beer and her breasts jiggle with the rhythm of her movements. Her face is open and innocent. She tells you about the porpoises that come to Timmy’s fishing dock at sunset. “You should really see them. They fluoresce in the water. They’re just so cool.” Out of the windows, the noon heat is white on the street. There is no sound from the little houses in the village, only bird calls, and the movement of the wind through the heavy palm fronds. Someone puts a coin in the jukebox and the waitress returns to the bar and stands there and hugs her boyfriend, the bartender. They move up against each other and sway with the music. Another young man, in ragged denim shorts, bare-chested, his hair in a braid held by a leather thong and a golf tee, leaves the bar and goes outside to the dock. He carries a long-stemmed glass of red wine. Some of his friends are seated in the shade at a table near the landing, young men and women, all in bathing suits, the girls in bikinis. One of the young men has a motorboat alongside the dock. A blond girl is standing on the bow and she throws a line to another girl who is going to attempt waterskiing for the first time. After several tries, the skier gets up unsteadily and her friends at the table cheer and lift their wineglasses as she goes bumping out in the bay. After a few turns around the bay, the boat comes back to the dock to tie up again. The blond girl on the bow is slim and darkly tanned, she wears a pink bikini and her body is lightly muscled and glistening with spray. As the girl on the bow bends to throw a line around a post, her breasts come full against her halter. A thin chain dangles from neck with a gold cross. ——|—— She pops the cross back between her breasts and she tosses the lead line expertly.



Over Germany that afternoon, at about 700 feet over the Rhine, the jumpmaster pushed the first boy out who happened to be my high school classmate, Rich Atherton. This was in 1945, a sunlit spring morning, and Rich, uncertain of the verities, pulled at the ripcord as his chute caught the wind and popped open like a sudden flower. (a paper flower unfolding in a glass of water.) Then the others followed, falling like lost stars on Germany
_                                                                                      _*
_                                                                                 *              _*
_                                                                                          _*
_                                                                              _*
_                                                                                      _*
_                                                                                       _*
_                                                                                              _*
_                                                                                    _* (Rich)

Or twirling shards of paper confetti dumped from some giant piñata, except my friend Rich, who as I said was too young to be certain of the verities, turned his face to a streak in the light and caught a bullet through the right side of his head.

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Lowell B. Komie has practiced law for more than fifty years. He is the author of six collections of short stories, five novels, and a novella. The recipient of the 1995 Carl Sandburg Literary Award and the 1998 Small Press Award for Fiction, Komie currently lives in Deerfield, Illinois. (updated 6/2010)

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