Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Fresno Fragment

Like most old people, thinks William, old man Bergoyan can’t cope with how pathetically boring most of his life has become. All of downtown Fresno is his respirator. A walk up two blocks from his apartment building –  inhale, three blocks over – exhale, lunch and still more coffee at a nouveau Armenian cafe (the first of the last of its kind) – inhale, walk to the park – exhale, sit on the park bench – inhale…

Is it any wonder the old man still holds on to his Brenlee life and all that happened around it? From a certain perspective, the most ethical thing I can do is offer him a joint. He doesn’t.

Since leaving the old man’s apartment they have spoken of the weather, the way Japanese cars last forever, and, briefly, of this vast valley’s shortage of truly fine poets. In fact, they have not spoken now for more than 30 minutes, the old man having silenced everything, including the birds, with, “And it is so odd to me, because there is such poetry in the people here. Such poetry.”

William wants to believe he knows what the old man means, but can’t see, or more accurately hear, any poetry coming from the people of Brenlee or Fresno. It is all so painfully prosaic. He looks out on the too sunny playground, an acre of burnt grass between their partially shaded park bench and its empty swings, more burnt grass on the other side of the desolate slides and dirty sand and then piles of pale stucco and cardboard housing, 10 years overdue its wholesale disposal and re-development. This landscape is the hope for Brenlee held out by more than half of the men at Grady’s breakfast counter, the men with the power to at least try to make it happen. What poetry could lurk in such hearts?

“So, who did it? Who killed Tommy?” William asks.

The old man does not look at him. “You won’t believe…”