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…”