Long Time Coming
The house fires were always in colored town. Dad called them “less fortunate.” We were cold and hungry too, but different; we were meant for college. The missile crisis came — Castro had nukes; bombers flew over every few minutes; convoys ran Dixie Highway for weeks so it was hard crossing to school.
We had no basement for shelter. I dug a hole in the yard one time; it filled with sea water. We were drilled in class, marched to the closet to cower. When Nixon got in, I was terrified, thought he might use nukes in Vietnam, burn everything clean.
Alien Creature at the Door
Tuesdays I wore my cub scout uniform, pedaled the mile to school, most of it on Martin, parallel to Dixie Highway. All day I listened, trying to understand. I took my turn at kick ball, then stood to the side silent.
That day, the bell rang early — the sky was dark green and black, rolling like boiling honey. I turned onto Martin; the wind came up in my face like a wall, then the rain and the roar, flying branches and lightning. The black sky reached down and covered the houses and street — I ran to the nearest door — she sniggered, “You wait on the porch.”
Christmas at Grandma’s
Tom and Mary broke up that fall —
we drove to see them anyway.
The cops were there when we arrived —
Tom had dropped the baby off late.
Mary charged kidnapping.
Next day we all met at Grandma’s.
The stroller broke on the walk to church —
we went for a new one.
I had never seen Toys R Us on the 26th –
For Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom -Apollo One, January 27, 1967
Stitch welds came first: gold-plate steel pins, nickel wire, each weld inspected, reworked till perfect; flat packs on the flip side, solder gleaming like a mirror, each inspected, reworked till perfect, then the edge connectors and the wiring harness, teflon-coated copper soldered into gold-plate cups.
We knew by then,
teflon flows under pressure, a kink in a cable can short and ignite – that’s what killed Apollo One. Our work flew – no problem, though our last half-ton balloon payload landed in a Texas pasture on a cow.
Coming In Off the Farm
At first light Lil shook each sunflower stalk and looked up to urge each drooping head, “Wake Up.” I turned a dough bowl for her, cut wide from a barn timber. It flew apart as I sanded it smooth, scarred me and broke my jaw.
One weekend David and Phyllis threw an MDA party. He said it was great for sex — I might have been into it but I was still sore and I never liked speedy drugs. Lil did, though.
I went out front to chop wood while people showed up. As each arrived, I flashed my wired mouth and rasped, “Who are you?” Late that night, David had a seizure. He came out of it, took some pills with whiskey, went back to bed.
That fall the owner bulldozed the barn and sold the house. After they cut the sewer line, we kept using the toilet. Feral dogs got all the chickens. Briarwood Mall went up across the street.
Lil and I moved into town. Soon after she told me, “The neighbors are talking about us.” I reasoned with her, then argued, but she became silent and filled our home with folded grocery bags so I could no longer touch or even find her.
Don Krieger is a biomedical researcher whose focus is the electric activity within the brain. His collections include: “When Danger Has Passed, Who Remembers?” from Milk and Cake Press, 2022, and “Discovery,” from Cyberwit, 2020. He was a 2020 pushcart nominee, and a 2020 Creative Nonfiction Foundation Science-as-Story Fellow. His poetry has appeared in Seneca Review, Raw Art Review, the Asahi Shimbun, Entropy, Dissident Voice, Neurology, American Journal of Nursing, and others. His work has been translated into Farsi, Greek, Italian, German, Turkish and Romanian.