Jacqueline Guidry


Earplugs fortify our private spaces. I-Pods, set end to end, would stretch through every neighborhood in the city and circle back again. Whatever we tap a foot to—classical or rock, rap or country—helps drown out everything else, and there’s a whole lot that needs drowning. Babies wailing. Little kids screaming and carrying on. The steady growling of adults certain they’re getting shortchanged—getting less in the food lines, forced to use flimsier blankets, stuck with the worst of all that’s been distributed.

Somebody’s always passing gas, discretion and embarrassment fading with each hour. Does sharing such intimacies draw us together? Not at all. If anything, it forces us farther apart. We might have to smell our neighbors. That doesn’t mean we want to invite them to our cots to share corn chips.

Experts say a brain stresses with more than fifty transactions a day. Aren’t we in self-protection mode, then? Aren’t we blameless, a sad sight to be pitied, all together and yet all alone?

Most of us make our way outside once or twice a day, because the alternative is unbearable. We don’t glimpse much. Snow sees to that. No matter. We’re outside, breathing air that hasn’t been exhaled by a thousand lungs before reaching our own. Each of us grabs valuables—the fellow with the money tree always takes it with him—before stepping out.

No one tramps more than a hundred feet on these outings, and even that short trek is a challenge. The quality of our boots and the thicknesses of our coats don’t matter; we dare not wander too far from shelter, unsatisfactory as it is.

One night just after eleven, the snow finally stops. White silence everywhere. A patch of sky opens, and the sudden splash of moonlight on the expanse of snow serves as a giant reflector across the metropolis.

In the far distance, a pack of feral dogs snarls at overthrown garbage cans. A mirage? Surely.

At the end of the block, a solitary figure moves. Moves again. Now, in the middle of the street, it turns in slow circles, a surveyor measuring what’s owned and what’s owed. Circling and circling in the snow, on the street, in the city, until the bite and burn of cold forces a retreat. Somewhere, a cot waits, exactly as it was left, the corners of the olive surplus blanket folded over. No trace of a single touch from anyone else.

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Jacqueline Guidry

has work forthcoming in China Grove, Compose, and Still Point Arts Quarterly. Other work has appeared in Arkansas Review, Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, Southampton Review, and elsewhere. She has received four Pushcart nominations and in 2015 was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post competition. Her agent is searching for a publisher for her second novel.