Everyone Needs a Kind Stranger to Listen to His Secrets
by Benjamin Woodard
Without eyes, it’s easier to earn their trust. I’ve been told they wave fingers to test my claims, but even if I could see, why would I let on? A cash register behind the bar CHA-CHINGS. Pool balls CLACKCLACKCLACK to the left. You’d be surprised at how many stay and talk after they shake my hand. “I am an empty silo. Fill me with your skeletons.” One van dropped into the sea. Two dead mules. Three stolen quarts of paint. Some find flair in their admissions. For others, the knots loosen with ale’s aid. I hear tales of ice rink affairs, of rue and gall. Slow takes stir deep.
I smell their sweet breath while the juke BOP-BA-BOP-BOPS in the corner.
They CLAP for themselves when they rescue memories from those forgotten grains tucked in the folds. They ramble to add ointment to chapped egos, yet turn glib once histories loosen, and they wrap my silence around their hearts like all is cured. The sum of our time results in straight backs. Heavy laments. They will sleep tonight, these foals too naïve to understand the weight of the world. But I am not the solution. Nine of ten will return in a week, crying for help, and that’s when I will ask for more.
Benjamin Woodard is editor in chief at Atlas and Alice. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and teaches English. His recent stories have appeared in, or are forthcoming from, Monkeybicycle, jmww, Atticus Review, and other journals. His short essays appear in the anthology, Miscellany, from Run Amok Books. Find him at benjaminjwoodard.com or @woodardwriter.