Carry Me Down Afternoon Alleys.

by Serge Bielanko

Late afternoon. It's the last day of her first summer and me and Violet and the dogs are in the big front window looking out. The sun has that new/old autumn angle, light slashing in from across treetops and skimming off roofs instead of plopping straight down. There is a cool breeze today. The swamp tree in the front yard is twisting up in the movement. We all watch the branches dance.

Most people are at work at this time of day. Maybe having their last cup of coffee for the day. The Three O'Clock Lightning. Bolts of eleventh hour zip to get 'em through to the finish line.

I used to get mine in truck-stops on interstates. Pull the van off the exit and watch the band in the back stir to life after two-hundred miles of wandering off down into some lonesome canyon of old novels and Discmans and USA Todays. Coffee would bring us back up. Pure wonderful bitter highway coffee would bring us together. It would tickle our hearts with a nine-foot neon feather and bitch-slap our weary blue reserves.

We'd piss out the morning brew and pass each other by the bright lit sinks and then head out with hope in our hearts, to dump in new hot joe.

And by the time we'd wandered back out through the salted cashews and No-Doze and the XXL sweatshirts with an Old Apache Chief instead of a moon in the night sky above two howling white wolves, well, we were all fast friends again. Musicians feeling the music. The caffeinated tunes of late afternoons. We'd laugh and joke and smoke for the next hundred miles, til we crashed and crumbled upon our exhaustion yet again. Modern America was built that way. Truck-stop to truck-stop, cup to cup. It's there if you want it.

These days I am in the window though. Unmoving really, except for slight shifts here and there to keep my daughter from smashing through the pane. Flanked by bored dogs the two of us sit and tap the glass. We watch occasional cars pass. She likes seeing them, smiles a little. I do this new thing where I turn my head towards the outside then back to look at her over and over again til I think I might puke. She watches this with vigilant eyes. And like clockwork, thirty seconds in, she gets the joke and giggles right into me.

I melt like cake in the sun.

It feels odd. To be sitting on the couch looking out the window, when the world is all hopped up on office brew, or garage brew. Break-room brew. Hell, I don't even remember to drink the shit in the afternoon anymore. I don't get that Tilted Sun Phantom whispering reminders in my ear. I don't see the buildings sizzling miles away in the distance. The houses of relief set upon the hard-packed highway.

I reach into a ten gallon Ziploc and pull off a hunk of Monica's cornbread. I stick some crumbs up on Violet's lip. I swig the Diet Coke (it ain't the same/don't tell me caffeine stats). We walk to the window but then say Fuck That.

We undo leashes, lasso newly awakened beasts, and decide to just head out into the late and golden afternoon.

Maybe we ain't moving eighty miles-per-hour, sure.

But, By God, we are moving people. Into the late afternoon sunshine. Out the ass-end of one season, and straight into the dripping jaws of the next.