"Times Are Different in Port St. Joe" Rob Dinsmoor
"Whose Fault?" Lenny Levine
"Truly the Light is Sweet" Eric Maroney
"Engineering Logic" Jennifer E. Miller
"On the Oxford to York" Arianna S. Warsaw-Fan Rauch

Creative Non-Fiction
"I Wanna Know What Love Is" Terry Barr
"Massaged in Vein" Sabrina Harris
"Cancer Clinic" Tom Mahony
"Bite Me" Jeanine Pfeiffer

"Manna" Kenneth P. Gurney
"Self-Portrait" Richard Luftig
"Traveling Companion" Mary Beth Magee

eric maroney

Truly the Light is Sweet
Eric Maroney

My soul desires you in the night, even my breath within me seeks You,—Isaiah 26:8-9

“Nothing, not a sound, there was nothing at all…

“It just started and nothing. Now, I feel as if my heart will explode. The other day was cloudy, and then the sun came out. In front of me there was a little crocus. Now, take it from me, this was a no-big-deal flower. A little purple thing growing next to some slush along the road…

“But I knew it would happen again. I got down on my hands and knees and I examined. The petals and the little things, what do you call them? And I don’t know, they were there, but they weren’t. They seemed brighter than anything the sun could light up. I saw it like something very fresh. Like a washed world. I know I sound crazy. I’m just a common Jew, not an educated man like you…

“It seemed, when I saw that flower, that it changed—but really, nothing at all had changed!”

The train lurched and the man fell from his seat. On the floor, he looked even more inconsequential than when upright. He was lumpy with a malformed back shaped like a sharply written S. I helped him and exhaled deeply.

“These local trains are gonna kill me. You’re too young to remember the express trains. Now we have to crawl like snails from station to station, to pick up goyim and their chickens. Back then, when you rode the express, folks had some class. But where was I? Oh yes, the flower. I’m sorry, but for you to get the whole story, I have to backtrack a bit…

“One day, about twenty years ago, I had an awful scare. I found my wife with another man. I don’t want to get into it, as I know you’re a religious man. But I caught my wife. Not just sitting on the bed either, but he had his thing in her, may it never happen to you! I don’t need to say more. After that, I had an awful time breathing. Wispy sounds came between my lips: speeee, like the sound of a rusty teakettle…

“Well, then I wasn’t a pauper. I had bills in my pocket. Not like today, when you see honest-to-goodness Jews going to Churches for handouts.

“No, then I was in with all the big doctors. I was right in front with the big shots…

“And they all promised me a complete cure. ‘Drink this. Take this pill. Visit this spa.’ Oh, they knew everything, big shots. I took hydro-baths, I was hypnotized. But I still couldn’t catch my breath. My wind was gone…

“Soon I couldn’t get out of bed. I used up all my money on those fancy hospitals and magnets. Eventually, I was at the pauper’s hospice, in a filthy bed, and I was dying.

“Well, there I am, in my own dirt, death rattling his sword above my head, and what do I see? Well, an orderly with skin like a green onion, and teeth like dirty black pebbles. And he has a yarmulke on his head, filthy, smudged with streaks like coal…

“‘What do you want?’ I asked him.

“‘To change your bedpan,’ he answers. So I say, ‘Do it. Why stare at a dying man?’

“And then he says to me, ‘You never learned to breathe.’

“And I says to him, ‘What the hell are you saying? Go away, and leave a poor Jew to die.’ But this guy, he has a mission…

“‘Go see this man,’ he says to me. And he hands me a greasy card with an address on a dirt track beyond the sand pits. You know what? You may laugh, because you’re a man of faith and learning, but when a man faces death, he’d do anything to live, no matter what…

“So I made my way to the lane, coughing, wheezing, and death following me along, counting every breath like a slumlord tallying a tenant’s last pennies. What did I find? Well, what I expected: a stooped little man with a white beard, writing amulets and prayer petitions. I know his type…

“But as soon as he saw me, he dropped his quill. His wrinkled white face turned red, like a boiled beet, and he stood up with difficulty. He pointed an unsteady finger at me and said, in a wavering voice, ‘Breath is life! And your breath is departing from you.’ And I thought, ‘tell me something I don’t know!’ Then I passed out. The old man picked me up like a feather. He was strong, that one…

“And when I woke up, he taught me the greatest lesson I ever learned…”

The round man sprang on his feet, pulled his carpetbag from the rack, and sped toward the aisle.

“Wait!” I said, grasping his coat sleeve, sensing his sudden irritation that I demand he finish a story that at first I did not even want to hear. “What did he teach you?”

“How to breathe! One breath at a time. Counting ‘1, 2, 3,’ for each breath. The cure was simple…

“That night, I slept like a stone. The next day, I got a shave, a haircut, bought a new suit, and walked down to the beach. And I saw the light, and I said, to no one in particular, ‘Look at that water, look at the light,’ and the words, I said them, sure I did, but they failed to catch that water and that light and it all slipped away…”

And the little man was gone. On his way out, I caught a glimpse of him on the platform, next to the soldiers, peasants, merchants, milling about and pushing. I saw him struggle through the mass of people, and then he was gone, leaving behind a sense—the slightest trace of his breath in the car.

About the author:
Eric Maroney is the author of two books of non-fiction, Religious Syncretism (2006) and The Other Zions (2010). His fiction has appeared in nearly twenty journals. His non-fiction has appeared in the Encyclopedia of Identity, The Montreal Review, and Superstition Review. He is a regular fiction and non-fiction reviewer for Colorado Review. He has an M.A. from Boston University and lives in Trumansburg, NY with his wife and two children. More of his work can be found on his web page:

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