“Attend the Way” Digitized on Heavy Feather

Published back in 2015 in a print version of Heavy Feather Review, my story “Attend the Way” is now part of their digital archives. Check it out here!

This has always been one of my favorite stories, as it was from a prolonged period when I was dreaming and writing about what our neighborhood in Omaha (near Dewey Park) would have been like 20 to 30 years before we lived there. My car died around then, so I spent a lot of time walking back and forth between home and Creighton, or home and the Douglas County courthouse, for work, which meant I spent a lot of time talking to guys hanging out on street corners and on the steps of rooming houses. As a young writer, meeting folks who ended up in less-than-best circumstances was gold. Midtown was still pretty rough then. It was great.

His room at the Kellogg has a big window, which is what he watches after work now, the downtown buildings reflecting the last light of sunset. And then he watches the fluorescent lights of the offices as they pop on after a while. It’s a drowsy sort of happiness this gives him.

Later in the morning he sits outside on the edge of a flower box and waits to be picked up and taken to where he will work for the day. Rodney has mowed for the city a long time, fifteen years or more. The man Rodney works with has learned a lot about him over the years, but even he doesn’t know Rodney’s mother was a white lady, that she came from Hastings and moved east to work for Mutual of Omaha in the fifties. She held more than a few jobs for them, over three decades, all clerical stuff before there were computers on every desk. Rodney’s father worked at Mutual too, that’s how they met. He was a custodian. They lived together for a few years in the Leavenworth neighborhood. It wasn’t such a great place to live, just as the Kellogg isn’t now, because there were junkies on the sidewalks and slumlords let most of the houses go to shit. But the people who lived there would let you be. They wouldn’t hassle you for doing things differently than most folks wanted you to. Rodney knew this, he understood it well.

His father left their midtown house when Rodney was thirteen years old, but he came back to visit most weekends, even when his life was running short, living alone by then in some innavigable parcel of land north of Cuming, south of Ames, east of 40th, west of the river. The man died and was buried during the three years Rodney was away in the army. Rodney could have had a furlough to return for the funeral, if he’d requested one, but he didn’t. His mother had moved back to Hastings by that time too, since he was in the military and she’d retired early. She was fifteen years older than Rodney’s father, and she worked a long time even after she retired from Mutual, simple stuff she was used to doing with insurance forms, for a while at the hospital in Hastings, a few years after that for a shyster lawyer.

Rodney wished someone would have been there to meet him when he came back from the army, but it wasn’t a big deal. In those days men still had to drive up from base after serving, which was from Arkansas in his case. He rode with a few guys he knew that were heading his way, one other from Omaha and a couple from Sioux City who had the car. They stopped at the dog track in Council Bluffs because the two with the car wanted to gamble. The family of the other guy from Omaha was waiting outside, and he wanted to give Rodney a ride.

“C’mon, buddy. Get in the car,” the man said, but Rodney shook his head and jogged after the two from Sioux City who were entering the track. “I’ll find a ride,” Rodney yelled back. “I’m going to bet some.”

Rodney did like to watch the greyhounds run and that’s what he did for a few hours, even after the guys with the car decided to head on. He sat inside the smoke-dense building with a smattering of others, men bent over the seats to study the odds. Rodney distracted himself by watching the greyhounds pound the earth on the other side of the glass, those long, graceful dogs chasing a mechanical rabbit along the rail. They went around the track and then back into a box.

He hadn’t thought about it in real terms until then, that his father was dead. It made him sad that his dad died young—he didn’t even know what had done it. Rodney wondered if he was a man then, since he no longer had a father.

During an intermission he walked out of the building and across the parking lot, jumped a fence near the interstate, and jogged across the bridge to Omaha. He was in fatigues still, a rucksack sagged over his shoulder. Rodney couldn’t keep his breath running over the bridge and had to stop every so often to look down at the river, as if he were lost in a strange country, a new man in a lonely and desolate place.

 

“Attend the Way” Published in Heavy Feather Review’s “Vacancies” Anthology

Photo by Jason Teal.
Photo by Jason Teal.

Hey, everyone. The editors of Heavy Feather Review now have in their possession the actual copies of their most recent anthology–“Vacancies”–and are shipping out orders. If you didn’t pre-order the anthology, now’s your chance to order one for yourself.

Vacancies just so happens to contain a short story by Theodore Wheeler titled “Attend the Way.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Most all he has now are clothes and most of them are ratty. Olive work pants the city gives him, a bunch of tee shirts. Rodney mows grass in parks and vacant lots, around abandoned houses. He has a hot plate in his room, on a table next to his bed because he likes to cook lying down. There’s a pine closet that sticks out from the wall by the door and his twin bed is angled so he can look out the window. His girl had a TV and paid for cable. Rodney kind of misses watching what was on each night, especially in the summer after mowing was finished. He misses lying on the couch with his girl too, even though he won’t let himself miss her. Most of the time it’s more comfortable to be alone, that’s how he sees it. Rodney’s legs are hot and he doesn’t like being shut up in a room with somebody else whose legs might also be hot.

Thanks to Jason and Nathan for selecting the story, and to everyone who helped this one along.

Publication Updates–Cosmonauts Avenue, Heavy Feather Review & Gargoyle

A few updates on stories that will be coming out in journals in short order.

“Forget Me” has been ticketed for the the February issue of Cosmonauts Avenue. Judging by their first few issues, I’d guess this should drop around the middle of the month.

I sent off the galleys for my story “Attend the Way” late last year and it appears that the proofs are in. It won’t be long before Heavy Feather Review‘s “Vacancies” issue finds it way out into the world. Pre-order the anthology here.

Finally, Gargoyle #62 has gone off to the printers and will include my story “Shame Cycle.” Look for that soon as well. (In the meantime, Gargoyle has reopened for their notoriously short submission period. If you’re interested, hurry.)

I’ll have some updates on the release of my chapbook (On the River, Down Where They Found Willy Brown) very soon, which will also be published this February by Edition Solitude. Everything just sort of fell together this way, but it looks like I’m going to be blessed with a couple busy months to begin 2015.

Pub Updates–Gargoyle, Heavy Feather Review

A couple publication updates from the last week to share.

First, you can now preorder the summer 2014 double-issue of Heavy Feather Review, themed “Vacancies.” The issue will feature my story “Attend the Way,” along with work by a bunch of others. Check out the full roster here.

Second, because of an overload of work, and a switch from being an annual to a bi-annual, my story “Shame Cycle” has been moved to issue 62 of Gargoyle, which should arrive around Christmastime.

“Attend the Way” Picked Up by Heavy Feather Review!

Cover images by David Fleck.

While Five Chapters was serializing my work last week, some good news regarding another publication came through, as “Attend the Way” was accepted by Heavy Feather Review for their themed double issue this summer!

HFR has done some cool stuff for what’s a pretty new journal. Their web design and cover art are really interesting, for one thing. I’m excited to see how the issue comes together. And their call for submissions period on the theme “Vacancies” is still open, by the way. View the call here.

“Attend the Way” is a story I’ve been working on for a while, one from a series about the “neighborhood men” I used to come across when I walked to work from 33rd & Dewey. This is the second story to feature the Kellogg Rooming House too, for all you 24th Street connoisseurs out there.

Here’s an excerpt:

Most all he has now are clothes and most of them are ratty. Olive work pants the city gives him, a bunch of tee shirts. Rodney mows grass in parks and vacant lots, around abandoned houses. He has a hot plate in his room, on a table next to his bed because he likes to cook lying down. There’s a pine closet that sticks out from the wall by the door and his twin bed is angled so he can look out the window. His girl had a TV and paid for cable. Rodney kind of misses watching what was on each night, especially in the summer after mowing was finished. He misses lying on the couch with his girl too, even though he won’t let himself miss her. Most of the time it’s more comfortable to be alone, that’s how he sees it. Rodney’s legs are hot and he doesn’t like being shut up in a room with somebody else whose legs might also be hot.

Thanks to Jason and Nathan for selecting the stories, and to everyone who helped this story along. It’s nice to have another pub to look forward to this summer. “Shame Cycle” in Gargoyle, and now “Attend the Way” in Heavy Feather Review. Prost!