Erasing the Mistakes of the World
Stanley Palumbo is optimistic when he enters the church this warm Saturday morning. Stanley lives in the same neighborhood as the church, an area known as the wrong side of the tracks, a you-don’t-want-to-walk-there-at-night neighborhood—unless you’re looking for drugs or a hooker. The church is having a rummage sale. Donations for the sale come from the right side of the tracks, a neighborhood of homes on cul-de-sacs, where children wear helmets and knee pads to ride a bicycle and parents have unnaturally white teeth.
Stanley is here for a microwave oven. He needs one because he can’t cook. He can fry an egg, make a grilled cheese or fried bologna sandwich, but that’s about it. He eats cold cereal, Ramen Noodles, canned soup. With a microwave, he could make real meals, like those Hungry-Man frozen dinners: Meatloaf, Fried Chicken, Salisbury Steak. They even come with dessert. When he saw the Chicken & Waffles dinner, he couldn’t resist. He bought one yesterday.
With eager anticipation, Stanley glides through the crowd, past the books, toys, and pet supplies, to the table with kitchen appliances. He views the items: an electric wok, three ice cream makers, two rice cookers, a pasta machine, two toasters. He scans the table again, looks under and around it—no microwave oven. Disappointment rushes in. Last year, there were four. He thought he would be able to pick and choose, maybe bargain down the price. His face is an expression of unfulfilled hope, and his stomach groans over the loss. He won’t be biting through the crunch of crispy fried chicken and light airy waffles, all hot and syrup sweet.
As he turns to leave, he notices a woman about his age—no wedding ring and not bad looking—struggling with an aquarium. She’s trying to turn it over, looking for cracks. Stanley knows he must act fast, opportunities are rare and fleeting. He’ll offer to help. He’ll carry it home for her, and, on the way, he’ll entertain her with stories of clown school, how he once made a hot air balloon out of a circus tent. If things work out, he won’t need a microwave. He’ll have a woman.
Supie Dunbar, after retiring, surprised herself by becoming a writer. She is published online and in print. Supie lives in Chicago with her good dog, Lula.
Kathleen McSherry began her career as an art director in advertising, then taught her craft in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Her cartoons have been exhibited in Europe, Japan, the Middle East, and South America. Then she discovered found-object sculpture. Her sculptures have been exhibited in New Jersey, New York, Brooklyn, and Pennsylvania, and in online exhibitions during the Covid crisis. She uses bits and objects that singularly seem to have no value, but that when combined and altered rise like a phoenix from the ashes, creating unique, whimsical, and sometimes poignant images. Her studio is located in Doylestown, PA.