The importance of the mundane, while mundane in and of itself, ripples with power. Routine brings comfort, even when it’s the disconcerting zombie-like emergence of people from jail. By imposing structure we impose meaning, which ironically is the very thing jail attempts to do to the incarcerated (or at least we like to think so).
The new cycle of school is upon us (and so many of us are touched by it in one way or another). I hope you’ll make time for writing and specifically some flash. You know where to send it: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to a new set of structures.
“Just the Everyday” by Gabriel Fernandez
“How are you doing today, Emma?” the passing man asked.
“Oh, you know, just the everyday,” she replied.
“When’s moving day?”
“About time,” he paused, “Good luck to you.”
She had lived in these projects for the last forty years. The ones on California Street right across from Cook County jail. She always wondered why she stayed so long. It could’ve been because she was here from the beginning, when the breathing paint on these buildings proclaimed home. It could’ve been to help her daughter with her children when she lived in these same projects. Maybe it was an act of self-definition, to remind her children that no matter how successful they might become, they still grew up in the projects across from the jail. Or maybe it was her husband. He couldn’t be trusted with his drinking binges. She could handle that here. Somewhere else would be different. Maybe because it wasn’t too far from work. She could just hop on a bus and be downtown in a few minutes at her job at First National Bank. Maybe she liked to see people emerge from the jail, like walking zombies, fresh from an incarceration stint, awash in the stench and grime of the night before. She wondered where they came from, who were their mothers? Did they even have mothers who cared for them? She remembered when her son lost his basketball scholarship by getting arrested for possession and was released from that same jail. And he came home to her. Or maybe she was tied to that location, to her home, to that jail, to that city. Wind didn’t blow that place out of you. It stayed in the blood, with its very own molecules of air, sometimes reminding of the violence humanity is capable of, sometimes ablaze in its mystical waves of magic, or sometimes giving the soft touch of an overdue embrace. Now that’s Chicago.
She stood in front of her home gazing at the sky, at the jail, at her memories of her grandkids playing in the snow, making snow angels and snow men. She remembered her cat, Smokey, and how she was sometimes the only good thing in a day.
“Ma, we gotta get busy packing. What are you doing out there?”
“Oh, you know, just the everyday.”
She had seen the people who moved in and either moved out, were kicked out, or were killed out. This is where she gave her daughter her first car for being the first one to graduate college, and this is where she came home when one of her sons was stillborn. This is where she taught her sons how to make menudo and her daughters how to make tamales. The walls whispered its wisdom and pain, the floors creaked its strife and experience.
But her kids wouldn’t let her stay any longer. She was retired now, it was time to move, they said. All her hours, days, seasons, and years were safely stored away.
Yet, sometimes she wondered if she’d be alright. What would she do?
Just the everyday she gently reminded herself.
Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.
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