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“When I look back on my forty-one years I've never been healthier, but I've never been more miserable than I am right now because I'm too happy and that scares me worse than spiders, snakes, and rapists..."

refugee
words: ed markowski


At ten past Detroit's local weather forecast, the screen door squeaks, the storm door moans, and a blast from Alaska blows in followed by Patty Long wrapped in a yellow nylon windbreaker. The bar glass thermometer says minus twenty.

Patty mounts her usual stool, three down from the Labatt's tap between the mirror and the rainbow hued 1974 Rock Ola Jukebox she bought me a month after I bought the bar. She lights a Kool. She pops a pill. She says, “How in the fuck would any of us make it if we didn't have the chemical parachutes of tobacco, benzos, and booze. Pour me a double Popov with a breakfast olive if you can spare it.”

Then she says, “Scott was promoted to vice president. Things have never been better. I make eight-hundred dollars a day giving beauty advice to beautiful women who don't need it. But here's what's so fucking weird Ed, when I look back on my forty-one years I've never been healthier, but I've never been more miserable than I am right now because I'm too happy and that scares me worse than spiders, snakes, and rapists. I feel like I'm living in a foreign country. So tell me again why you kicked my ass to the curb for that Russian slut. I want to feel what twenty degrees below zero feels like at twilight on an eighty degree August day. I want to preserve the icicles that formed and have lacerated my heart since that summer night on that barren bluff above Lake Superior. Just one more time Eddie, send me on a one way trip to Siberia, because that's the only place I feel at home.”

(illustration: marc covert)


Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Many, many more of Ed's fine stories can be found in the Smokebox Archives.

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