Couldn’t help but notice your car was parked outside the Silo Tavern. By my watch, you were in there a good three hours….”
by ed markowski
The rain that began falling nine hours ago is
falling faster, thicker, and blacker than a curtain
of tears behind a widow’ s veil. When I roll the
window down, drops as big as quarters tap out an
SOS against the side of my face, just as his voice
“Couldn’t help but notice your car was parked outside the Silo Tavern. By my watch, you were
in there a good three hours. Now in and of itself, that might be ok, but, you ran a stop sign
at the corner of Main and Route 30. I’ll need your license, registration, and proof of
insurance. Relax, this won’t take but a minute, then we’ll see just how much you had
On a crooked highway, a pleashman lishens
while I reshite the alphabet.
Just past midnight, the police radio crackles,
a voice cracks, “Hanging from a steel peg in Carney’s barn,
Carney’s saddle, Carney’s hat, and Carney’s son.”
“We’re a small town, we won’t
lock the cell unless you ask
or make us. We’re kind, but
we can get as mean as we
need to be.”
A new drunk next door makes it…
1 car thief
1 check fraud artist
1 one armed bandit.
Doors locked? A civics class come to learn.
Boys snicker. Girls whisper. Wolves howl,
a snake hisses, lions roar, the teacher’s
been stripped naked, and she doesn’t
even know it.
On a wall where the sun shines like a stain,
a calendar, compliments of
The Optimists Club.
“Gunter’s kid got accepted to Berkeley.
Son of a bitch’ll come back softer’n
Susie and redder’n a fuckin’ beet &
Carney’s boy gets buried in his Husker’s
jersey before he ever throws a pitch. I’ll
tell ya somethin’, that’s just about enough
to make a good christian man turn his back
In a dream I dreamnt
i dreamnt i dreamed
i was living in the
smallest chinese box.
He didn’t do it, he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it,
he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it,
he wasn’t drunk, i wasn’t drunk, but…
here we are.
“If i’d a wired that blue Volkswagon, i’d be
on a beach in California ’cause the
son of a bitch wunta broke down like them
motherfuckin’ niggermobiles they build
“Pure black coffe to match the color of your souls,”
says the man who brings our breakfast.
Thunder: “I did time with Charlie Manson
before he made it big.”
Lightning: “I’m fuckin’ Doc Holliday & Ma Barker,
now you did time with them too.”
Rain: “I’m a one armed bandit named Simon,
and Simon says, shut the fuck up.”
All day long, the vagrants speak fondly
of a boxcar in Fargo.
The check fraud artist qualifies everything
he says with, “sure as smoke and mirrors.”
Mop in hand, he reminds the car thief, “If
this was 1877 and you stole somebody’s ride,
we’d a hung your ass last week. Instead, we
gotta feed the likes of you while one of the
finest young men this town ever produced is
buried deeper than a fuckin’ bunch of carrots.
“Took the patrol car past her place. Seen
something bright red waving in the breeze
on Missus Kemp’s scarecrow. Got a little
closer, got outta the car, and i’ll be butter
on her bootie, someone tied a long red
balloon between his legs and painted a tit
suckin’ grin on his face.”
A night train crosses the prairie,
the floor beneath us trembles.
A cock crows, our shadows spill out
between the bars.
“Shined my light on Altmann’s son
and Ghering’s daughter doing the
clover crush behind Big Bev’s Dairy
Dip & Twist. Wish’t I’d had a camera.”
Jet contrails cross the squares
of a steel screened window.
“Wimmen is trouble, hell, pussy
ain’t nothin’ but a cell with velvet walls.”
“Told the driver he’d come in well
under weight, so he donated six
cases of butterfly shrimp to the
department and a hundred dollars
for the Methodist pancake breakfast.”
“Stole close to ten grand so far with one
fuckin’ arm, goddamned right i’m
proud of myself.”
“Don’t ever hop a train on the Fargo / Winnipeg
line after Halloween. They find men froze stiff
like sides of beef in them cars every year.”
“The Merrick County Corn Queen’s six
months gone and Carney Junior ain’t
ever gonna meet Carney the Third.
Word’s goin’ round that’s why
he did it.”
Morning rain. For three staright weeks,
the taste and texture of powdered eggs.
A box of eight glazed donuts from Throckmorten’s Bakery
and the metallic clang of the car thief’s leg irons.
“Ollie Olson’s right hand is out there somewhere
in his cornfield.”
Something in our bowls
not quite soup.
The police radio crackles, another voice cracks,
“Three miles east of town on highway 30,
two dead in a head on with a Cottonwood.
Iowa plates ME 4 14 54.”
“You say the weather was bad so you sought shelter? Well,
that’s good, that’s what common sense dictates. Son, if
you think the weather was bad on May 27th, you’ve never
seen bad weather.
If the weather had been bad on that day, that’s hardly an
excuse to sit in a tavern drinking the night away.
I see here that you’re on your way to an art school in
Boulder, Colorado by way of Detroit. To me that says
you come from hell and your going to hell and by
the looks of you i’d say that’s a good bet.
A short time after you were arrested, one of the finest
young men this twn ever knew took his life. That
young man worked hard, played baseball, honored his
parents and our God. He never did wrong unto
One can’t help but question the ways of this world
when young men like him are taken and society
is left with, if the word men even applies, young
men like yourself and the others who are currently
enjoying our kindness and hospitality.
I’d like to sentence you to six months labor on one
of our farms. That would go a long way toward
knocking some of that big city con man out of your
system. Detroit? Six months on one of our farms
would be an act of mercy. Six months might save
your life. But, i can’t do that.
I hereby order you to pay the following fine…”
30 days wiser and a thousand bucks lighter,
the feel of cool damp grass underfoot.
(illustration: real actual stamps)
Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan. More of Ed’s stories can be found in the Vault of Smoke.