Miracle by David Allan Cates

Steven Falconer Roadside Fiction

Street Corner


Photo by Steven Falconer

‘Miracle’ by David Allan Cates


Like I say, a miracle. Which if you’re unfamiliar with the term up there on the grid of the North American Midwest is something that happens every day down here. Well, maybe not that often but I did have another mystical experience yesterday.

It started when I saw a pretty teenage girl get off one of those over-packed buses with people hanging off the sides and riding on top. She just kind of plopped down and stood waiting for something or someone. It was one of those not uncommon scenes: The sidewalk in chunks, the wall she leaned against cracked, the tiles in the roof behind her broken or missing. But she looked good. I mean, she was the only thing in sight that looked put together correctly. And not just her tidy body, but her shiny black hair combed into a ponytail held with a pretty yellow ribbon, and the fit of her clothes, her shoes. She looked like she’d just descended from heaven.

I went over and stood next to her. I didn’t talk because I didn’t know what to say. I just wanted to stand there for a while. But of course me standing there for so long looking out in the street and not talking made her uncomfortable, so finally I spoke. I asked her if she was waiting for somebody. She said no, she’d just taken the bus here to see what would happen. ‘Really?’ I asked. She nodded, very serious. I shrugged and said me too.

We both stood there for a while until I got an idea. I looked at her but she wasn’t looking at me. Still, I liked my idea. I wondered if she’d like it, too. Yes, I thought. No, I thought, and back and forth like that until finally the drama got too much for me and I had to ask. ‘Want to step around the corner with me and kiss?’ She looked up at me. I looked down at her. She didn’t speak or smile, just nodded, real subtle, just enough, and so we stepped around the corner of the broken wall into a shady spot where we gently made our way into each other’s arms and started making out. We did that for a long time.

She didn’t want to go any farther. Every time I tried to move my hand to a strategic spot, she slid it gently back up to her shoulder. I said, ‘Hey, what if a bomb goes off and both of us die in our clean clothes? What a tragedy!’ She didn’t seem to think so. (Or else I just said it badly in Spanish.) Regardless, I sweated and grunted around trying to touch her and finally, to distract me, she began to teach me a prayer. She had me sit down next to her on a piece of cardboard and lean back against the wall and repeat a prayer her grandmother taught her.

She said her grandmother had a sad life. Lost four children when they were young, and her husband recently come back from the war a little loco. She said this prayer gave her grandma great comfort. Did I want to learn it? What could I say? Of course I’ve forgotten it now but by the time night fell in that alley, I had it memorized. How could I not? We were sitting surrounded by every piece of broken crap you could imagine, broken fans, broken hoses, broken car parts, broken windows, everything messed-up and broken but her—and we held hands and prayed together. I have no clue what I was praying for but I knew it was as holy as it gets.

[An excerpt from the forthcoming novel, Eastern Front]

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David Allen Cates


David Allan Cates’s fifth novel, Eastern Front, is due out from Bangtail Press in the fall of 2014. His fourth novel, Ben Armstrong’s Strange Trip Home,
was a winner of a Gold Medal for Best Fiction in the 2013 Independent Book
Publishers Book Awards. Cates is the winner of the 2010 Montana Arts
Council’s Artist Innovation Award in prose and his short story, “Rubber Boy,”
(Glimmer Train 70) is a a distinguished story in the 2010 Best American
Short Stories. Cates has been the executive director of Missoula Medical Aid,
which leads groups of medical professionals to provide public health
and surgery services in Honduras.
Website: www.davidallancates.com

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