I was performing in the 14th Street subway station. There were hip-hoppers and pickpockets and poetry slammers and holiday santas. Some toss juggler hit me in the head with a bowling pin. I watched break dancers spin themselves into oblivion.

You fell out of the sky like a Flying Wallenda. With the startling clear eyes of a fighter pilot. You said you painted portraits of starving artists. Took me home, took everything I’d left unguarded. 

Now we have no place to go and no place to stay. No amount of Kevlar can keep us safe. Back at the 14th Street Station, beatboxers shift tempo in the mad, sweet rush.

Loneliness is yes and please and bruises on our knees. We sing our songs and people pay us to leave.

17 Comments

  1. Randal Houle

    Todd, That last line(s) really brought this circus home. “We sing our songs and people pay us to leave” is up there with “Some toss juggler hit me on the head with a bowling pin”
    The idea that this is a circus-like environment in the subway station almost doesn’t work until “You fell out of the sky like a flying Wallenda” Everything from there spoke to both giving and loss, hard work, hard luck and a hint of another life, perhaps a former one (kevlar vest)… I think there is a hint here of a secondary narrative or exposition that could imbue the rest of the story with its resonant power. Enjoyed the reading.

  2. sara lippmann

    Todd, this is magic. The voice. The rhythm and music. The true grit and the strange. The way you capture the city in place and time, the hope, hustle, desperation and longing, all that you convey in so few words. I love this love story.

    • Todd Clay Stuart

      Thank you, Sara. I’m glad you loved it and recognized it for the love story it is! ~Todd

  3. Meg Tuite

    Todd, WOW! You give so much through compression. No words stand in the way of a complete relationship! I’m in awe!
    “Loneliness is yes and please and bruises on our knees.” DAMN! I would send this beauty out. It’s mesmerizing! LOVE!

  4. Nancy Stohlman

    The last line(s) are really gorgeous. I felt so much movement in here, so much density in this little nugget of a story. And I laughed out loud at: like a Flying Wallenda. (Ha! Yes!)

  5. Jenn Rossmann

    I loved this. I love the circus like atmosphere and the fact that until the last line we don’t know what the narrator contributes — only that it counts as “performing,” too. Love that both descriptors of “you” are of perilous flight, with who’s in peril shifting as you’s “sights” are on our narrator. I didn’t quite have a handle on the Kevlar — this was the only thing that slowed my breathless reading pace. I love the last two lines.

    • Todd Clay Stuart

      Jenn, thank you so much for the encouraging feedback. I’m happy that you loved it. I’ll have to take a closer look at that Kevlar line. Thanks again. ~Todd

  6. Jonathan Cardew

    Todd,

    I loved it! Perfect nugget. I really like stories with an “I” narrator addressing a “you”–this works very well in this piece.

    Nothing really to suggest for this. Of course you could make it longer, but I think it is just right at this length.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

    • Todd Clay Stuart

      Thank you so much, Jonathan. Your feedback means a lot to me. I really appreciate it! ~Todd

  7. April Bradley

    Oh my heart! This is really just perfect, Todd. Well done. Thank you so much for sharing it with us all.

  8. Nancy Bauer-King

    Todd. The scene spins! The details and narrative arc give this depth. I like the characters and feel as if I know them. And, I agree with other comments submitted about your last two lines. Thank You.

  9. Kristen Ploetz

    What I love most about this short piece (I have an affinity for short pieces as a reader and writer of them) is the somehow miraculous use of multi-syllabic words in a way that does not sound like a big mess (pickpokets, beatboxers, Flying Wallendas, loneliness). But the part that really got me was the last sentence. That is such a great observation, how onlookers pay performers to kind of move on because they might be annoying/too loud/in the way/irritating (I’ve certainly done it!). It’s not ALWAYS about paying for a job well done and a lot of us know that, so you capture the narrator’s self-awareness so well with that one astute line.

  10. David O'Connor

    Todd, the last two lines are golden. I also really felt swirling city chaos here. The characters, the robbery, felt some Donald Barthelme jazz here, great story.

  11. Trent

    Todd –
    besides the city and the energy of it, I love “With the startling clear eyes of a fighter pilot.”
    As always, thanks for your descriptive work! This is one of your best.

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