The Corner

The streets can be a cold, lonely place. We should know; that’s where your editors met.

Some would say a good day is any day you are alive. In the Gutter, that’s about as bad as a day can get.

The Corner by Marietta Miles

His name is James. If asked, he would guess his last name is McNichol, or maybe. McNeil. He is not entirely sure. No one asks his name anymore; no one asks him anything.

James pulls his woolly hat over his red, tender ears. He sits on the concrete base of a stoplight. The neighboring street light streams over him. It is evening and people are rushing and jamming through traffic. James waves patiently to the drivers. Faces blur and speed by. He nods his head to everyone, careful not to smile. Once, when he first started his vigil on the corner, he cast his broken smile through the window of a station wagon. A child, no more than two, locked her gaze on him and turned pale. Her small face turned away, bottom lip trembling and eyes wide. James had decided to never smile again.

The gray sky is turning black. James buffers the bitter wind and each breath burns his nose and lungs. A gold Christmas bow flutters across the pharmacy parking lot and gets stuck on a holly bush. It reminds him that his birthday is soon. James is almost sixty, he thinks, and he was born on Christmas Eve. This fact always tickled him, though it made him the butt of many jokes.

“The gift I wish we could just give back,” his father would burp over his Bud.

James will sit on his corner, waving at passers, even on his birthday. It is what he has done every day for the last three years. He recalls, before the corner, there was a woman he had loved. He had held her hand while she lay in bed, while she lay dying. And then she was gone. After, James only thought of his corner.

When the intersection had grown quiet James made for his sleeping bag, tucked between two dumpsters at the back of the pharmacy. He had pulled from the trashcans to fill his belly and had at last curled up to sleep.

James is stirred by dogs fighting nearby. His thoughts on dogs are muddled, mostly he remembers his father beating them. He knows enough to be afraid. He sits up and looks through the space between his dumpsters.

James sees three silhouettes jostling across the cement. They punch and holler. James yawns and shivers. He watches one shadow stop and bounce up and down, wound up. Like ghosts the three are suddenly close enough to touch.

The boy in the middle, small and wiry, raises his arm. James does not see the sharp edge or the jagged point. He does not see their wild faces. James only raises his hand and waves, believing someone is finally waving back.

Marietta Miles has published stories with Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive and Revolt Daily. Her writing can be found in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing and Horrified Press. Marietta Miles is on Facebook. More stories can be found at