Off I-75

Joseph Celizic


His breath unleaded. The seats impatient. “They used to give these out for free.”

“I remember that,” I forge. “Someday again,” I hope.

It’s our third burger and fries – our second eye brush – our first donated words. He’s as reliable as golden arches, a beacon on my evening stops for gas. He doesn’t bother with the cardboard sign, but he stole my boss’s voice and his beard is not so long. His eyes are redwoods and I dare not count the rings.

“You know those numbers are telling the truth.” He air-pokes the back-lit prices.

“Nothing truer than a dollar.” I’m relieved when neither of us laugh.

His swallow translucent. His mane ecclesiastical. “Meaningless,” he says, but he’s not boasting. There’s no prophecy here, though it’s no less hard fought. “They’re warning us.”

They were too late, or maybe I was. My landlord’s letter came last week. 2 Jenkins 3:14 – your monthly rent will increase 41%. I’ve already scoped the boxes behind the dumpster.

“I’m just joking,” he says, unsheathed. “Maybe one day.”

I vow to keep an eye out, and he swears on every passing car that I’ll be alright.

How do you tell someone they mean more than they think? That they’re putting themself on sale? Demand is high, I’ve been told. I wouldn’t sell this second.

I gather our trash – mine and his in one crinkled bang, a huddled ball hot in my hands. It should rot faster. It shouldn’t last forever.

He snaps his fingers like day two. Firmament. The heavens. “That’s how. Just like that,” he says, and the words put a price on us that can never be changed.


Joseph Celizic teaches at Bowling Green State University. His fiction has appeared in Indiana Review, North American Review, Third Coast, Redivider, and CutBank, and has been shortlisted in Best American Mystery Stories.




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