Thursday, May 20, 2010

Walking Away the Blues

This week we return to my blog's primary reason for being: original Southern/Appalachian fiction.

I don't plan to use this space for personal exposition. Suffice to say my camera is misplaced, so graphics will be in short supply in the near future.

And that's not a bad introduction to the story below. It hasn't been published before, though I did read it from the stage at the Clear Creek Music Festival a few years back. I hope you enjoy it.

Walking Away The Blues
by Randy Lowens

As the blue arc retreated, Lester laid the torch aside and raised his hood. With the hem of his shirt he pushed sweat off his forehead, onto the concrete floor where tiny mud puddles formed in the dirt. It was only midmorning. Gonna be one long day.

He removed his hood and laid it on the gear box, lens up. He ambled to the water fountain where he took a long drink and a deep breath. On Lester's third pull from the fountain, his boss appeared at the office door as if responding to an alarm. Short and wiry, bespectacled and gray, the man examined a wristwatch wrapped below rolled-up shirtsleeves, then glared at Lester. Yankee bastard. Probably don't even own a short-sleeve shirt.

Lester knew better than to return his employer's stare. He'd already lost one job on account of stuff like that. But he wasn't going to be buffaloed, either. So he took a long drink, turning his face skyward and closing his eyes as he swallowed. Then another, before finally shuffling back to his work station. Taking up the torch with his right hand, he placed the hood upright on his head with his left. He jerked his neck to drop the shield into place and struck an arc.


Five years had passed since Lester had moved from his hometown to the city. Five years, since he left his wife for the first time. Four and a half, since their reconciliation. Three, since the divorce became final.

He didn't miss her. He pretended to; he told folks that he did. (After all, you were supposed to feel bad about a divorce.) But he really didn't. What he missed was the sense of belonging to someone. Sometimes he felt like he had mounted an inner tube at the lake, drifted too far from the dock, and now he couldn't see shore.

Still, mostly he enjoyed being single. He enjoyed not having to satisfy anyone's demands. Picking up drunk girls in bars when he got lonely, then breaking up before they dumped him. It was two years since he had taken his ex-wife's picture off the wall and stashed it in a drawer. Made for less questions to answer from his dates.

Lester sat down on the couch in his living room and began thumbing through the classifieds. He was looking for a new job. Not one that paid better, necessarily, or that was closer to the house. Just a new one. He'd been working for the same company for over two years now, and sticking around too long in one place never seemed to work out. After a while they got to know you, and things got complicated. Life was simpler if you kept moving on. Made for less questions to answer all around.