i used to write what i called 'fragments.' i came across this one recently while cleaning through old shelves of notebooks. i think i wrote it about twenty-five years ago.
Susann clambered up the pile of old cans and crates to the top of the old stone wall that separated the alley from the railroad tracks. She swung her legs over the edge and dangled her heels against the jutting gray stones, sparkling silver with mica and sandwiched together between layers of ivory concrete. She looked over the rows upon rows of black-creosote-painted tracks, their smell pungent in her nostrils as she chewed an apple meditatively. Of course, the apple was too mealy, but the sun was shining and her bare legs were comfortably cold in the late autumn air. Her sweater, too small for her, worn and shrunk by many washings, was short in the sleeves and too billowy in front where she had stretched it out of shape by pulling on it and rolling her arms in it. Now it was more or less wrapped around her long flat-chested bodice and tucked under to hold.
Susann liked it down here by the railroad tracks. It was peaceful and deserted and different. Trains moved through the maze of tracks very slowly, and not very frequently anymore. Bits of broken glass shone like jewels among the stubble here, and the old tin cans rusted by the side of the tracks, the twisted chunks of wire and metal strewn about, reminded her of the people she saw around the city, sitting in doorways, slumped over on the subway, everyday. People who had been refused, and were now refuse. Poor people. And not just the really poor, poor people, but also a lot of the nicer people too. Little Mr. Benton, who sat still and quiet for hours at his newspaper stand, and if you spoke to him, would grin into your eyes until his whole yellow face was a mass of long wrinkles, and who would talk loudly and with great gusto except none of the kids could understand him. He spoke something called ‘geechie,’ which, Susann thought, might possibly mean he was crazy.
And then there was quiet Mrs. Jones, who always seemed to be pulling a loaded shopping cart, usually with clothes in it, a big turtle-shaped old black woman, whose knees and feet seemed painfully distended, yet who always smiled, and when she spoke in her soft deep rich voice, and called you ‘honey-chile’ or ‘angel-lamb’, it made you feel so good inside. All these old, funny-shaped, funny-talking, used-clothing-wearing people.
A cold invigorating breeze occasionally blew down as if funneled into Susann, reminding her of the tartness of a winesap apple, the kind of apple she wished she were eating right now instead of this old mealy one, and making her dream of the North, a land of snow and ice, of short days and green skies at sunset.