A true story: A man leaps from the top of the Empire State Building, is blown back on by the wind, gets religion.

Barbara, a regular at Pennyfeathers: gaunt and with skin stretched as tight as leather gone stale in the sun, her face cadaverous , the sparse white hair spilling out of her scalp in disarray ; her face fixed in an expression of transcendent despair; no telling what she's thinking, what she sees. She lingers at the counter for hours, nothing to do. Pennyfeather's is her base camp. Once she leaves she sets out walking, walking for hours; at all times of day or night she can be seen, sometimes clutching a notebook in her hands. In the warmer months she wears skirts too short so that they expose her emaciated legs.


Another regular at Pennyfeather's, a man in his sixties, retired, his face weathered, a certain dullness in the eyes; he orders a cup of coffee or a glass of milk and will linger over it for hours. It doesn't  matter to the management; he doesn't have to order anything at all if he doesn't care to. He favors caps, has the look of a man for whom life was practically all work and now that work is taken away, all he has is the OTB and the baseball games on the radio. Oblivious of any stares he may elicit, he'll often sit at the counter, humming a tune to himself off-key, occasionally singing the words sub voce.

AuthorLeslie Horvitz