Close Reading


September 14, 2012 by The Citron Review

by Al Bray 


Every morning, if he watches with one eye over the upper edge of the book, a girl appears, crossing the yard in front of his window from right to left. It’s almost always between ten-thirty and eleven. He imagines she lives somewhere in the house next door—probably on a higher floor. His own apartment is in the basement, half-in and half-out of the ground, and he must look up to see her pass. She walks bare-foot, sure-foot over the cropped lawn, and below the long hem of a man’s button-down shirt, her thighs are also bare.

Her passage is quick; he freezes when it happens, not out of fear of being seen, but of losing an instant of her in the transition, as if some geometry of their positions would be thrown off if he set down the book or leaned forward; a vector which would leave him short. A smile is often on her face, and he imagines she’s shy. She carries a cup of steaming coffee, holding it by the handle because it’s very hot, and he’s sure she’s carrying it to a lover about to wake.

He gets up a whole hour earlier and showers and shaves, dressing in worn jeans and a green T-shirt with a Rolling Rock beer logo—dressing for her, no belt, no shoes. It’s a balmy summer morning; the garbage truck makes its rounds, upending dumpsters with a gasoline roar. Birds are singing.


Al Bray lives in northern New England with his family. He started writing fiction fifteen years ago after working as a clinical social worker and musician in the Midwest. His stories have appeared in TQR Stories and Gone Lawn Journal.

3 thoughts on “Close Reading

  1. […] a writer, with two new stories published this month. The Replica City , published on Per Contra and Close Reading published on The Citron Review are each satisfying pieces of short fiction that take you to new […]

  2. […] way with words and an astounding ability to create whole worlds on paper. When I read one of his stories, I am raised to another plane, given the chance to look at the world in a new way. When I am at a […]

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