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no answer (the melon seller)

A shiny black van pulls up, wheels skidding on gravel. Five, maybe six men step out all at once. They wear black t-shirts and army fatigues. Their heads are shaved, slick with sweat in the afternoon sun. Their arms are huge, squeezed into those shirts a few sizes too small. All at once they circle a fruit stand by the road. It is made of plywood, held together with a few screws. One good sneeze could level it. Rows of torpedo shaped melons sit on bulging shelves, below them a cage full of watermelons. The men yank smartphones from their pockets, taking pictures, making calls. I assume they are some covert team that extorts vendors, either sending them home and destroying the fruit or worse. I somehow expect the man does not have a permit and the right papers to sell anything. In Russia, you need permission to do just about anything. There are no five year olds with lemonade stands here. 
I cross the street, distancing myself as I glimpse the men between the cars and trolley buses tha…

after the storm


The doors in the apartment are slamming shut from phantom hands. The sky goes dark, from that Spring pale blue to something green, even purple. Rain smacks against dirty windows. The trees outside, freshly green are bending hard. A wind whips through the city, triggering car alarms. The trees pull and bend, their arms wild, like they are underwater. I realize the window on the balcony is open. It is already flooding when I close it. The window in the bedroom is the same, a cold puddle on the floor.

Now everything is closed, and the wind whistles through the cracks. Roofs are ripping from the tops of low houses. Trees are falling. Traffic lights lean and then tip over onto the sidewalk. Metal signs fly from old hinges, slicing into traffic.

Ten people died that day, many wounded, tens of thousands of dollars of damage.

Later, the sound of chainsaws hum from downstairs. They chop the fallen trees into random pieces, and leave them there. The piles of wet leaves and branches begin to rot in the hot sun that follows. Roots hang upside-down, as dirt-clodded mouths hang open. A black Mercedes splashes through the puddles. Children play in a sandbox, wearing ski hats and down vests.

At night, the wind picks up again. A few days later there is a tornado in another part of the country.

I think to take pictures of the remains of the trees. There is a broken piece of sidewalk I shoot and an old woman passes, eyeing me like I am a cold war spy caught in the act.
"And then what is going to happen?" She asks me, a jab, an accusation.

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