Traveling Salesman

He finds himself stepping off the bus in some burg he’s already bored with. Picking
his teeth for 200 miles—here’s where he spits the toothpick out. Past Holiday Inn
the neighborhoods get dark. All-night laundromats where women with circles under
their eyes press laundered underwear, warm as bread, against their sinuses. Finally,
he’s signing the register at a funeral home where he knows no one, but is mistaken
for a long-lost friend of the deceased, for someone who has dislocated his life to
make the hazardous journey on a night when the dead man’s own children have
avoided him. Once again instinct has taken him where he’s needed; where the
unexpected transforms routine into celebration. He kneels before the corpse,
striking his forehead against the casket.

:: Stuart Dybek, Brass Knuckles (Pittsburgh, 1979)

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