SmokeLong Quarterly

Share This f l Translate this page

Everyone in Cities

Story by Jon Chaiim McConnell (Read author interview) June 25, 2013

art by Leslie Salas

I’m claiming squatter’s rights.

I will sit by the radiator and thumb through your magazines. I’m going to call and have your locks changed using the bills that I find magnetted to the fridge. The DVR schedule will be corrected. I will shape an altar out of the hardcovers in your bookcase and then pray that they never fall over.

Are these the ways that squatter’s rights work? To be clear I’m going to touch all of your things.

I will gently pry your kitchen chairs apart. The legs and the slats curve like boat strakes and I will lash them together in the tub and then polish them shut with marmite. My vessel will float for moments. But the USS Dinette will not prove seaworthy in the end and it will slowly color the water the reddish-brown of our brief success.

There will be arguments with your children through the mail slot around 3 p.m.

Your cat will be fed better.

I’ll slip the policeman an annotated note after a number of failed attempts with your printer and I will tell him, In accordance with the law, to please not axe the door down. His hands will be tied. I’ll thank him to never disturb me again.

When your friends call and wonder would Friday or Saturday be a better time to get together I’ll say there are scotches in the cabinet and to keep the dress casual and, when they arrive with their shirts buttoned to the sternum, I’ll say No, even more. Then I’ll wake up with a woman named Brenda cradled gently in my arms on the flokati rug. Through a smile in the cresting window light she will say that she’s always wanted to feel it against her shoulderblades.

Once I’ve eaten what’s here I’m going to live off of the terrible baklava you can get for $3.99 from the Chinese bakery just visible from your window. See it? Down through the mouth of the alleyway? I’m going to make friends with the manager and every night at 10, before the drunk rush begins, he will send my order up the pulley system that I’ve arranged along the fire escape. His family comes from Wuhan, though he’ll never have time to really talk.

Your plaid pajama pants will be too small and I’ll continue to rip them by accident a little at a time, stretching for too long in the mornings. Still, I will not give them up once they’re ruined.

Have faith, the toothpaste will last nearly two weeks longer than you suspected.

I’ll find a crust of many years between your stove and the countertops and maintain a small nausea as I clean it away. How could you have lived like this? The ventilation hood will have been tarnished. The grout a strange color. In the depths of the freezer I will find lost unidentifiable beans, french cut, and lay them in a bag with the rest of the garbage before throwing the entire thing out the window. After missing the dumpster by only a few inches I’ll swear I can hear them shattering for days on the asphalt.

Your parents will thank me for the invigorating literary discussion.

I’ll find that, with your pillows stacked correctly, the decades of ache in my shoulders will begin to ease away and that waking in the morning will finally feel like waking in the morning again.

It will take 90 days and three different lawyers, and then whose name will it be on the subpoena? And who will have signed for your packages? And who will have opened them up? And who will have tasted each of those coffees, each one more fair trade than the last?

Meanwhile: I will not even look for new toilet paper.

I will not keep the buttons that fall from your jacket in the small porcelain bowl by the door.

I will not keep the cabinets closed.

I will not leave my finger smudge on the mirrors or the windows or in any glass places you’d recognize but you’ll need to keep looking, because while I will not feel the full stumble of your life I’ll know just what it is to have tried.

About the Author

Jon Chaiim McConnell (@JonMcConn) is a graduate of the Emerson College MFA program and the fiction editor of Redivider’s Spring 2013 issue. He works as a filmmaker in the Boston area. This is his first published story.

About the Artist

Leslie Salas is a Dean’s Fellow in the Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Central Florida, where she teaches composition and is working on a graphic novel. Her work—both prose and sequential art—has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals such as Sweet: A Literary Confection, The Southeast Review, and Burrow Press’ 15 Views of Tampa Bay.


Support SmokeLong Quarterly

Your donation helps writers and artists get paid for their work. If you’re enjoying what you read here, please consider donating to SmokeLong Quarterly today.

SmokeLong Fitness -- The SmokeLong Community Workshop

Book Now!

Included in the price of SmokeLong Fitness:

One live Zoom webinar each month with killer workshop leaders (recorded for participants unable to attend).

One open-mic party each month (or other live Zoom events)

Discounts on intensive workshops

Discounts on senior editor feedback

Surprises (good ones)