A Gesture

Casey Pycior

"You no work,” my new neighbor says to me at the curb where we’ve each brought our trash cans. 

“What do you mean?” I say.

He frowns, and it seems he doesn’t understand. My Spanish is far worse than his English, and I don’t know what else to say. 

When he points toward where my Jeep is parked in front of the house, I notice a line of dirt just above his wrist where he’s scrubbed his cracked and calloused hands, presumably before sitting down to eat dinner with his wife and the three kids I saw playing in his yard as they unloaded their U-Haul a few weeks ago.               

It takes me a second, but then I understand. My Jeep is there when he leaves for work in the morning and on some days it hasn’t moved when he gets home.

Standing there in front of him in cargo shorts and a Stooges t-shirt, I know what he probably thinks of me, and I get it. I want to explain to him that my grandfather worked with dangerous chemicals for 30 years at Colgate Palmolive, and that my father was a rough-in carpenter, building homes all over Kansas City. That they both came home dirty every day. I could tell him those things, but I don’t yet have the language. 

“Work,” I say, and I start tell him that I’m a writer, and a graduate student, and that I teach Composition at Wichita State, but the rumble of an aircraft returning to McConnell AFB a couple miles south, drowns me out. It passes over us so low, I can feel the pressure of the jet engines in my chest. I know without looking it’s a KC-135, but I follow my neighbor’s eyes upward anyway. We both stand and watch the plane, and I wonder what the pilot would think if he looked down at us, two neighbors chatting at the curb. When the plane dips below the trees and the noise has faded, my neighbor smiles and nods his head.

“Work,” I say again, but this time I just shake my head. “No.”

Then after a moment, he asks me, more a gesture than a question, if he can have the large empty box I’m throwing away. 

 

Author Portrait

Casey Pycior earned his MFA in Creative Writing at Wichita State University and is currently a PhD student in the Creative Writing program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, Big Muddy, Front Porch, Pear Noir!, Beloit Fiction Journal, Midwestern Gothic, and Harpur Palate, among other places, and his short story collection, Bald Horizons, was a finalist for the 2014 Iowa / John Simmons Short Fiction Award. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife and son.