Going in Circles by Fred Osuna

I reach the corner, stop, push the button, shove my hands into the pockets of my hoodie, stamp my feet to force some warmth into them. It is seventeen degrees on the street, but warmer than in that room with its plastic window pane, its curled and yellowing linoleum floor. The sun is shining here, though, even if the ice isn’t melting.

Once, I asked my father why Rex turned around three times before settling down for a nap. He told me it was because one good turn deserves another, then he laughed. Rex looked uncomfortable. Dad had no idea, I think now.

The light turns green, and I cross and double-back on the opposite side of the street. They’re watching me from that Chick-fil-A, through the window, that man and his two kids. One of the kids is pointing, his mitten dangling from the wrist of his orange parka. He’s pointing at me.

Sometimes there’s a Help Wanted sign on one of the shop windows, but not today. I could use some work, just to feel some food in my belly. I’d do anything that needs doing, even if it’s just taking out the garbage. I loop back around the block once more. Twice, just to be sure. Still no signs.

People see me. I want them to know that I’m serious. They must wonder why I keep circling the block. Do they? Do they wonder?

I’m like a dog, and they just don’t speak my language.


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Filed under Fred Osuna

11 responses to “Going in Circles by Fred Osuna

  1. guy

    You do feel like a breed apart when you’re unemployed. This conveys ‘bleak’ but is a pleasure to read. That’s a neat trick.

  2. Deborah A. Upton

    Your line: “I could use some work, just to feel some food in my belly” feels like a step away from desperation–only with one more step there wouldn’t be any strength left for desperation. Sad.

  3. this was clever throughout all the way to the end. one good turn deserves another. really nice, fred.

  4. sad story, told in a beautiful way. i like how each paragraph adds a glimpse, a reflection, a childhood memory, a realization.

  5. Fantastic story, the dark pathos just beneath the surface. And all of the nuances are just expertly crafted, tight, spare. Lovely.

  6. You fit a great deal of story into this small piece, Fred. I like the past, present, and future all hinted at. You could have told this story: unemployed man walking the block in circles–but instead you’ve shown us. Nicely done.

  7. The way you talked about the dog circling and then circling for work really works here. I remember when I waitressed we used to give homeless people a meal if they would sweep the parking lot or something, and this story made me remember that. So sad.

  8. Thanks, all of you, for the thoughtful comments.

    I thought I’d add a word about where this story came from:
    I was sitting in my truck a few days after our recent Southern ice storm, checking e-mail on the BlackBerry and making some notes for the day. It was bitter cold outside. As I sat there, I noticed a man pacing up the street in a grimy parka, constantly looking over his shoulder and all around him as he walked. Several minutes later, he walked past me again, going the same direction on the same side of the street. It was then that I noticed he was circling the block. I immediately thought of that silly joke my father had made when I was a kid, regarding my beagle’s habit of circling before sleep. And there it was.

  9. guy

    You could do another one about the guy sitting in his truck in an ice storm watching the other guy circle the block.

  10. Pingback: Week #26 – Animal behavior | 52|250 A Year of Flash

  11. subtle and poignant take on the theme….the lines between comfort/stability and desperation drawn quite well with the circling images playing the central role. The father’s evasive answer too sets things up just right, as if there’s never really a firmness to things, truth itself can be as temporary as good fortune.

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