THE FATE OF A MAN FROM SANDUSKY, OHIO • by Joshua Michael Stewart

For Mary Koncel

In corn country, they never think poorly of a man dressed like a chicken, especially if he’s hawking a flock of severed wings at the Flat Top Diner. I knew such a man, who gave up his dream as an Elvis impersonator to embrace the vast plume of sunbeam yellow.

He believed in angels, and thought by wearing fake feathers he’d have a better chance at rubbing against their shadows. He said it worked. He said soon after donning the poultry suit angels started to call to him outside his window with loud visceral love-groans, their white faces humming between thorny branches as they chanted, “You, you, you.”

He ignored Lucy, the counter girl down at Jimbo’s Package Store, when she told him it was probably streetlights and wind. And back at the diner, Hilda didn’t care what he was flapping on about just as long as he pushed all things barbeque.

He left his wife, Erma. Heavenly lust and its unrepentant swelling had him wanting more to come home to than a steaming pot of black beans and the smell of day-old beer. “Angels kiss with open mouths,” he blabbed to everyone. “Their breath lingers in the creases of my bedsheets.”

He went on to wear the getup, and yammer on about his angelic affairs. That is, until he was arrested for committing a lewd act with a nightgown wafting on some poor woman’s clothesline. A judge ordered him to see a head doctor, who prescribed pills, and then, there wasn’t talk about angels anymore.

The last time I saw him, he was clucking away with Norma Nelson outside of Eddie’s Motors. Last I heard, he went back to impersonating Elvis, and moved to a small town in Massachusetts. Hilda told me that Erma claims he died a few months back in a freak accident that involved a runaway hot dog cart.

I drove past Erma’s house the other day. She was standing on her porch, wearing boots and a blue chenille robe, and as I glanced back at her through my rearview, I could swear she was sprouting wings.

Joshua Michael Stewart has had poems published in the Massachusetts Review, Louisville Review, Rattle, Night Train, Evansville Review, Cold Mountain Review, and many others. His first full-length collection of poems, Break Every String, was published by Hedgerow Books in 2016.

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