The Lever

Jim Ruland



Has many uses. A hook for damp bath towels. A hanger for coats, surgical aprons. Tonight you leave it bare, a glistening knob in this moonlit room. The lever summons you from sleep. Your fingers fumble for the cold metal. Push. An exhausted cry rises from the mercado.


The day, the day. You fill it with tasks, problems, decisions to be made and unmade as the sun sleds toward the sea. The hillside pulses with antennae. You make the decision early. A two-handed pull. The strangled-gull sound like an arrow through the window. Another child with its tongue cut out.


The morning has more night in it than sun, the air more sea than sky. You heave all of your laundry onto the lever. You drape folding chairs, your uncle’s accordion, all of your suitcases strung through the handles of a Doberman’s leash. You reheat last night’s coffee in the pot. It’s not nearly enough. You push the lever and in the morning they find thirteen bodies in the fuselage of an abandoned airplane behind the old hotel.


No one safe. Everyone in danger. There’s nothing left to ransom.
The lever vibrates, awaits your decision.


So cold. The chili plants come indoors. You see your dirty reflection in the streaked mirror. Tell yourself tonight is the night. The night of negation. You delete your mother-in-law’s messages and unplug the phone. Shake broken glass under your windows, wish for poison darts and daggers, anything to keep the madness out. You resume a sewing project and swiftly abandon it. Run to the room and pull. Gunshots. Gunshots. Squealing tires. You are called back to your duties.


Your husband’s face is thrown into the confusion of maybes, what-ifs. You can no longer recall its contours, density, shape. Everything is called in for questioning. You spend the day pushing and pulling. Gunmen shoot up jewelry stores. Cars collide on the street. Pull. Push. Revenge killing in a movie theater. The dead laid out in the school yard. You can’t stop any of it. No one can. Water drips from the spigot in the kitchen and the silence that comes after breaks your shattered heart.


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