Paper Route

Scott Stenson


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Sabbath afternoon in summer sometimes feels
like those February mornings I’d wedge the
damp butt of each newspaper in friend’s saddle
pack clouded gray with his indistinguishable
fingerprints. Their buckling mouths a smudged
bouquet of garden flowers. Small-town head-
lines and pictures of distorted figures in frames
stuck twisting under tangled and torqued rubber
bands meant nothing to me. Not a worry or con-
cern, outside of time and task. Too innocent to
care about more than these things. But then,
preliminaries accomplished, I’d tremble while
smearing the bulging canvas sacks over my side-
cocked head and neck, the weight wiping away
my cap and silly pom-pom, pulling the hair of
my head until I wanted to wake the sleepers.
Once I’d lifted the sack into position, I’d lower
the cargo suspended by hyperextended thumbs,
dropping the load onto my shoulders, jolting my
knees as if kneeling to pray at an altar. Banging
the storm door with their news, and without a
view of my shoes or other obstacles before me in
the world. In faith, I’d shuffle-step over thresh-
hold into faint porch light and slow snowflakes in
season, thick silence falling. In unplowed street,
all labor, strain, and sound—before, now, after—
absorbed and covered within the shimmering
walls of dull-sloping cliffs, insular drifts, which
much softened and dressed in laundered robes
yesterday’s dingy carbon-stained ridges. Even
leaning out to listen intently for the neighbor’s
raspy windshield ice scraper, the one buried
in brake light and billowing exhaust, seemed
impossible in this transfigured place of peace and
rest, feet from entryway where I stuffed another’s
bag for one bite of an apple or one experience
with midwinter.