The Penny Fight by Christopher Swetala


Blanton’s flight touched down late, due to the rain, and even though he’d gotten up well before dawn to kiss his son goodbye, he felt wide awake. He found his bus easily enough but had no coins for the exact fare, only two bills, so he asked the driver what he should do. She was steering them along a terminal road and responded by checking a side mirror. He asked an old man for change and plunked six of the quarters into the machine.

“Aren’t you a bright one?” the driver said.

He should have bumped her with his bag, but the raindrops were playing on the windows, the skyline beyond the bridge’s tiers disappearing into the clouds. He’d never seen such a sight. He sat down. The bus rolled into heavy traffic. People were crowding the sidewalks, their breath in the cold air. More people boarded. Legs pressed against his, a hairy gut stuck out at his face, but from beneath a raised arm, he spotted the university that’d brought his twin brother Steve to New York ten years earlier. Blanton hopped off at 106th St., bought his first-ever egg bagel at a shop run by Asians. Life in the big city, he figured, and like Steve had once described in a letter, he walked and ate at the same time. It was an art not to make a mess, a skill mastered by urbanites on the go, Steve had said, but Blanton found the bread to be bloated and soggy and chucked it into a trashcan.

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