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Welcome to Remus

Photograph by Chelsea Graham

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The market opens. A middle-aged man walks down a makeshift aisle shadowed by a crude aluminium roof. He passes other sellers putting out their wares: fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, bread. He settles in his usual place, between an elderly couple’s produce stand and a booth where a young man sells flowers, sometimes assisted by his brother. The middle-aged man turns two nearby crates upside down, sits on one of them and places his single box of goods, lemons, on the other.

“Limoni” calls the lemon man.

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It was August 2009, a month which broke all records as the hottest Michigan summer in years. I lived in a basement bedroom with my boyfriend, in a house with broken air conditioning and a clan of mohawked, band-t-shirt-wearing guys. As northerners unaccustomed to too much sun, we spent days lounging in the basement, where windowless cement walls trapped the cool air. Next to the TV, the rickety floor fan buffeted us with lukewarm air, ruffling my hair but never quite drying my sweat-soaked skin.

When the sun started setting I usually watched the guys shoot off fireworks from the patio, or we crowded into the kitchen to drink. The table was perpetually dirty with cigarette ash and scarred with stab wounds from various weapons, and each morning after long nights of drinking, I cleared sticky glasses off the table and wiped it down with a colorless rag. One such evening, Pat showed up at the house with a rectangular package wrapped in white paper. He dropped it on the grimy counter with a sickening thud.

“Meat,” he announced.

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He sits there, ripe on the vine,

Vying for attention,

Red against green.

Like a communist, he sits.

His red skin screams,

“Choose me, you fool, choose me!”

I decide he needs to ripen more;

“Until next time, my Marxist friend”

My fingers apologetically say.

He sits there on the vine,

An impotent Bolshevik.