Two Tales

Shane Kowalski


I listened to a man on the radio call fans of a particular sports team “cretins.” I kind of laughed because, to me, “cretin” is a funny word. It sounds perfectly like the ancient word of insult that has escaped into contemporaneity that it is. The man on the radio, born and raised in Philadelphia, would get very loud and then go quieter. It made me think of “the tides of the ocean.” In the moments where he would get very loud is when he would often use the word “cretin” in that thick, gustatory Philly accent. At a certain point I was laughing so hard it felt like my mouth would split on either side. I was stopped at a red light. It was just after dawn, when everything is bright gauzy, like your head’s just been unwrapped after a brain injury. It’s like you know someone’s out there eating a hot donut on a corner bench alone. The man in the car parked next to me at the light looked over and saw me laughing. He tried not to look but couldn’t help it. I lowered my window and motioned for him to lower his passenger side window. He seemed to think better of it, but then lowered his window anyway. “Cretin!” I yelled in my best imitation of the man on the radio, and then I drove off, very fast. I had to get to fucking work.


Clarke is deranged. He has just photocopied his “gland” and printed out two dozen copies of it. Clarke works in Finance in a large building on 9th Street. Everyone there is a sicko. Doris? Sicko. Abernathy? Sicko. Mr. Von-Wilhelm? Sicko. Clarke fits right in. He holds his photocopies of his “gland” like the many participation trophies that fills his childhood bedroom. He walks by all the empty offices (it is midnight). Doris? Abernathy? Mr. Von-Wilhelm? Tabor? Dunn? Janelle? The choices bewilder Clarke and he laughs. Who makes us this way? he thinks. The janitor, Errol, walks by and doesn’t say what he’s thinking. The two men—Clarke and Errol—flit about each other for a few moments around the office, politely nodding each time they pass one another.

The question most often asked without being asked in life is which sicko will I share my sickness with?

Shane Kowalski is the author of Small Moods (Future Tense Books). He works for the United States Postal Service.