Fiction | Misery Island

A Short Story

Between the man’s finding full-time work again and the boy’s playing park-league baseball and caddying at the Essex County Golf Club, they hardly saw each other all that summer. To make up for it before the boy had to return to the city, they planned to meet in Salem this August night and see a movie together.

The man was getting a ride over from Peabody, where he worked now. The boy caught the train from Manchester-by-the-Sea. On the outskirts of Salem, he noticed again the tin and tarpaper shacks alongside the tracks. When he’d first seen them, five summers ago during the war, the man, his grandfather, had told him what it was: a hobo jungle. “Mostly they’re just ordinary people who live there,” he had explained. “The Depression wiped them out and they haven’t got back on their feet yet. It can happen to anybody.”

The train plunged into the huge wooden depot, engine hissing. The boy spotted him right away, waiting on the crowded platform. His grandfather wore a tan sports jacket, dark green slacks, a tie with ice-cream colors, and a brownish soft hat. On the platform they shook hands grownup-style, instead of hugging, and the man did not come quite close enough for the boy to detect a telltale scent. He was just as glad not to know....

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About the Author

Edward Hannibal is the author of the novel Chocolate Days, Popsicle Weeks, among other works of fiction.