Jack Galmitz

Four Short Prose Pieces

          The housepainter and his assistant lumbered up three flights of stairs to the job site. They had to make several trips, what with their tall ladder, brushes, rollers, canvas throws and such things as their trade required. Of course, they wore white paint covered overalls and painters' caps.
          They exchanged pleasantries with the occupants of the apartment who had hired them. The couple had already removed all fixtures from the walls and moved some of the furniture inward so as to give the painters a head start. The senior painter opened one of the gallons and showed the wife the interior: "egg shell white," he said. "To your satisfaction?" "Perfect," the woman exclaimed.
          The painters wasted no time getting to work. They covered all the furniture with large canvas throws and the lead painter put up the ladder to begin work on the ceiling. His assistant taped off the areas around the moldings and windows, so that no paint got on the glass or floors. They worked at a steady pace and by lunchtime they had finished the first coat. After a short lunch break consisting of sandwiches their wives had prepared, they resumed painting.
          They made good time. The senior painter was working in the closets while his assistant did the second coat on the walls.
          In the corner of one of the closets, the housepainter thought he felt a tug at his arm. He brushed it off as the result of inhaling too much paint fumes. Then he was sure of it. The tug was harder. Then he was pulled against the closet wall, his face flush to it.
          The walls whispered to the painter that they couldn't breathe with the fresh coat of paint he had applied to them. They told him he was suffocating them.
          He was sure he was having a toxic reaction to the paint fumes, when all of a sudden he was pulled into the wall, paint spattered boots the last visible remnant of him. He cried out to his helper, but the helper was busy redoing the living room ceiling and only heard what sounded like air escaping from a flattened tire.


          Men in black suits with white shirts and black felt hats walked in twos down the steps in the stairwell. Each carried a metal briefcase with a handcuff tied to the case and their wrist.
          Coming up the stairs in the opposite direction were men in twos wearing black suits with white shirts and black felt hats. They, too, carried metal briefcases with handcuffs attached.
          The light was poor in the stairwell. It came in from dirty windows high above on the chipped walls.
          A promenade of marching men up and down the stairs continued the entire day. Once they were out of sight, it was undetermined where they went. Maybe to cubicles. Maybe home. Maybe to worship.
          A few of us who lived on one of the floors of the building got together and decided the strange behavior of these men warranted police intervention. But, when we contacted the police, they said they did not hear us delineate a criminal action, so they wouldn't come to investigate.
          We were flummoxed. A continuous marching of men with indistinguishable faces up and down the stairwell and on the street outside would continue indefinitely. Unless they committed a crime. And we felt this was unlikely to happen. They were too operational, like computer circuits. They were components in a program that would not allow any deviations. We were stuck with them and soon they would enter our dreams and we, too, would march.


          Every morning after he'd shaved and washed the excess cream from his face, a man paid particular attention to his features. He looked to see that the shave was smooth and no hairs were left behind, but his main focus was on the features of his face.
          He thought he'd noticed some small differences in the contours of his face over the course of a week and this concerned him. He even took to changing the bulbs above the mirror, thinking the slight changes might be nothing more than how the light and shadows played across his face.
          Then he thought that the changes he noticed in his face might be due to the hour he shaved and what kind of light was cast in the bathroom. After all, he reasoned, I do shave at different times of the morning.
          After about a month, a day arrived when he was certain his face had changed. His once strong, masculine chin had become rounded and smaller. It made his once Roman nose seem as if was hooked over his upper lip like a parrot's beak. He was simply not the same man he had been.
          Then the ear hairs started to sprout and the nasal hairs protruded. He began to fear facing the mirror.
          Months passed and clumps of his wavy hair fell out when he brushed it. He even found his hair on the pillow when he woke up.
          On the morning after longest night of the year, it happened. He looked into the mirror to shave and he was his neighbor, a man who lived on the floor below his. This man had cornered him in the parking lot in the summer and in front of a group of neighbors screamed just inches from his face "you're a fucking idiot. A fucking idiot." And the man hadn't stopped screaming even as he walked away towards the entrance of the building.
          Looking in the mirror, he could see his lips forming the words the man had spoken and screaming them in silence to himself.


          The kitchen had ladder back chairs and a rectangular table that was centered in the room. The linoleum was green marble. There was a kit-cat clock on one of the walls and the cat's tail swung back and forth.
          Where you might have expected a vinyl tablecloth, there was, instead, a grouping of mummichogs placed in what was meant to be an artful arrangement. The mummichogs were evenly spaced and even made to appear to be in diagonal lines. It would have convinced most that it was the design on a tablecloth.
          Looking in the window, his face pressed to the glass, was a man. He may have come from the forested mountain or from a road that no one traveled, but there he was. He peered around the kitchen from the mummichogs to the bread box. He looked like he hadn't eaten in days.
          At just this time, the woman who owned the small house was in the back, in the vegetable garden, aerating the soil with a digging fork. She was an early riser and had already worked up a sweat from her labors. She put the tool down and gathered some herbs and tomatoes and put them in her wicker basket. She wiped her forehead and rose and headed to the kitchen.
          When she saw the man looking in her window she was shocked. He had the upper body of a man and the lower body of a bear and for a brief moment she felt she was blessed by a visitation from the beyond.
          She motioned with her hands for the man to stay where he was as she went into the kitchen, collected the mummichogs, and got some cider from the fridge.
          She motioned for him to follow and they entered a shed that adjoined the house. It was lit by a skylight and bars of light from the old slat walls. She had him lower himself on all fours and then sit.
          She fed him the mummichogs by tossing them and having him catch them in his mouth. He did this superbly and swallowed the small fish whole. When she saw he was sated, she began to unbutton her blouse.
          As she was braless, halfway through undressing the man was on her with the speed of a spirit and the strength of a bear. Anyone within a mile of her house could hear her singing her son would grow up to be a sheriff or a mayor surely someone important.

Jack Galmitz spends his time writing and painting. Recently some of his poems have been published in the journals Alien Buddha Press, Former People, and Synchronized Chaos. He turned 70 years old in the spring and for him this was a great accomplishment. He never thought he'd make it to 60
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Blogger Patrick said...

Galmitz san, I went deep in with your prose, thank you. It was like a gleaming Prague... and all I wanted was two hundred more pages.

-Patrick Sweeney

10:52 AM  
Blogger Jack Galmitz said...

How thoughtful and meaningful to me Patrick Sweeney.
I only wish I could be more prolific, but well age has worn me down.
Love yu

7:54 AM  

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