Zack Reed is a former journalist from Milwaukee, WI. In his travels around the country, and overseas, he has collected a series of stories which have found their way into both fictional and non-fictional writings. He currently resides in Austin, TX.
link to his personal website:
I met Paul Sullivan for the first time a few days after moving into the house. He had his door propped open and was in bed watching an action movie with the sound cranked up. A car chase could be made out amidst the commotion. “Let me know if you need anything!” he hollered. “I wrote my number on the whiteboard. My truck is tuned up and running again, so if you have to move something, I can help.” Days went by where I didn’t add a single item of my own to the space. A mattress had been left behind, along with a nightstand and a large walk-in closet. In the kitchen, there was a full dining set complete with cast irons and cauldrons of all sizes, while out back in the yard was a haphazardly-constructed chicken coop built by the previous tenant. One night, I came home to discover a reading lamp on top of my nightstand with a note from Heinrich: ‘I figured you could use it. There’s more if you’d like.’ As if a bed and some chickens didn’t suffice. Even in passing, I found it funny—their choice of tone while addressing furnishings and the otherwise requisite items for everyday living. A distinct sense of apathy had overtaken me during this grand venture away from The Plains, and even if I had wanted to explain to either Paul or Heinrich why or how it had reached the pinnacle of abeyance, there seemed to be little hope in convincing them as much. Therefore, I repeatedly told them that it was all right, and thanked them anyway. Starting fresh was an ongoing process; a process in which time seemed to fade to such a degree that it became more about living than surviving. That level of attachment to material possessions felt, rather, to be simply rooted in commitment and my fear for it. Yet even as I felt content with hiding from the implications of that truth, for the time being, certain intrinsic elements were buzzing around me; the ones that were deeply rooted in dissonance and saturated with despair. The ones I found it impossible to hide from.
They kept their televisions and radios turned up loud at night. In the apartment below my bedroom, a war waged on, and its commencement was like clockwork. Their screams, the ill- timed exclamations from belt-slaps, and the inevitable struggle of power would pierce through the buffer of their white noise and wake me up, leaving me wide-eyed and staring at the ceiling as the clock strolled into the morning hours. No matter the state I was in, those screams were sobering like a cold shower to the senses. Summer was upon us, which inadvertently favored the habit of leaving doors and windows ajar at night, but those crooning calls for help would come to know no season. As I lay there, stiff as a plank, hearing their shrill cries ricochet and bounce off the walls, I couldn’t help but imagine every other waking human within earshot, their eyes shut and their ears attuned to some other more favorable form of noise. No way was I alone, wondering how or when to step in. However, the night would fatigue, just as their screams would, and soon I too would be lulled into sleep by the ensuing spell of silence. Rocky knew them well, for he too lived within earshot. Inherently docile, it seemed that gradually the dog began to internalize all of the evil before him. For all of that pent-up energy, however, there was an immense range of land for him to run. The yard we shared began as a sloping, muddy green and ran all the way around the back of the home‟s garage and behind the chicken coop, and there was even a thin, muddled strip of land between the nearby alley and our fence that could be trounced. No matter the conditions, Rocky rattled around the yard night after night, sprinting a full loop over and over again. Every time I stumbled through the gate after a healthy session on the Docks, he would sprint toward me excitedly before flapping his tail against my leg as he curled up at my feet. The closer I looked into his hazel eyes, though, the more I felt the sadness inside him glazing over. So I sat with him in silence, sometimes so late into the night that I nearly fell asleep on the lawn. And yet, to my absolute amazement, the next morning on my way out of the house, those same beady eyes would be gleaming zealously at me as if nothing bad had ever occurred.