Tag Archive: conley

Ray by Walt Conley

Ray comes in the diner alone.  He eats alone, too.  People drop by
looking for him—some even brave enough to interrupt his meal—but he
shows up by himself and leaves the same way.

Everything about Ray is trim.  He dresses like a businessman on Casual
Friday.  He’s always clean-shaven, hair and fingernails clipped.  When
he does smoke, which is rarely, it’s long, thin, filtered cigarettes.

Ray listens hard and talks in a whisper.

The word is he’s done time, but when you ask what for, the conversation stops.

He eats at a table-for-two by the wall.  No one comes in after him
tonight.  When he’s done, he peels a few bills off a roll from his
pocket, then nods to Vy at the register and leaves.

Danny and Phil, a pair of neighborhood shakes, eat at the counter next
to me.  This whole time, they’ve been chewing, red eyes on their
fries, hardly ever breathing.  Once the door bangs shut, Danny peeks
over his shoulder.

“I’m only afraid of two people in this world,” he says.  “God and Ray.”

“I don’t think God’s a person,” Phil says.

Danny looks back again and says, “I’m not sure Ray is, either.”


Over the Hill by Walter Conley

She used to be Constance Kimber Addelade, who used to be my cousin.
Constance was her great-grandmother’s name.  Addelade, she inherited
from her father.  Kimber came from God only knows, which is where she
went to become Some Other Woman.

“Where are you going?” I remember asking her.

Constance wore black clothes over red clothes that day.  She appeared

“God only knows,” she said.  “Why don’t you come with me?”

That scared me because I knew she meant it.  I followed her outside
and watched her walk up the road and over the hill.  For nearly an
hour I sat there on the dry and dusty shoulder, waiting for her to
return.  When she did, her black clothes were gone and she had red
clothes over yellow clothes.  She also had an odd smile on her face.

“Cousin,” I said.

“I never was,” she told me.

Then she walked past me, through the gate, across the yard and into the house.

At dinner, I told Mama that Constance wasn’t Constance anymore.

“Aren’t you?” Mama asked her.

“I clearly am not,” she said.

Mama studied her for a moment and said, “No, I guess she’s not.”

“I don’t think so, either,” Papa said.

And that was that.

On days that I believe it, I miss my Constance dearly; at other times,
however, when I think they might be lying, I wonder why and hate them
all and wish I had gone over the hill with her and never come back, as
myself or anyone else.