There’s always money in the old hat between her feet but no one recognizes the songs she squeezes from her accordion. When asked, her answer always ends with the same shy query.

She says how they sent him to Chernobyl with a shovel because the machines didn’t work. He wore a white smock over his heavy lead vest. Men like him worked on the power plant roof, shoveling debris into wheelbarrows and dumping it over the edge. The men below said that they looked like storks up there. Now he’s gone.

“What else can I do?” she asks, shrugging.




J.C. Howell is a fiction writer living in the Chicago area with a few short works published in small-press local anthologies. He has taught English as a Second Language in the Czech Republic and much of his current work draws inspiration from Central- and East-European literary traditions and history.