Sparkle Street Press

Coming This Fall: Radiant Fog


photo by Ted Barron

This fall, Sparkle Street Books will publish Radiant Fog, a novella comprising a series of short pieces that Mike DeCapite wrote in San Francisco and New York between 2003 and 2008. Here’s a preview:

Saturday morning at the bus stop. I’ve got my black gym bag and I’ve got a pass: one of those brilliant mornings that leave you unsettled and hopeful in the absence of a hangover. I drop the bag, step off the curb to look down Folsom for the bus. A guy walks over and says they come every fifteen minutes, it’ll be here any time.

He says “I just missed my bus, I was waiting on the 48. I went into the liquor store to get a half pint for these motherfuckers and the bus came while I was inside. That’s what I get.”

With his white-whiskered face and scholarly black-framed glasses, his relaxed martial crouch and layers of clothing—a shirt over a hooded sweatshirt, long cutoff shorts over pants, all of it faded to various shades of formerly black—he looks like he’s had a rough time of it and he’s ready for more. Oversize black shoes.

He’s one of the guys on my steps every morning, the stoop congregation. I have to get past them on my way out. Despite the staggering pain of their mornings, with their faces in their hands, cursing the birds, they manage to scoot aside when they hear me coming down the stairs, all of them begging for death, all except this guy, who looks up from the bottom and shouts “Off to see the Wizard?” It’s half jibe, half commiseration, a nice note on which to set off.

Today he unscrews the cap from a half pint of Ancient Age and takes a hit. Prison tattoo of a spider on the web of his browned left hand.

He waves the bottle across the sunlit intersection to where a pair of men are lying on the sidewalk against a wall. Two trickles run to the curb.

“See those guys over there? The one guy puts in forty cents and takes a two-dollar drink. The other guy don’t put in nothing so he don’t get nothing. Fuck him. ”

“How do they get any money? They never ask for any.”

“There’s always a guy like me! Who goes out and gets it! They never get anything. No initiative! But somehow they still get fucked up. Fall down, piss themselves.”

A line I wrote a long time ago occurs to me, about how, broke or not, alcohol was beginning to find me. Sitting in a car at night, me and Tony with a pint, on 7th Street near Avenue B, and a tape player on the seat playing Professor Longhair. That was a long time ago, and a continent away. Across the street, a trash container lays a long shadow across a litter of small yellow leaves. The morning looks like autumn to me. Autumn starts at the beginning of August.

He says “The other guy just go out of jail.”

“Drunk tank?”

“No, he do violence.”

We stand there watching him.

He says “I was in jail too. This guy said something to me. I couldn’t see what he was doing, I wear glasses. He hit me with something, broke my nose, my lip”—he passed a hand over his face as though it were a thing separate of him. “I said “I’ll be back to see you tomorrow, you better believe it.”

A kid in a white T-shirt is moving along the opposite curb.
The mayor shouts across—“Hey! Hey, Pico!”

Pico looks up, steps into the street. Waits for a car to go by. He slides across Folsom.

The mayor hands him the half pint.

“¿Es para mi?” Pico says.

“Yeah, that’s yours.”

“¿Para mi?” Pico can’t believe it, or he acts like he can’t believe it out of politeness.

“Take it.”

Pico drinks the remaining two fingers of whiskey.

He says “Muchas, muchas gracias.” By way of acknowledgment he tips the bottle at the mayor, then takes the bottle to a trash can and moves away. The mayor’s surveying the street. He spots a penny in the wet leaves at the curb. He gestures toward it and says “See what I mean? There’s pennies, dimes—these motherfuckers don’t even look!”

He plucks it from the gutter and pockets it.

The two men are still on the sidewalk, propped against the wall.
He’s shaking his head, watching them.

He says “I’m waiting for the 48 to take me up to 24th and Mission.” (Two blocks.)

“What’s up there?”

“Aah. Livelier crowd,” he says. “More active!”