Coming to New York City had proven to be nothing like she’d hoped. 

Fiction by Matt Perron, Summer 2015


Laura lay on the futon with her fist pressed against her mouth, staring at the cardboard box she used as a nightstand, and listening to the incessant cooing of the pigeons outside. She felt a depressing kinship to the anonymous gaggle, bobbing their grey heads and treading over excrement-pasted sills. Fired. That was supposed to be something that happened to other people.  But what did she care?  She hadn’t graduated honors with a bachelor’s in chemistry just to answer phones and perform data entry.  Still, it felt like failure.  Coming to New York City had proven to be nothing like she’d hoped. Visits to the theater, exotic restaurants, art gallery openings, and exclusive rooftop bars took money, not that she still wished for such things. Now she simply wanted a job that required her to think. And after a two-year struggle, she feared that was asking too much.

She heard Troy’s keys jingle as he opened the door, his footfalls thudding across the other room, and then the television.

They’d met after she answered his ad for a sublet, and she moved into what amounted to a converted closet. Eventually, the forced intimacy of little things like a common toothbrush holder and bar of soap evolved into shared groceries and meals. When the fridge was empty, they went out to eat. Finally, they’d kissed in the corner of a crowded bar and had nowhere to go but home together. He wouldn’t be pleased when he heard she’d lost her job.

She took a deep breath and opened the door.

He sat in the corner of the couch. A flannel shirt stretched across his broad shoulders, and his size-12 feet were crossed on the coffee table. Dark-framed glasses perched on his nose, and a thick black beard covered his chin. A graphite pencil wedged between his fingers scratched against the graph pad in his lap as he scribbled yet another of the blueprints he never felt like explaining to her. He was watching baseball again.

She sagged close to him on the couch and kissed his prickly cheek. “You won’t believe what happened.”

He put down the pencil and pad and wrapped an arm around her waist. “What’s that?”

“I got canned at the bank.”

His arm slowly left her side. An intake of air passed between his teeth as he stroked his whiskers.

“This managing director said I lost his Knicks tickets.”

“Did you?”

“No. I left them on his desk.”

“They fired you for that?”

“He claimed I was rude on the phone too.”


“That’s what he said.”

“Seems kind of flimsy.”

She shrugged.

“Don’t tell me he was trying to get you in the sack.”

“Oh, please.” Laura had always been blessed with striking green eyes and an alluringly petite figure, but she hadn’t sensed sexual tension from the wimpy director. “I was beneath his contempt. And maybe that gave me a little attitude. Answering phones and making copies was getting to me. Especially when I was never thanked.”

“That really sucks.”

“Would you rather that he had attempted to molest me?”

“You know that’s not what I meant.”

“I didn’t quit. This time I got fired. There’s a difference.”

He picked up the pencil and spun it absentmindedly between his fingers.

She suspected anger smoldering beneath that goddamn New England stoicism. Better to have it out now. “That’s it?  That’s all you have to say?”

He shrugged and returned the pencil to the coffee table. “What do you want me to say? It was a temp job. You’ll get something better. It’s probably an opportunity.” He paused. “Want a drink?”

This was beyond stoicism: he actually seemed truly calm. The realization disconcerted her. “Yeah, I could use one.”

“Whiskey or beer?”

“Better make it whiskey.”

He crossed the room to the cramped strip of linoleum lining the wall between the stove and the fridge, got a bottle of Canadian Club and two glasses from the cupboards, and poured two doubles over ice. “We need to talk,” he handed her one.

She braced herself. “About what?”

He grabbed the remote and turned off the television.  “Got a new job.”

“That’s just great. In two years I barely get an interview, and you land another job just like that. Did you even send out résumés?” She raised her glass. “I suppose we should drink to at least one of us getting somewhere.”

“It’s not really a new job. It’s more of a promotion.”

She knew she should be happy for him, but it seemed so unfair. “A promotion?” she lowered her drink.

“In Boston.”



She imagined his new office, probably in Cambridge with a view of the Charles River. He’d be part of a team with complex issues to solve; maybe he’d even be the boss of that team. He’d work on problems whose solutions, after much deliberation, would probably occur to him seemingly suddenly, maybe in the shower or riding in the back of a cab. He’d be praised for his creativity, validated in concrete ways. Perhaps he’d receive further promotions. Maybe someone like her would bring him coffee. “I see.”

He sat beside her and put his arm around her waist.

She jerked from his touch.

He gave her more space on the couch.  “You know this could be a blessing for you.”

“Really? How so?”

“Maybe you should go back to Wantagh.”

“That doesn’t sound like an invitation.”

“You wouldn’t have any more luck getting a real job, and it’d be even harder up there just to get a paycheck. You’d be miserable.”

“More importantly, you think I’d make you miserable.”

He turned from her, sipped his drink. “It is contagious, isn’t it?”

“Don’t worry, Troy. I don’t want to go with you.”

“But you’ll visit.”

“I don’t know. Will you have a new roommate?”

He finished his whiskey.  “It doesn’t have to be like this.”

The reality that they’d be parting began to set in for Laura. If she was honest with herself, this was inevitable from the moment they’d first kissed. They hadn’t fallen in love, so much as fallen into the habit of each other.  Still, her failures were mounting.  She bit back a sob.

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” he said. “Nobody can find a job. It’ll probably be like a high school reunion for you out there. Might even be fun.”

She could only stare.

He rested his glass on the coffee table, and showed her his palms. “You have to look on the bright side.”

“I’d have to live with my mother at Tony’s.”


“You know I can’t stand it there.”

Troy said nothing.

“Come on. You’ve seen him. The motor oil under his nails, those ridiculous sports team shirts with someone else’s name on the back, the constant f-bombs. He’s embarrassing.”

“Honey, you’ve been sleeping with a Maine lobsterman.”

“It’s not the same. You write software. You’ve come a long way from that fishing island. How far has he ever gone?”

“For one, he owns his own garage. You’re lucky to have somewhere to go.  Just what do you have against him anyway?”

A complicated question, because as soon as she left for college, her mom moved in with Tony, and she was told to cancel her student loans. The University of California wasn’t cheap, but she’d never asked for that kind of sacrifice. She shuddered at the thought of the debt she’d have faced without his assistance. “For all I know, he’s never even read a book.”

“You’re being judgmental.”

“Who the hell are you to say?”

Troy swirled his glass and watched the cubes ring against the side. “Long Island’s not far. You’re not as trapped as you think.”

Laura raised her whiskey and gave him a wry grin. “To the future.”  She gulped down the rest.

“Where’re you going?”

“To call him to come get me.”

“You’ve got a funny way of showing your condescension.”

She slammed the door closed behind her and punched the number.

Tony answered.

She imagined the gold bracelet dangling from his hairy wrist and the cell phone clamped to his belt. “Hey.”

“What a pleasant surprise. What’s up? You sound a little down.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Everything all right?”

“Not really.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Is my mom there?”

“Yeah. She’s out back in the garden. Want me to get her?”

She pictured her mother, knees in the soil, trimming the tomato plants growing along the edge of the foundation. It was August, so there’d be a wire bowl filled with tomatoes and peppers on the kitchen counter by the spice rack. “No,” she said. “You’re the one with the truck.”

“You need me to come get you?”

“Would you?”

“I’d do anything to help your mother and you. When?”

“Soon as you can.”

“Give me a couple hours.”


“What is it, honey?  Is it that guy your with?”


“You sure?  Because your mother and I never liked that arrangement.”

“It’s not him, it’s just….”

“Go ahead, honey.”

“You’ve been generous, way more than I deserve.” 

“Because I wanted to be.”

“And I’ve done nothing with it.”

“Sweetie, this ain’t a race. Get your things together, and I’ll come get you.  We can talk more in the truck, if you want.”

A quiet moment passed.

“Stay with us for as long as you need to, probably won’t be as long as you think.”

“I really appreciate your help.”

“I know you do. On my way.”

She hung up.

Troy looked up from his blueprint and saw her pulling her suitcase down from the top shelf of the living room closet. “So he’s coming, just like that?”

“Got two hours to get ready.”

“Need any help?”

“Wouldn’t want you to miss your game.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Forget it. There’s barely anything to pack anyway.”

It took her fifteen minutes. Now that she knew she was leaving, she wanted to be gone. She couldn’t simply sit and wait.  “I’m going for a last walk around the neighborhood.”

Troy turned off the TV. “Just let me put on my shoes.”

“I’d rather go by myself.”

“You sure?”

She nodded.

He watched her walk out the door.

She saw them almost as soon as she got outside, bright and incongruous against the pale bricks of the building across the street. The parrots, at least ten of them, clung squawking to the fire escape. She’d heard of them, of the shipping accident that brought them here, and the warm bank of lights at Brooklyn College that allowed them to survive so far from where they belonged. The birds, seeming to sense her attention, exploded greenly off the railing, and wheeled in the empty sky.


Matt Perron lives in Brooklyn with his wife.  His work has appeared Cadillac Cicatrix, Compass Rose, Blue Lake Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Gemini Magazine, Sanskrit, The Dos Passos Review, Riversedge and G.W. Review.  He also won the 2014 Table 4 writer's contest for his story, "Rent Control."

Image Source: Stefano Corso


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend