Newport Review

The Miami Cafe

JL Schneider

It’s warm inside the Miami Cafe.

You have to use up all your Zen just to get here—down the dire street where Cranston veers to Broad, past the Cambio murder and Street Crystal’s boss—and have nothing left to help you leave.

You used to have a skill. But now you’re shoveling pigeon shit from a schoolhouse made of stone, where artists will someday have their lofts. They stare at you with pity, rendering you with romance as you climb out of the hole. You haven’t seen the sun since September.

It’s warm inside the Miami.

You live in a gutted house with no heat or water, and in the morning your sleeping bag is painted with rime. Last night they broke in and stole your pants while you were sleeping—your keys, the brass opener you’ve been saving since your first bottle of beer, the wedding ring you kept as a reminder never to get that close again. Saturday night your bicycle was run over. You were on it.

That story makes the Miami laugh, their bodies crimped tight on their stools, their insides twisting the other way. They never straighten out, and the silence has the power of church.

It’s warm inside the Miami.

You get bugs and backwash and the bottle set down next to you if it’s the last shot. You get bad TV. And if you’re a stranger you get everyone turned to you with tollbooth stares. Until someone asks: How many dead people you suppose there are? If you want to stick around and figure that one out, we guess you’re all right. In the morning you shit and shave in the Burger King bathroom.

It’s warm inside the Miami.

You’re young, yet you’ve lived too long. People are another tribe. They’ve become—tedious. You always have the wrong expression on your face. When we smile, you smile. When we cry, you cry. At what, they never let you know. It seems they have the cure for fear. That, too, is a secret.

It’s warm inside the Miami.

There’s the rummy who curses the weather reporter and laughs at live murders and calls you a pussy if you won’t drive your car without brakes. There’s a former lawyer. And once upon a time one of you—you no longer remember who—knew by heart Leopardi’s quote about the nullity of things, and how their perfect rendered likeness sometimes restores the life they lost.

It’s warm inside the Miami.

The city glistens through the window grates—its foggy roof, green as money, the blaring chafe of fine pants and skirts. The world is eating its young, but…

It’s warm inside the Miami.

At the end of the night, in the shared quiet of shot glasses filled with air and want, you listen to the raindrops. They fall on the roof like piano notes. No. Like pianos.

Author's Note


JL Schneider is a carpenter and an adjunct professor of English at a small community college in upstate New York. His fiction has appeared in Snake Nation, The MacGuffin, International Quarterly, Onion River Review, Whiskey Island Magazine, and Writer Advice, among others.