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The Game Café: Stories of New York City in Covid Time – Eleanor Lerman

The Game Café: Stories of New York City in Covid Time – Eleanor Lerman

Short stories. Paper, Perfect Bound. 160 pages
2022, ISBN: 978-1-952781-13-1 $22.95 $18.36 + S&H <<<<——SPECIAL PRE-ORDER PRICE

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The nine stories in The Game Café focus on people who live in New York City—or are traveling there—in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. These men and women include a security guard; a mother with a far-away daughter; a ham radio operator; two strangers playing a board game in a café; a woman driving from Los Angeles to Manhattan who makes a stop at a famous corner in Winslow, Arizona; an unemployed airport worker who has an unexpected reconciliation with his brother; and others. While the stories are primarily set in New York, they are also meant to explore how living in modern-day urban environments in the U.S. unalterably shapes the fate of people going through difficult times.


An excerpt from “Woman and Dog”
     Jane soon arrives in Winslow, Arizona, a small city in Navajo County, southeast of Flagstaff and west of Albuquerque. There would be no reason to stop in Winslow except for the fact that the Eagles made it famous in the song, “Take It Easy,” which Jane fell in love with when she was sixteen years old.
     On the corner of North Kinsley Avenue and East Second Street, there’s a mural of a brick wall and a pair of what look like storefront windows. Standing in front of the mural, by a Route 66 marker, is a bronze statue that people think resembles Jackson Browne, who co-wrote the song. The maybe-Jackson Browne is holding a guitar and looking thoughtful. The tableau represents the part of the song about a guy standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, when a girl in a flatbed Ford slows down to get a look at him—a moment, as Jane understood the meaning of the lyrics from the first time she heard the song on the radio—when time stops and a sudden flash of intuition cracks open a life in which nothing much is going on. Maybe the guy can climb into the truck and see what happens next. Maybe he can take that chance.
     And so, this is the real starting point for Jane, the beginning of the trip home. The place where her own history starts. The records left by humankind, the clues to how the past became the present and will create the future—she will get back to those soon enough. But here, where she can turn a corner and feel like she is stepping into the slipstream of her own memory, of the time when she was the one with the life that needed to be cracked open, the lonely girl who was desperate to think there was something—anything—that would happen next, there are other archives to be reckoned with. Other stories about man and beast. Well, actually, woman and dog.
     She looks at the mural where she can see the painted reflection of the truck with a girl in the driver’s seat, hands on the wheel. But what Jane sees is a reflection of Jane, in her jeans and boots and Pattie Boyd hat, ready to get going, to hit the road. Ha! she thinks, feeling better already, I really am not just some old lady. I’m a person, a human being, still alive and well. Still ready to rock and roll.
     She reaches out to touch the bronze statue, leaving a fingerprint that she hopes will linger a while, and then turns away. Walking back around the corner, moving step-by-step with the gentle, lazy dog, the uncountable-generations-down descendant of wolves—and surprise, surprise, he knows that, he runs through ancient streambeds in his dreams, howls at the rising moon—Jane goes back to her car, pulls out of the parking spot and drives the speed limit until she gets to the edge of town. She’s absolutely sure, now, that she can drive the little car all the way to New York City. After all, some things are small but mighty. Some things just need to be put to the test. Here I go, she thinks, as she sings to herself. As the dog barks, the sun sizzles, and Jane steps on the gas.


About Eleanor Lerman
Eleanor Lerman is the author of numerous award-winning collections of poetry, short stories and novels. She is a National Book Award finalist, the recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for poetry and the New York Foundation for the Arts for fiction. She has also received the John W. Campbell Award for the Best Book of Science Fiction. Her most recent novel, Watkins Glen (Mayapple Press, 2021), received an Independent Press award, among others. www.eleanorlerman.com