Traveling Salesman — Stuart Dybek

“Traveling Salesman”

by

Stuart Dybek


He finds himself stepping off the bus in some burg he’s already bored with. Picking his teeth for 200 miles—here’s where he spits the toothpick out. Past Holiday Inn the neighborhoods get dark. All-night laundromats where women with circles under their eyes press laundered underwear, warm as bread, against their sinuses. Finally, he’s signing the register at a funeral home where he knows no one, but is mistaken for a long-lost friend of the deceased, for someone who has dislocated his life to make the hazardous journey on a night when the dead man’s own children have avoided him. Once again instinct has taken him where he’s needed; where the unexpected transforms routine into celebration. He kneels before the corpse, striking his forehead against the casket.

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