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S.D. Branitz: Stories & Essays

The Strines were an Irish Catholic and Italian family of five who lived at the other end of the hall. Russ was a year younger than I and Tracy a year older. Beautiful Holly was a few years older and so we never got to be close although I always liked and trusted her. The three of us younger kids spent a large chunk of our childhoods' in each other's apartments or in the hallway hanging out together. We spent so much time that sibling-like spats were eventually common. But we'd get over it, come knocking and rejoin forces in distaste of our common enemies, restlessness and boredom. The narrow hallway was dim and bleak and we'd sit on the brown and tan tiled floor and talk for hours, play Rummy or go-fish, or run and slide in our socks. We'd sometimes retreat to the stairwell which felt a bit more covert and on which we could engage in talks of questionable decency, chase each other, slide down using our asses as sleds and employ the natural and long reverb with ghost noises, screams [...]
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Bagels and coke

Posted on April 28, 2016 with 0 comments
A typical bagel oven has five shelves that rotate slowly so that you can load or unload one while the others remain suspended. Upon pressing the green button, the shelves resume their cycle and when you press the red button the next shelf presents itself to get loaded or inspected for doneness. The shelves rotate up and back, down and forward and each shelf has a certain amount of time in the 475° box before it comes back to the door where it can be dealt with.In addition to my shifts at the bakery I'd worked at since high school, by nineteenI was an overnight baker at a 24 hour bagel shop on the service road of the Long Island Expressway ("Horrace Harding" as it's known locally). The New York Times had celebrated Bagel Oasis as one of the top five bagel places in New York City while I was employed there, a commendation in which I took a good amount of pride.I'd worked almost as much as I'd partied during high school, and considerably more than i studied. I would sit on the city bus [...]
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krishna das and harper

Posted on April 1, 2016 with 0 comments
For a long time my young sons went to sleep listening to the music of Krishna Das. Sometimes we'd dance a bit (we called it "getting our sillies out") and then we'd end in a cuddle. We'd dim the lights and the music would exert its presence and begin to do its magic. I'd hoped that the trippy, hypnotic cycles, rich harmonies and spiritual bent would invite my angels into the loving arms of slumber and give them a foundation for being happier people. I'd sit on one of their beds, listen with them and rub their backs as they quieted, yawned and fell off, often me with them. It became our ritual.I took them on a two hour drive into the mountains to see Krishna Das perform live and entered the large temple at one of the many new-age retreat centers where he appears annually. Krishna Das is an American musician (a Jewish kid from Long Island) who's created a remarkable niche as the King of Kirtan....a Hindi devotional call and response jam. He sometimes incorporates American folk or gospel lyrics [...]
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charriots 1 & 2

Posted on March 6, 2016 with 0 comments
Act 1.1981I steal my brothers 1962 Chevrolet Impala (Indeed the same car I replace with a Green Rambler--another family car--in the story and song of that title) and set it on fire in a parking lot under the Throng Neck Bridge in Queens. The circumstances are dire and while I know that I'm breaking the law--if not my brothers heart--and destroying a thing of beauty, I'm driven and I think I'm doing the right thing. An excellent thing, in fact. As I drive off in the back seat of my friends Trans-Am, a1981 Datona 500 pace car, I look back at the culmination of my brothers big dream, now burning orange green and blue in the forefront of the Throgs Neck Bridge and I KNOW that I've gone too far. That I will never live this down. That although I've temporarily solved one problem, I've created a steeplechase of others that willhaunt me. Taunt me. Punish me. But it's too late now. 

Act 21995I'm working at 7 am. I'm in the kitchen and stressed out about--among otherthings--the condition [...]
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Forgive me, Sammy-cat

Posted on February 20, 2016 with 0 comments

My mother was afraid of cats and of dogs and my dad had had a heartbreaking freak puppy accident as a boy, and we were poor and We lived in the project and was pets were limited to a little turtle and some fish that was that.  But When Michael Shepard from the building connected to ours and who was my age and deaf and dumb invited me up to his apartment to see the litter his cat, Meow, had just birthed, I was in heaven. Five or six of them, all squished into meows big white belly and so perfect. We sat in love for a few minutes and then Michael signaled to me to follow. He set up a few empty cans at the far end of the long foyer and he walked back to the cats, scooped one up and proceeded to slide the baby boy between the narrow walls and into the stacked cans. He screamed in delight and I stood in shock. He went back into the cats and one by one committed these and other acts of abuse that still haunt me.  I ran home and begged and cried [...]
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