Walking + The Ladder

Nathan Dragon


I walk a lot. I like walking.

            I took a walk today just to get out of the apartment. Came back with a six-pack that I didn’t really need or want. Then I walked from the door to the fridge to the living room to the bathroom to the living room, sat for a second, then walked back to the kitchen for a beer, and back to the living room. That’s one lap. There will be five more and each one gets faster.

            I’ve got blue pants on with a single dot of pink from a bleach drop, white socks, brown shoes. I change into the black shoes when I leave the apartment. This is how my grandfather dressed, plus he’d stuffed his breast pocket with smokes, lottery tickets, a lighter, and a little pencil.

            A kind of uniform, complete with pink bleach drops. He was a cleaner.

            I think I should get some scratch tickets next time I’m at the store if I remember.


            Walking earlier, I threw a couple shadowboxed punches. Had to stop and put the six-pack down for a sec. Looked at my reflection in some storefront window. I was thinking about a move, so I made the move, because I wanted to feel myself go through the motions and see myself make those motions. Felt self-conscious that someone on the other side of the window was looking at me like I was performing for them.

            This comes from the same part of my brain that allows me to talk to myself out loud in public: What should someone do when they over-squirt the appropriate amount of mustard onto the plate for the corn dog? What is their responsibility? Should the extra mustard, if clean and crumb free, be siphoned back into the mustard bottle?


            It’s kind of a boring place to walk. So I have boring thoughts. There’s nothing for me to connect with.

            Like a right hook connecting after a parry.

            At the grocery store late one night two weeks ago, I thought I was going to have to fight someone whose name seemed like it would be Timoly. Timoly said, “My bad,” so I said back to Timoly, “Definitely is,” and Timoly called me a pussy. I was just mad because it’s really not hard to be a person who goes unnoticed peacefully, but Timoly couldn’t and kept cutting me off, waving around a bag of whole wheat tortillas.

            After the exchange, I kept walking up the aisle towards the seltzer water, laughing, and I kept thinking,



            Imagine how dumb that would’ve been.

            Good to be safe walking around. Bundle up, hide most of your face. Hat and shades.

            Floating right through.

            The grass will be greener there. If this could hurry up and be over with.

            Go there or go back.

            I was walking up Main Street, with these sharp sneezes going on.

            Remembered getting my nose cauterized a dozen times. I’d be covered in my own blood after two or three rounds. Wipe it from my face and wipe it on my shirt with my red glove. Could never tell how much there was till after, cooling off and finding form in the mirror.

            I remember being covered in flour, breathing it in, sneezing, after dumping the 50lb bag into the dough machine. Don’t turn it on yet. Step back for a sec, let it settle, that thing will take your arm off repeating in my head years later.

            Fishing, it’s the same feeling as getting caught with the hook in the crook of my arm, trying to get it unstuck from the weeds.

            I want to want nothing.

            I want to take a nap. But I never do.

            Do you think it will turn out?

            Is this real or not? Frame it. Hang it up. Please tell me what this is.

            What am I doing?

            I’m trying to engage with myself. ?

            Walking. Talking. Thinking.

            Today I did wake up. I got out of bed and put the uniform on.

            Being good this month but not quite yet.

            I like to keep walking. Take a few laps.

            I’ve been adding some paprika to my breakfast. I keep forgetting to get the thing of Cavender’s and a lemon. I’m not sure if I like Cavender’s, but it’s been awhile, and it would be something to do to get some and try it again. Cavender’s and scratch tickets.

The Ladder

When I was maybe twenty-seven, twenty-eight, I was driving north with my panting dog in the back. At some point we moved over from 95 to some local street. But before that, with marshes below us, the highway elevated, my mind was blown. We drove by a ladder sticking up from below, just peeking up above the highway guardrail.

            “The top of the ladder, Vic,” I yelled, “would you look at that!”

            I’d gotten hired onto a roofing crew earlier in the season. I liked the work. I’d had an eye for ladders. My mind said: Stairway to Heaven. It wasn’t, though. It was I-95 North into New Hampshire.

            It was cloudless and hot that week, easy to remember that. It was always cloudless and hot, and I always felt wet and heavy.

            The ladder’d caught light in a way it shouldn’t have. It blinded me. Heaven. I was in heaven with my dog, so dogs do go there. I’d wanted to close my eyes and keep them closed but I opened them because I wanted to and because I wanted to live and I wanted my dog to live.

            I’d never told anyone about that ladder because it seemed, at the time, melodramatic and embarrassing.

            But years later when I thought of it, it made me feel hopeful. Someone who needed to escape, did. Climbed up to the highway. Lived. Keep living. I kept driving.

            I opened my eyes because my dog barked.

            There was a song I used to listen to every morning on the way to work about long hair and walking everywhere. I remember one time, listening to it, driving north with my panting dog Vic in the back. I had to bring Vic with me this time—I don’t remember why.

Nathan Dragon‘s work has been in NOONHotelFence, and New York Tyrant. Dragon is from Salem, MA. His collection, The Champ is Here, will be published by Cash4Gold Books in the Fall of 2024.

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