Dreams Exchanged

Dreams Exchanged

On the glass front of a snack machine a guy named Wally had left a Post-it with a complaint: “Snickers didn’t drop down. You owe me a buck.” Cyril placed the note on his clip board. No contact information was provided, but he knew who Wally was.

Cyril opened the machine, lifted a metal bin and dumped its contents of silver coins into a canvas bag, the coins’ metallic slosh muffled by the heavy canvas. He took the dollar bills from the bill counter and held each one so George Washington faced him, and flattened their dog-eared corners with his thumb and index finger. He secured the tidy stack of bills with a rubber band and added it to the canvas bag. He filled out a route card with the machine’s number and dropped it in. The machine’s debit card and mobile pay readings would be electronically processed and posted that night. He refilled the shelves with the ever-popular Snickers and Hershey’s, Kit Kats and Drake’s cakes.

He followed the same routine with the beverage machine, refilling it with Coke and Diet Coke and Snapple drinks. As he worked he heard a refrain in his mind, “This is not your dream job.” But then he replayed the ever-reinforcing pitch from Carl, who had sold him the route: “Every minute in America, $79,000 is put into a vending machine. That’s $115 million a day, and in 2018 alone, $45 billion.” It was a mundane job, but he had to do it right: make sure all 100 machines on his route were restocked often, Windex away finger marks, respond to complaints. He wanted to keep customers satisfied, as well as the food concession company that held his contract.

The company’s New York executive, Mr. Duggan, had sent Cyril a “Welcome to the team” email his first week. Duggan said his field agent, Wally Beasley, would eventually meet up with him while he circulates among the 200 buildings the company services in Manhattan. That had to be the Wally of the Post-it. “Keep the customers coming back,” the executive had signed off. It was true: more sales meant more income for both him and the concessionaire. Cyril felt encouraged; he was determined to make the most of being the owner, at 21, of a small business in the city’s wealthy financial district.

Three hours later he had restocked the eighteen machines at Liberty Street. Back in his van, he drove to his Broad Street location, where he and his security escort, Robinson, went to the floor where Matilda worked. He liked Matilda; she was El Salvadoran and chatted with him when her breaks coincided with his deliveries.

They had met his first day on the job. She had patiently waited as he fumbled around. First the rubber band broke as he was wrapping the bills. Then a half-dozen candy bars slipped off a shelf and to the floor. He shot a glance at her, embarrassed.

Her smile broke into a broad grin. “Looks like you’re new to this.”

He smiled too. “How am I doing?”

“Slow. Veeerry slow. But I can wait.”

The pleasant exchange eased his fidgeting. When he was done restocking the machine, he asked what candy she liked.

“Kit Kat.”

He tossed her one. “That’s on me.”

Every day afterward he watched for her. She’d see him through the office’s glass partitions and would come over and talk. She began wearing a maternity blouse and told him she and her husband were expecting their first baby. It disappointed Cyril that she wasn’t single.

Many of the Latino women he met were like her, so friendly. Cyril wondered, did they see him as one of their own? He dressed in a graphite-colored delivery man’s uniform with a name tag and workman’s shoes. He was of medium build and height and pulled his black hair into a knot that looked like stiff, bunched wire. His father, a Greek immigrant, had once told a friend that Cyril’s swarthy complexion resulted from having “been dipped in olive oil” when he was born.

Matilda now saw him through the partition and came over. “I brought stuffed peppers from home, enough to share. Do you have time? I have a favor to ask.”

Cyril turned to Robinson. “Can you give me 10 minutes?”

Robinson nodded.

Cyril wheeled his hand truck to a corner of a small lunch room and sat across from Matilda. She wore a bright orange paisley top covered her growing belly. He didn’t have much time, so he dug in. “These are good,” he said.

She smiled. “My mother’s recipe. She brought me here 10 years ago.” Matilda was 23 and lived in East Flatbush with her husband. “She said just before she died, ‘Stay in America.’ My husband and I are Dreamers and optimistic we’ll be able to stay. You know what’s going on, in the news, right?”

Cyril nodded. “You said you had a favor to ask.”

“There’s a young guy here from my village in El Salvador, a distant cousin. His name is Mateo. He’s 18. He needs a place to live. He was off when agents came to the restaurant in Flatbush where he worked, and a few workers were caught. The owner had to close but he’ll pay a fine and reopen. Mateo though can’t go back.”

She hesitated. She held his eyes. Cyril realized she was waiting for his reaction. He noticed over her shoulder that Robinson was talking to someone. He had a few minutes left.

“You’re responsible, always on time. You’re friendly to everyone. I feel like I can trust you,” Matilda pressed. “Can he stay with you?”

He’d felt it coming, but still, Cyril was stunned and didn’t know what to say. “I just moved into an apartment—a one bedroom.”

Matilda rested her hand on her stomach and said, “I just have the feeling that you’re the kind of person I could ask. You live in New Jersey. There are sanctuary restaurants in Newark where he could work, in The Ironbound section. Just give him a month.”

“A month? Then what?”

“You decide.” She again waited for a sign. “He can’t work in Queens or Long Island either. An MS-13 clique is trying to recruit him. Jersey is better, for now.”

Robinson was now staring at him and lifted his chin to signal time was up. “I have to go,” he said. He smiled at her, as much to say good-bye as to get away to think. “I’ll let you know.”

“Yes, it’s a great favor, I know,” said Matilda. “Mateo will not be a burden. He’ll pay very good rent. He’s always working. He sends money every month to his mother.” A gentle pleading filled her voice.


It was raining hard as Cyril exited the Holland Tunnel on his way home. His mind was a torrent of troubles. It was illegal to hide an undocumented worker. He could be fined, perhaps jailed. Could he lose his route? He didn’t know, but if he did, he’d have nothing to fall back on. Borrowing money to buy it had been a risk, but he was managing it; he was learning about product inventory, he was sending timely insurance payments online, he kept to a grueling schedule—up by 4 a.m., to the warehouse by 5, in the city by 7. To take this job he had given up one at the stock exchange sandwich counter. That job itself had been a consolation after learning his long-held goal of becoming a trader on the exchange floor was unattainable–matching buy and sell orders was increasingly being done by computers, and the herd of blue-jacketed traders had thinned from 4,000 to 400. Setting aside his personal situation, he felt for Matilda and her young cousin. He knew of the president’s Mexican wall, his rants that all immigrants were dangerous. That hurt him personally. He had immigrant blood. His parents had come to America seeking a better life, and they had earned one by doing what immigrants always did: working hard. He was the beneficiary.

Carl had given him a month of on-the-job training, and then in December he assumed ownership of his route. The first weeks were difficult. FedEx and UPS trucks lingered at every loading dock to handle big holiday orders, forcing him to wait. Slushy streets from the first snow storm slowed him down and he couldn’t get to every vending room. On the Friday before Christmas, exhausted at the end of a long week, he realized he had nothing but hard work ahead of him. It hadn’t been that long ago when he was a hot-shot video gamer in high school who smoked weed nearly every night while his parents worked at a fancy Greek restaurant, his dad the maitre d’, his mom at the cash register. In retrospect, he should have cared more about his grades. But good grades never seemed important. From the age of 13, he believed a job as a trading floor intern awaited him, no college required. “You want to work with me? No problem,” his Uncle George, a floor veteran, had said then. George had assured Cyril’s parents he could pull strings. Over time, this expectation became an entitlement for Cyril. His uncle, also an immigrant without a degree, made very good money.

By the time Cyril got out of high school, the best his uncle could wrangle was the job at the sandwich counter. That’s where he met Carl, who came twice a week to restock the counter and beverage cooler. When Carl wanted to retire, his sons had already begun white collar careers. He liked Cyril for always making sure the bottles were brought forward in the cooler. They talked over the idea of Cyril buying the route. Carl asked only $100,000 and agreed to take back a low-interest loan. To Cyril, not working weekends as his parents did and being his own boss were attractions. Another advantage was that the exchange was one of his stops. He had fallen under its spell.

As he turned his van down his street in Harrison, he thought that if he were caught sheltering Mateo, he could be back at square one: no degree, no job, and no way to repay his debt. What did Matilda see in him that made her trust him: a young man who might be sympathetic to another young man’s difficulties? More than anything, he felt a strange instinct to help Matilda. His older cousin had been bed-ridden during the last three months of her pregnancy. In Matilda’s last months, she shouldn’t have to worry about Mateo. He decided to do it—for a month, no more, and texted his address to her. She texted back that Mateo would arrive later that night.

In his apartment, he looked around. How could he accommodate Mateo? He had a bed, night table, and dresser in the bedroom, a couch and television in the parlor and a table with two chairs in the kitchen, all purchased at a Salvation Army outlet. He set out his extra sheet and blanket on the couch. The apartment was the top floor of a frame house built as a one-family home. Polish and Italian immigrants who toiled in early 20th century manufacturing were the neighborhood’s first occupants. When their children moved to wealthier suburbs in the 1950s and 60s, houses were converted into duplexes for Latino families crowded out of Newark. Cyril had become friendly with his neighbors who, like his parents, believed their town was an Eden: a place of working-class modesty, diligence, and aspiration.

Mateo rang his doorbell around 9 p.m., and Cyril welcomed him from the top of the landing. Mateo smiled, showing several gold-capped teeth. He thanked Cyril with a handshake. Mateo swung his backpack off his shoulders to the floor, took off his winter coat, stood erect and turned to Cyril as if to present himself. He was tall, nearly six feet, broad shouldered and with lean, muscular arms. He dressed in a sky blue Adidas shirt, black jeans and work boots. Cyril gestured toward the couch. Mateo nodded his thanks and moved his backpack there. Cyril went to the refrigerator to offer Mateo a drink, beer, or soda, and Mateo accepted a Coke.

Cyril phoned Matilda to report Mateo’s arrival. She offered a few more bits of background: Mateo’s father had been killed three years ago when MS-13 had taken root in El Salvador after being deported from Los Angeles. His mother assured him she would be safe and that it was time he left for America. He had entered the country in New Mexico and easily obtained a false driver’s license and Social Security number. He cleaned backyard pools for a month, sent money home, then found his way to Brooklyn. Ever since, he’s worked six, seven days a week.

Cyril set his phone on speaker. Mateo spoke rapid Spanish into it, and Matilda translated for Cyril: “Tomorrow I find work. I know the rear doors to look for, the one by a kitchen exhaust fan and smelly dumpster.” These images prompted laughter.

Cyril told Mateo he left by 4 a.m. every workday so couldn’t stay up, left a light on, and went to bed.

Cyril didn’t see Matilda during the day, so she called him that evening as he was settling in. Mateo, she said, had been offered two jobs. He went first to Café Lisbon and filled out an I-9 worker authorization form. They told him to come back in an hour, so he went to a second restaurant. “Both hired him,” she said. “He took Café Lisbon. He’ll bring dinner home for you.”

When Mateo arrived, he offered a take-out carton filled with chunks of grouper with artichokes. Cyril had expected some leftovers, but this was an entire meal. The pleasing scent filled the apartment. They sat across from one another.

“You got a job?”

“Si. First I peel onions. I don’t like to peel onions,” Mateo said. “I clean tables, wash dishes. Peel vegetables, make soups, salads. Cut up chickens. I tell them I slaughter a sheep.”

“Slaughter a sheep?”

“For fiesta, I help mi padre. He showed how. When he gone, my turn, alone. Then I help others in the village.”

“Is the Salvadorian food good here?”

“It’s okay.” But he gently shook his head: “Not like my village. Pork papusas… my favorite, but here you use mozzarella.” His eyes brightened as he mentioned his mother. “Mi madre’s queso mucho better.” Mateo frowned, thought for a moment and went on. “She is not lost to me.” In Mateo’s voice, Cyril heard a young man’s conviction, not the needy voice of a boy.

Cyril said, “I miss authentic Greek home cooking. I’ll have plenty of it this weekend at our family’s New Year’s party. My aunt and uncle still follow the old calendar, so it’s in mid-January. Aunt Helen cooks for a week: quinoa salad, salmon kebabs, chicken souvlaki. She bakes vasilopita, the special holiday bread with a coin in it.”

Mateo’s eyes indicated curiosity. “A coin in bread?”

“It’s a tradition.” Cyril said, and he thought, I’ll introduce Mateo to my parents. They like their immigrant coworkers. “Come with me. You’ll meet some interesting characters.” Mateo nodded, accepting the invite.

The party that weekend was jammed. Cars lined the streets of his relatives’ Short Hills neighborhood. Cyril introduced Mateo as an apartment mate sharing the rent while working at Café Lisbon. “We know that place. It’s good,” his mom said. His dad readily shook Mateo’s hand.

Every year, a trading floor colleague of his uncle’s named Triano amused Cyril with the theatrical way he hailed the men and kissed the women. People gathered around him as he told a story about a trader named Hal Blanc who had walked around the exchange dressed as Bugs Bunny after his colleagues played a prank on him for losing his clothes to a hooker. Everyone howled. Mateo laughed, too. Cyril wondered, how much did Mateo understand, or was he just feeling jubilant?

Triano had known of Cyril’s pursuit of a career at the exchange. “I hear you’re a small-fry capitalist now,” he said. “Too bad things didn’t work out on the floor. It was a great place to work for a century. Everyone’s leaving.”

He turned to Cyril’s Uncle George. “Saperstein said he’s on his way out. He’s not making any money, even with the market moving higher.”

“Soon there won’t be enough traders on the floor for live TV coverage to make sense,” George said.

“They’ll use holograms to keep up the façade. Program them to clap when the Olympic curling team walks through wearing their gold medals.”

“Holograms, like in Hollywood dinosaurs?”

“You got it.” Triano said. He went on, “I don’t like the idea of having to find something else, at 48. I had dreams of retiring at 55. Kids through college, mortgage paid off.” He shook his head. “Rose and I are talking about downsizing to a townhouse, off Route 22.”

Several guests across the room laughed at someone else’s joke, the same happy voices Triano had lifted a moment ago. But the mirth that had been on Triano’s face was gone. Cyril saw this swift change in mood and wondered, could a seasoned employee who had been good at his job, who was well liked, be powerless to avoid changes at this point in his life?

Cyril’s aunt called everyone to the dining room table: it was time to cut the vasilopita. His uncle stood at the bread with a knife. Cyril wondered, how many slices would be needed to reveal the special coin? George etched the sign of the cross on the bread where the year had been squiggled with a thin line of frosting. He began slicing at one end of the large mound, each slice tipping over onto a plate that his aunt handed out. By custom, the eldest received the first slices. The line of guests moved up. When half of the mound was gone, George rested the knife on it. He looked up and flicked his eyebrows up and down playfully to heighten the suspense. He resumed slicing, and in a moment, the knife scratched the hidden coin.

“Ohhhh. Ahhhh,” his guests intoned.

Cyril was next and accepted the plate with the coin. His uncle said, “May you have luck all year long.”

When Mateo got his slice, the two stepped to the side. Cyril picked the coin from the bread, rubbed it clean between two fingers. He turned to Mateo and, nodding his head slowly, said with conviction, “This will bring good luck to both of us.” He placed it in his pocket.


Later that night Cyril checked his phone for messages and saw an unsettling e-mail from Mr. Duggan. The contract at his John Street building would expire in two months and would go to another snack vendor who had offered to pay a higher commission to supply it. Cyril wondered who was poaching his territory. If he lost that contract, he’d be out 20 machines. He didn’t need a textbook to tell him any business that loses 20 percent of its revenues was in trouble. He’d struggle to pay for insurance, tolls, gasoline. What could he do? It was not too late at night to call Carl for advice.

“That challenge has to be from Nelson,” Carl said. “He worked for me on the route adjacent to yours. When he was negotiating to buy it, he wanted John Street to be added to his roster.”

“I’ll offer the higher commission.”

“He won’t stop there. He’s ambitious.”

“What can I do?”

“Fight back. Be creative.”

Be creative? How? He was just starting out and already he could lose his business. But for now, at least he wouldn’t starve thanks to Mateo sharing his food. Thinking about Mateo’s generosity gave Cyril an idea. He wrote an e-mail to Mr. Duggan offering the same higher rate as Nelson, and added that he’d share another one percent with any charity of the company’s choosing, and sent it off. Mr. Duggan sent a reply thanking him for the offer but was otherwise non-committal. A week later, Cyril received another e-mail telling him Nelson had increased his offer two more percentage points, and that he’d lose the John Street building.

Cyril refused to be demoralized. He had followed Carl’s instructions and was picking up his pace. His escorts and customers pleasantly greeted him by name. Perhaps he should appeal to Mr. Duggan in person. He’d speak calmly, maturely. He’d get a haircut and wear a jacket and tie. He had to act. He Googled the company’s address, called the switchboard and was put through to the executive’s secretary. He asked for an appointment.

“Mr. Duggan has a full schedule.”

“Five minutes. That’s all I need,” Cyril said. The secretary took his number and called back an hour later. “Be here Friday at 3 p.m.”

That night, Mateo arrived home and gleefully placed dinner on the table with both hands. El especial diario.” He opened it to reveal Café Lisbon’s daily special: large portions of veal scaloppini with bananas and Madeira wine sauce. The special dessert was pear in port wine.

“I’m going to have to work out to lose weight,” Cyril said.

“Si. I’d like to play futbol.”

“The Red Bulls play here in Harrison. Have you seen their stadium? What position did you play?”

“Goalkeeper. Maybe I play here. Are there practice games?”

Cyril said, “You’ll see the fields full of players when it’s warmer.” Mateo looked hard at Cyril. When it’s warmer. That phrase meant he’d be staying for more than a month. Their eyes fixed on one another in silence, and then with that deepening quiet that occurs between two friends aware they’ve agreed on something important, they broke into smiles.

The next night, Mateo didn’t come home at the usual time. Cyril warmed up some leftovers. As he was eating, Matilda called to tell him what had happened at Café Lisbon. He heard worry in her voice as she said Mateo had been out by the dumpster when he saw two men stepping out of a black SUV. He went inside and peeked through the kitchen window. Other Latino workers joined him. They overheard an angry exchange between these men and Rodrigo, the restaurant’s manager.

“You have no search warrant,” Rodrigo said. One of the men said a Café Lisbon employee had submitted a Social Security number that belonged to a person in Iowa. Rodrigo said, “That must be a clerical error in Iowa. I will not help you.”

One agent raised his voice: “We’ll be back, more of us, and we’ll get the job done. This year’s going to be different.” The men left. Back in the kitchen, Rodrigo told his employees to be careful, the hunt was on.

Matilda said that if Mateo were stopped by immigration agents outside the restaurant, they’d assume he was illegal based on his accent. They both agreed he had to stay indoors, taxi to and from work, and play it safe. No futbol. Matilda suggested that perhaps Mateo should shelter at a Bronx church known to care for undocumented workers. Again Cyril agreed and told her he’d call Café Lisbon to discuss this idea with Rodrigo. When he did, the manager objected strenuously.

“I need him at work. Without these guys, I’d have to close,” he said. “There’s one bed left upstairs. He can stay with the others.” Mateo insisted, too, he had to keep working to send money home. The problem seemed solved, for now.


Cyril wanted to get a haircut, relax and have plenty of time to reach Mr. Duggan’s office, so he decided to take Friday off. That meant working fast the day before, though not visiting every vending room. Around mid-afternoon he headed toward the stock exchange. He turned his van onto Broad Street. Up ahead was a steel plate-and-concrete barrier; every street leading to the exchange had one for defense. Cyril turned before reaching it, parked at the loading dock and checked in with security. He resupplied several machines near the administrative offices and headed to the exchange. After restocking the sandwich counter and a cooler, he felt a tug toward the trading floor. He stepped to its threshold. Hundreds of flat-panel monitors affixed to gold pipes high above the floor flashed ever-changing multicolored numbers. He glanced to the ornate, vaulted ceiling and heard the loud incessant din that filled the cavernous room, a sound that a graying floor veteran, proud and poetic, once told him was American history echoing off the institution’s white marble walls. Cyril strained to isolate the sound from the sensory explosion but couldn’t hear past echoes, he heard only chaos. This buzzing stayed with him as he headed back to his van; he only regained a sense of calm when driving through the tunnel to New Jersey.

Around noon the next day, Cyril walked to the Harrison PATH station. Riding uptown on the subway, he recalled what Carl had said about his fight with Nelson: “Dollars and cents usually decided these matters.” At the company’s Park Avenue offices, he showed his identification to a receptionist. Allowed in, he went to Mr. Duggan’s office.

“He’ll be with you in a moment,” his secretary said.

Cyril sat. Three-thirty came and went, then 4 p.m. The secretary fielded call after call and transferred them into her boss’s office. Two men carrying note pads arrived and were shown in, then left in 10 minutes. Cyril fidgeted. He felt the special coin in his pocket; he could use a bit of good luck today. At 5 p.m., he stood and stretched his legs. Employees disappeared behind the sliding silver doors of the elevator. The Friday night rush had begun.

The secretary poked her head into the office and said, “Mr. Evdos is still here.”

“Show him in.”

It was time. Mr. Duggan came around his desk to shake his hand and gestured toward a chair. The executive was a considerably older man, of medium build and height, with a full head of white hair.

“You’re here about the letter I sent.” His tone was matter-of-fact.

Cyril made his case. Buying the vending route was a consolation prize after being denied his first choice, a career at the stock exchange. He was following all protocols. He was punctual and polite. Things were going well until Nelson made his pitch for John Street. “If I lost those 20 machines, I’d have to sell, and I’m really just getting started. I’ll match Nelson’s best offer, within reason,” he said. Carl had suggested he say within reason.

Mr. Duggan nodded his head in understanding. “You say you’re doing a good job. I have 40 vending contractors all over Manhattan, and Nelson’s one of my best, when he worked for Carl and now. His vending rooms are spotless and his sales keep rising.” He added pointedly, “And I hear you still owe Wally Beasley a buck taken by an empty slot.”

Cyril nodded. He thought yes, I owe Wally money. Then he told Mr. Duggan what he had silently rehearsed on the train. “Sir, I’m asking for the chance to succeed or fail on my own.”

The older man leaned back in his leather chair, brought one knee up to his chest, and clasped both sets of fingers around it. He looked at Cyril. “I know about consolation prizes. When I graduated high school in ‘66, I wanted to be a locomotive engineer. You know, they were the original free spirits. Looking out from the cab is a great way to see the country. Vietnam intervened. I served as an Air Force mechanic in the Philippines. When I got out I was ready to fulfill my childhood dream. But there were no jobs. The railroads were dying, bankruptcies left and right. Now here I am, at 70. I can buy a locomotive.”

Cyril waited. Mr. Duggan leaned slightly forward.

“I’m sympathetic, but I’m forced to go with Nelson,” he said. “You’re young. You’ll find your way, as I did.”

The words were like a blow. Cyril said nothing. He hesitated. He stood stiffly and nodded to the man to acknowledge the time he had been given. He hesitated again. Then he took the token from his pocket and placed it on the desk.

“This is for Wally. It should be worth the price of a Snickers.”


On his way to the subway he stopped at a crowded pub for a beer and sipped it slowly. Standing alone, he felt the rising creep of the alcohol. At another bar he had another beer and then boarded the train back to Jersey. Walking home from the Harrison station he passed a Chinese take-out and realized he hadn’t eaten lunch, and now it was dinnertime. He was hungry, but the restaurant was closed. Odd for it to close early on a Friday night. He walked on; there’d be food at home. But when he got home he needed company, to talk of the day’s events with Mateo or perhaps even Rodrigo. He decided to drive to Café Lisbon. He turned on the Rangers hockey game while he changed into a sweater and jeans, then drove his van through Harrison toward the Ironbound.

It was a pleasant winter night and the streets were filled with cars. But the drive-in hamburger joints were closed. Chipotle was empty, too. Arby’s was closed. The service counters were unmanned. He reached the center of the Ironbound. The popular Spanish and Portuguese restaurants like Fornos and the Adega Grill were dark. These places should be packed. He parked the van and looked through Café Lisbon’s window. Not a soul. Something was wrong. The hockey game hadn’t been interrupted with emergency news. Restaurant workers had disappeared as if devoured by locusts, leaving behind not a tuft of grass. Had Rodrigo’s prediction come true and he had to close?

Where was Mateo? Cyril called his cell but had to leave a voice message. He needed to speak with Matilda; her voice alone would reassure him. But her phone rang straight to voice mail. He texted them. He got back in his car and waited, but received no reply.

Now he was starving. Surely Jersey’s famous all-night diners would be open. He turned toward the Tick Tock Diner on Route 3. He and his high school buddies had once arrived at midnight and enjoyed their favorite breakfast sandwiches, Taylor ham, egg and cheese on a warm hard seeded roll. But when he arrived, the Tick Tock was black except for the highway beams that cut through the night and reflected off its silvery galvanized steel facade.

Cyril had one last idea, The Waffle House. When a super storm apocalypse ripped up the power lines and shut the region down, news reports praised the Waffle House’s manager for firing up his onsite generator and staying open to feed the scores of utility jump teams brought in to rebuild the grid. But when Cyril arrived, it too was dark.

His stomach growled. Hungry, yes, but now also drained of certainty. The world was in flux, becoming a surreal dream, brought on by a different apocalypse.

Cyril kept driving through the darkness, looking for some sign of light.



About the Author

Philip Barbara’s short story ‘The Church,’ published in The Delmarva Review, was adapted into a radio play by NPR affiliate Delmarva Public Radio and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His story “Iron Horse’ was a July 2017 pick of the month on Fiction on the Web. His fiction has also appeared in The Lowestoft Chronicle, pennyshorts and The Corvus Review. While a correspondent and editor for Reuters for three decades he assisted in global coverage of financial markets, politics, war, terrorism, mass murders, guerrilla rebellions, space shuttle explosions and national disasters, and was a prolific writer of features. He shared national awards for public service reporting as a staff writer for The (North Jersey) Record. He earned a Bachelor’s at Fordham University and a Masters at Brooklyn College. He and his family live in Alexandria, VA.

Photo by Stéphan Valentin on Unsplash.