Seven Days in West Sideville
For the former residents of The Triangle in Charleston, West Virginia and for Ledger Smith aka The Roller Man
The West Side had a few blocks of affordable housing right on Washington between Barton and Adams. Fifteen ugly orange brick buildings arranged in rows around a large baptist church. Numbered 1-15, the buildings boasted outdated amenities and studio apartments for just $450 a month. They were the kind of buildings kids would explore and ghost hunt in. With small windows and perpetually broken door buzzers and dilapidated garden beds overgrown with dandelions
Despite it all, hundreds made their home there. They covered the cinder block walls with tapestries hung with blu-tack, layered rugs on the concrete floors, burned incense and set bowls of potpourri on old carved coffee tables. Kids played ding dong ditch and during the winter, they waited for the school bus in the stairwell, pretending to smoke cigarettes.
At five in the morning the construction vehicles dragged up Washington St. Five men in hard hats ran through each building, slapping a pink slip of paper on each door, all traces of them disappearing immediately after.
The first tenant to emerge was Jordan. He worked on a crew filling in potholes in the Historic Downtown District, a job he’d had to pull every string to get, and made $1,250 every month, before taxes. He wore a reflective vest and an old Nas tour shirt he’d gotten in high school. He was just as lanky and smooth as he had been back then. At 26, he was beginning to wonder when he’d gain that grown man weight he’d heard legends of. And if he’d ever grow hair on his chest though he’d managed a thick mustache that he was quite proud of.
Jordan quickly scanned the notice and ran back inside to wake everyone up.
Up in Chicago, Ledger Smith had already risen. He clawed his way out of his coffin, a pair of pristine four top roller skates secured in his hands by the laces. The earth sunk beneath him, bearing the weight of a man more durable than any hero. He looked just like he did in 1963 before his 700 mile trip. But this time, he set out to take it alone.
This Chicago was a city much different than the one Ledger remembered. The streets were tighter, the high rises rose even higher and the cemetery had the only grass around for miles. But Ledger didn’t have time to meet his city all over again. He had just seven days to skate 500 miles to West Virginia.
A. BROWN is an Indianapolis-based writer from coastal Virginia. She was a TED Residency Finalist in 2018 and a recipient of the MVICW Author Fellowship. She is finishing up her MFA at Butler University and will begin working on her PhD in August. Her work has been published in RueScribe, Entropy Magazine and Honey Literary.