The Stamp Collector
Tamara began collecting stamps because her grandfather collected stamps. He showed her his stamp collection at Thanksgiving because he realized that she was old enough to like cars and traveling and stamps. She ogled the stamps from Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Mexico. He had stamps that were printed during all the wars. Tamara’s grandfather fought in the big war, as he called it, by which he meant Korea. All wars are big wars, he said. This one is from a lady I knew when I was stationed in Africa, he said. He took it out from behind the mylar and held it on the tip of his finger like it was a butterfly about to flutter off. The Abbey church of Saint Étienne was on it. French is beautiful when the right person speaks it, he said. He pinched it between thumb and forefinger as if to give it a little hug. Tamara turned the thick pages. What’s this one? she said pointing to a pink stamp with a picture of a ruin on it. I think that’s in Greece, he said. Did you buy all these? she asked. Most of them people gave to me, he said. I used to look at these with my flashlight when they put me up in the guard tower at night. It was dark all around and all I could see were the stamps. Sometimes in the dawn we’d see the body of a French soldier out in the desert. It was easy to get lost in the blackness. If one of them wandered out a bit too far, the Algerians would get him. They hated the French. I don’t know what they expected me to do up there. They gave me a rifle which I held onto like a life preserver, but in all those nights they sent me up that tower, never once did they give me any bullets.
Zorro lived in his mother’s basement until he could get back on his
feet. In the basement was a tall mirror in front of which Zorro
pretended things. Once when he was a traffic cop a driver drove through
his stop sign. Zorro was furious and halted the car mid-street. Another
time he was John Lennon. Zorro looked over at George and smiled before
screaming again and patting the pick guard of his Rickenbacker. Zorro’s
mother was single and often forgot he was down there. They didn’t eat
together or shop together. They kept different sleeping patterns, as
Zorro didn’t keep a job. In the spring Zorro’s mother went on a cruise
to Halifax. The note she left said there’s a roast in the freezer.
Zorro took the little money he had and made a deposit on a studio
apartment in Weekhawken. When his mother returned home she found a note
that read burned the roast.