No Heat


by Mitchell Grabois


The woman who owns this Umbrian farmhouse is poor at property management. She’s left us here to stay for the winter with no heat source but a wood stove, and no wood. The Australians used it all. They lied to her, and she didn’t check it out. It’s the coldest winter in Europe in a decade. All the seasoned wood has been taken. The only wood available is green as a fresh leaf. Even our Italian friend in Arezzo – so connected – cannot help. At least there’s a book – Boccaccio’s Decameron. My wife and I can read to each other all winter. We will not perish of the Black Death.

We will not perish from Ebola. We will not perish from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And we will not perish from leprosy.

There’s a leper colony in South San Francisco, a little known place, run by the Little Sisters of Poor Claire, a quiet residence with clean hallways where long meditations unfold. Poor Claire was wealthy until she ran from her family to follow St. Francis. How they must have loved each other!

The Little Sisters of Poor Claire are selfless, but sometimes, in certain areas of life, lack judgment. The lepers, when they know they’re close to death, follow a self-generated tradition: they take a large duffel bag filled with their clothes into the City – sometimes Market Street, sometimes Potrero, sometimes Golden Gate Park – and scatter their clothes over sidewalks and lawns, hang them on water fountains. The sisters passively allow this. The Little Sisters of Poor Claire have wealthy benefactors and provide the residents with very nice clothes, so the people who find them never suspect that they were left by lepers, living and dying in a leper colony, not far away. Most of the time, the clothes are not contagious.


Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over seven hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.

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