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Prizewinning Fiction by Nikita Nelin in Southword JournalNikita Nelin was born in 1980 in Moscow, within the former Soviet Union. He emigrated in 1989 with his mother and they spent the following year moving West through Europe. Since 1990 he has lived all over the U.S. often continuing in the itinerate spirit inspired by his experience of emigration. After a series of odd jobs and a long absence from education Nikita went back to college in 2004. He studied Psychology and Russian Studies and graduated with Honors from Bard College in Northern New York. Three years ago he realized that the bulk of his interests lay in literature, often gravitating towards Eastern European and South American writers, and he began writing stories. He has participated at readings at Brooklyn, Northern New York, and most recently Ireland, and was the semi-finalist for the 2010 Sozopol writing seminar In Bulgaria. Currently Nikita is pursuing an Masters of Fine Arts degree in Fiction at Brooklyn College, where he also teaches in the undergraduate department.






                                                                Seán Ó Faoláin Competition Winner


Eddie Gerialdo carefully cleans off the slimy rubber that lines the detergent cavity of a heavy duty laundry machine. Eddie is concentrating, and because these machines are large, his hands are shoulder level and the muscles in his neck are tense from the motion; and because he has bad eyes, he leans into the effort.

         Eddie moves from one machine to another, and after the slime and residue powder are gone he will wipe the lint trays – Eddie has sixty-eight washing machines and eighty dryers and then he will take out the garbage; and because he talks to himself, customers will stare, but because he has been here for close to a year, fewer and fewer will do so, and because when he walks his head lugs forward, and his arms ambiguously hang at his sides, and his hands bunch naturally into fists, no one will make eye contact.

          Out with the garbage Eddie takes a break, but Eddie only walks to the end of the block and stands at the intersection before turning back, Eddie walks with his left foot dragging behind because there was once a hole in his thigh and a stringy patch of muscle has remained deformed. And because there are stipulations, Eddie has to tell Cabriela when he goes off duty. And because the avenue is almost empty, because it is dark, because it is late fall, because his hands are pocketed in his jacket, Eddie feels quiet, Eddie does not want to rush, Eddie counts his steps.

          Because people come in and out of the Laundromat all night, Eddie stands still, letting them pass. And because he knows the layout and thinks of white dominos and monochrome tiles, his body wants to move forward; and because many of the customers are new they don't have a rhythm to the place, and Eddie feels his chest wanting to continue his route through the Laundromat, but because he scares people, he plants his feet, spreading them shoulder width, and his forehead masks his eyes, and he keeps a look of bemusement on his face, and his hair is cropped very short; because he stood in lines for ten years, because the cell locked at ten, because he shared a 12 x 6 stone room; because he was small, because for a long time he attracted attention, because his father once stood at a doorway with a loose eye and Eddie's blood on his forearms; because, Asiando paid well and Eddie was efficient; because he did not hesitate, because he was quiet, because his eyes hang low, and because he knows where the weak points are; Eddie avoids eye contact with the customers but the customers always feel like he is watching them. And Eddie is low to the ground; he knows where everyone is stepping.

          At midnight Eddie’s cousin Sunny comes by and leans on a stone column, and Sunny leaves his SUV idling outside. Sunny stares at Eddie, and Eddie takes out another pair of cleaning gloves. Though Eddie did not ask, Sunny talks about the neighborhood, and his new girl, and she is seventeen, and he calls her his Mulatta, and she lets him do anything, and Sunny needs help, and help is someone you can trust, and they used to trust Eddie; and because Sunny just talks about family, and the young girl, and the old park, and handball, and never mentions why he is here, Eddie knows what Sunny wants.

          Because the machines run louder when Sunny is here, because Eddie knows that Sunny is staring at him while he mops the floor; because Eddie took the charge, and Eddie was always a low talker, and Eddie gets lost in the shadows, and Sunny does not want to know what happened; and at 2 am Cabriela’s nephew Antonio will come by, and he has a silver cross hanging from his neck, and he smiles like the world does not matter but does not matter in a way entirely different from Sunny’s; because Cabriela is always happy to see Antonio, and Antonio brings her spiced pork rice in a container, and Siela, Antonio’s wife, made flan, and she asked Antonio to bring some for Eddie, and it is in a plastic container, and Antonio makes eye contact, and his chest is free, and he tells Eddie that the Mets lost, and Eddie has seen him play soccer on Saturdays, and all the machines seem to be set on wash cycle when he is here, and Cabriela turns on the soap-opera channel at 3 am, and Eddie sits next to her with the flan, and she laughs through him, and she gasps, and she yells at the screen when she finds out that Doctor Rodrigo has been cheating on Solidar with nurse Tiffany and Tiffany is pregnant, and Doctor Rodrigo is not the sort of man who loses control, and he will arrange it so he is the one to deliver the baby, and the mother will die in birth, and the baby will be sent to a nunnery, and the nunnery has a garden and the sun falls soft yellow during volunteer hours, and Solidar, because she feels alone, because her husband is working overtime on his promotion, volunteers at the garden, and Solidar’s womb is still; and Eddie does not say anything while Cabriela watches, and she is okay with that, and he eats, and she is animated, she is large, she has black creases at the corners of her eyes, she has a mullet; and because it could have been a throwaway container, but it isn’t, and Eddie will wash it and bring it back next shift, because Eddie feels calm in the wash cycle, because it was all back then, because Eddie never remembers his dreams, and because the flan has figs in it, Eddie never asks Sunny to say why he is here.

          Because people are afraid of Eddie, and he talks to himself, and he avoids eye contact. Eddie talks low, his speech is impaired, and words do not roll but hiss out in a humble monotone; and Eddie does not dream, he likes it cold, likes the rumbling of the wash cycle. Eddie walks weird, Eddie has a hole, and Eddie hangs his forehead. Because Eddie is always prepared, because, because quiet Eddie, because Eddie stays here, and Eddie does not cross the intersection; and because Sunny waits for Eddie, because the mulatto girl screams, and Eddie eats the flan, and the winter is coming, and Eddie works through the night, Eddie has brown eyes, and Eddie is on break. And because Eddie hears voices, because he can’t puzzle them out, because they say Eddie, over and over, over, and over. Again.



©2010 Nikita Nelin






Author Links


Nelin's blog on his Seán Ó Faoláin Prize experience

Article about Nelin at Brooklyn College






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