Streetlight on the Corner of Lake and Hazel

Highland Park, Ill.

Mr. McClendon used to throw rocks at the streetlight on the corner at three in the morning. Why he did this naked remains a mystery. His aim wasn’t great and some nights it took him more than an hour to shatter the bulb. He used stones from our driveway, which somehow made us complicit and this was thrilling. The broken-streetlight epidemic was attributed to “idle neighborhood hoodlums,” a blanket of blame that included my brother and me. We didn’t deny this. And we held the secret, held it to this day. Here is a useless revelation: I witnessed some petty vandalism in Illinois in 1974. The perpetrator is now deceased.

Mr. McClendon worked for the phone company. It was said he married Mrs. McClendon (formerly Mrs. Hartlief) for love, not money. Whether she loved him back is still open to speculation, but the word was she had lots of money. She also had a black corgi named Cassandra, actually a succession of black corgis named Cassandra. When one died, she got a meaner one.

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—Peter Orner

Peter Orner is the author of Esther Stories and a novel, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo. His work has appeared in the Atlantic, McSweeney’s, and the Paris Review, as well as The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize XXV. The recepient of 2006 Guggenheim fellowship, Orner teaches in the graduate writing program at San Francisco State University.

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