Today we have a sneak peek from author Delancey Stewart’s new collection of short stories, Through a Dusty Window.
Through a Dusty Window is a collection of ten short stories spanning a century of lives inhabiting one New York City brownstone on the Upper West Side. They are the culmination of the author’s experience in that city, during which she wondered constantly who had occupied her apartment before her, and what stories they might have lived.
Ten vignettes offer historical perspective on real events from Prohibition to World War II; the Vietnam-era Summer of Sam killings to John Lennon’s murder. Through a Dusty Window allows us to be voyeurs, seeing the fascinating lives of others as they experience the history that New Yorkers today hear whispers of around every corner.
Here is an excerpt from Through a Dusty Window:
Excerpt from “1936: Swastikas Over Jersey”
It had been a crappy year for Leonard Wilson. The economy was in the dumper, which made Leo’s business a tough slog. He knew plenty of folks who just weren’t making it, and he was happy to have a job to go to. He didn’t want anyone mistaking his unhappiness for ungratefulness. But he was unhappy, mostly because he was surrounded by unhappiness all the time. The guys at work bitched and moaned about money and gas prices, groceries and their wives. Leo was lucky in that department. His wife was a keeper, he thought, and Anna would’ve been glad to hear him say it.
But life at home hadn’t been great for Leo, either. And perhaps the root of his trouble was that he thought or feared deep down inside that he was a terrible father. A deeper quieter little voice sometimes wondered if he was just a terrible person, but he usually ignored that one and instead gave audience to the one that suggested his parenting was what lacked.
Leo was a nice enough guy. He didn’t stomp on bugs on purpose or ignore old ladies trying to cross a busy street. But he had no patience. And maybe that was the crux of his issue.
Leo and Anna had a brownstone on West 77th Street, a nice five floor situation. They’d converted the top two floors to make an apartment and rented that to a friend of Anna’s father and his family to make some extra money. They also had two very small children. Nicholas was three that summer and Sarah was five. They were high-spirited children and Anna wasn’t much of a disciplinarian. Leo often found her crying in the bedroom when he arrived home, the children running rampant up and down the stairs of the house.
They’d had to let the nanny go. Times were tough for everyone. Leo felt like that was his fault too.
“We just can’t afford to keep you, but I’ll be glad to give you a reference,” he’d said.
The Irish girl they’d had watching the children, Maureen, had burst into tears and cried into her gloved hands. He’d caught her to deliver this news just as she was leaving for the weekend.
Leo waited while she cried, feeling his heart twist around inside him while his stomach lurched and rolled. He hated it when women cried. He stared at his shoes, wishing she’d stop. Finally she did.
“Mr. Wilson, my mother’s very sick. I been takin’ care a her.” She trailed off and then burst into tears again when she realized that he wasn’t going to rescind her dismissal. She’d wandered away, heading toward Columbus Avenue and Leo had watched the brown muslin of her dress fade into the crowd on the Avenue, wondering if there might have been something else to do.