Evelyn sat in the white Adirondack chair on the back porch. She smoked a Parliament and tapped her foot quietly on the dusty floor. She turned her neck and moved a curl of black hair away from her eyes. It’d only be half a cigarette before she had to get back to the baby, and to the housework, but she needed a quick nicotine break. Phillis was already calling for her from the living room.
She took a small, white seashell out of her dress pocket and held it in her fingers, touching its smooth underside with her thumb, rubbing it like a child might rub a rabbit’s foot. It was half of the shell Martin had given her at Crystal Beach the year they met. She liked how the lined grooves on the shell looked like rays emanating from the sun. Martin kept the other, matching half-shell on a chain around his neck.
“Pearls, Evelyn. Pearls,” he’d say with his wide, happy smile. “All we need now is a grain of sand!” He’d point out to Lake Ontario whose water that day was as dark blue as Martin’s eyes. “Know where we can get some sand, kid?” In all these years, Martin hadn’t changed—same affable smile, same enthusiasm, same undying optimism and charm. He had charm in droves.
Physically, he hadn’t changed much either—his black hair now cropped short around his ears only showing the slightest of gray, and his trendy beard still coming in mostly black. He was still thin, too, as he’d always been.
The summer she met Martin seemed charmed at the time and now she thought of it often. It had been unusually humid, and the 23-year-old man would show up at her workplace driving his father’s Buick convertible, offering to take some of the girls to the beach. It was uncharacteristic of Evelyn to be so spontaneous, but finally the day came that she agreed to his persistent efforts. In hindsight, she blamed her acquiescence on the oppressive August heat, or the unhurried tedium of their Podunk town, or her monotonous job. She had many excuses why she got in the car that day, not one of them revealed the fact that the young man who slicked back his hair like Elvis Presley, had somehow wormed his way into her heart. She was in love with him before he even shut the Buick’s door. That hadn’t changed either.
That afternoon, the summer sky was an azure blue. Wispy, horse-tail clouds eased in from the east. A pair of house sparrows flitted about in front of the purple lilac bush that grew in the corner of the yard—next to the chainlink fence. Their back yard was quaint. She was glad that Martin kept it up so well. Not all the yards in the neighborhood were as pleasant, not all the men worked on a regular basis.
Through the kitchen window, Evelyn heard baby John’s shrill cry, followed by more calls for help from Phillis.
“All right, Philly. I’m coming. I’m coming!” she yelled as she stood up and snuffed the cigarette out under her shoe.
Houses in their neighborhood were small, and the Sweeney’s house was a little smaller than average. Martin had installed a white peel-and-stick vinyl floor in the kitchen last year and Evelyn had refurbished an old oak table that they placed in the nook adjacent to the kitchen. The table didn’t pair that well with the floor, but Martin assured her that it was sturdy, and that sturdy was more important than how it matched with the floor.
Two bedrooms, a small living room and a bathroom rounded out the first floor and there was a long, slender staircase that led up to the steepled attic, which they had converted into a bedroom for Christopher. Phillis and Molly shared one of the lowers and baby John’s crib was kept in the main bedroom—which was not even the slightest bit bigger than the girls’ room.
Evelyn walked into the living room. Little Phillis was standing over the baby’s crib, moving the paper sail-boat mobile around over his head. Phillis had Irish red hair and deep green eyes that flickered when she smiled. She wore a plain white dress and was barefooted. “He won’t stop crying,” she said, accenting each word melodramatically.
“Here, let me take him,” said Evelyn as she lifted the baby to her shoulder. “You cried worse than this, Philly—cried all day and all night, every day, every night!”
“I couldn’t have been that bad. I would remember it if I were,” Phillis said with a smirk.
“Can you go find Molly and Christopher? We’ve got to be ready when your father gets home from work,” said Evelyn as she gave Phillis’s arm a little pinch.
Of the three older children, Phillis was the happiest and most easy going. In the summertime, the seven-year-old loved to romp around the back yard pretending to be a unicorn or a lioness, or sometimes a Shakespearean actress on a London stage.
Molly and Christopher were both more subdued and had thoughtful ways about them. At nine-years-old, Molly was already reading Steinbeck. Her resemblance and mannerisms were so similar to Evelyn’s that often strangers would smile and make pleasant conversation about it. She even has your wavy black curls…she even moves her curls out of her eyes with the same mannerism as you. You even have the same eyes.
Christopher was quiet, but not brooding or overly moody. He just felt more comfortable watching and listening rather than participating, especially in social situations. He had thick black hair like his father’s, and they both combed it back off their similarly wide foreheads the same way. Christopher was twelve. Martin thought that someday the boy would be a very successful accountant because of his penchant for keeping very close tabs on his weekly allowance— to the penny, in fact.
Martin pulled the black, late-model Oldsmobile into the driveway and honked the horn twice. Evelyn, hearing the blares, poked her head out the side door and waived to him in acknowledgement. She then scurried the kids out the side door toward the car.
Martin got out of the Olds and went around to the passenger side. It was strange that he was in tan chinos and a black t-shirt and not his factory blues. He opened the door for the children and kissed Evelyn on the cheek as she helped each of them into the backseat.
Did you get the stuff I asked you to get ready? He smiled.
She nodded toward the macramé bag strapped over her shoulder. “Yes, their suits are packed. Everything’s here. How was work today?”
“Baby, it was the best day of work I’ve ever had!” said Martin. “Okay, everybody ready? Let’s move out!”
The children shouted their hurrahs.
Evelyn held baby John in her lap. She couldn’t shake a foreboding feeling inside her stomach. Martin could be impetuous at times and, as happy a person as he was, he could be too optimistic, and could, at times, slightly overvalue himself. His mother called him grandiose, but Evelyn thought that was a bit overstated. She preferred ever-so-slightly enamored with his own potential—and he was gullible.
There was the time he bought a 1949 model-year, Ford F100 pickup truck from a travelling junkyard man who had been poking around the factory. Martin got hornswoggled on that one, believing that the purchase of the truck was a golden opportunity, the perfect way to start a side business of restoring classic vehicles. He assured Evelyn that restoration was easy work, quick turnaround and fast cash. Plus, he only paid $800.00 for it!
It never even crossed Martin’s overzealous mind that if he had to have it towed home, maybe it wasn’t going to be the best deal. Nor did he think about the fact that he didn’t even own anything beyond the most basic of tools—hammer, screwdriver, chisel, that sort of thing. Martin had no experience restoring anything, and no money on the front end for parts and materials.
“It’s a grain of sand now,” he said. “But I swear, Evelyn, this truck is gonna be a real pearl.”
Everything was a grain of sand to be turned magically into a glistening, priceless pearl.
The F100 still sat out back on cinder blocks with a tarp covering it.
It was a fifteen-minute drive across town and Evelyn watched Martin with a suspicious curiosity. They drove past Murphy’s, L & M television repair shop and the historical Riviera theatre whose marquee displayed The Bad News Bears as that week’s feature film. When Christopher saw the marquee, he was sure that’s where they were all going, and he pointed it out to Phillis while holding his index finger under his nose—shh. Molly quietly made fun of him when Dad drove right on past the theatre. He pinched her leg in retaliation.
It was a pleasant day for a drive and Evelyn lost herself for a few moments watching the shadows of the trees and leaves dapple the hood of the car and feeling the breeze move over her arm as they drove through the old neighborhoods. Martin turned left on Wheatfield Street, drove over the train tracks, then went right onto River Road. It was just a few miles north when Martin pulled the car into a small, unsteady-looking motel’s parking lot. The cars brakes squealed.
“Why are we stopping?” she asked. She looked around to see if there was a police car or ambulance behind them that she hadn’t heard. She felt the familiar knot in her stomach.
“Well, we’re here,” said Martin.
“You’re taking us to a motel?” Evelyn asked.
“Behind that office right there, there’s a pool. It’s fantastic!” He laughed and turned to the kids. “You guys wanna go swimming?” Cheers and hurrahs went up from the backseat. “Well, that’s good because I know the owner of this place personally.”
The motel was the old Oakdale Motor Inn and it was notorious for high school parties and Saturday night police raids. The courtyard was a gravel square surrounded by a ‘u’ shaped building and each room had its own screen door and small, slab patio. Orange and blue plastic lawn chairs were scattered about in the courtyard and there was an old, weather-worn Coke machine by the office door.
Martin raised his sunglasses to his forehead. “Babe, we did it! I’m not taking you to a motel, I’m taking you to our motel.” Martin beamed.
“Wait a minute, Martin. I don’t understand,” she said. We’re here to go swimming, right?”
Martin coughed and cleared his throat. “Bill Hatcher down at the bank agreed that I’d be the perfect man for the job. He approved the lease this morning. It’s ours. We are the proud owners of the Oakdale Motor Inn. I mean, more operators than owners, but Bill says that’ll come in time.”
“Martin, are you telling me that you bought a motel? This motel?” Evelyn could not conceal her fury that expanded each moment that passed in which she further understood what her husband was saying to her. “No, no, no. Martin, please tell me you did not buy this motel.” Her hands shook as she brought them up to cover her mouth. “Oh my God, Martin, please.”
“I gave my notice to Charlie this morning.” Martin smiled a wide, charming grin. “I figure we’d call it The New Pearl Motor Inn. Fix her up. Have a big grand opening…”
“Kids stay in the car,” said Evelyn. “Martin, get out of the car.”
She handed baby John over the seat for Molly to hold then stormed out of the passenger side and slammed the door. Martin winked at the kids and followed Evelyn.
“Babe, this was our dream, to make something of ourselves and have a great life. Think of it. No more cranky bosses, no more agonizing overtime, no more grit and grime from that hellish factory. And, the money. Well, Bill Hatcher showed me the numbers. I’ll tell you. No more dusty two-bedroom, dilapidated shanty for my family.”
“Goddamn you, Martin. We already have a great life and you do this? You really did this, Martin?” She made a fist and took a step towards him then spun around in frustration. “You get on the phone and tell Bill Hatcher that it’s not going to work out. You call Bill Hatcher right now! Call him. And when you get off the phone with Bill, call Charlie and tell him…umm, tell him you were drunk.”
“Evelyn, you’re not excited?” Martin asked with a perplexed tone in his voice.
“Goddamn you, Martin!”
“Babe, we always dreamed of owning our own business, really making it work…”
“Martin I was talking about making crafts together or selling fucking chairs!! I was not talking about buying the godforsaken, run-down Oakdale Motor Inn from that snake-oil bastard Bill Hatcher!”
But even as she spoke the fiery words to her impulsive life partner, she knew as much as she’d ever known anything that the deal was done. There would be no rescinding the contract, especially a contract penned by the slimy Bill Hatcher. Her words were utterances scattered in the ether. She tried to think of where she had gone wrong with what she knew about her husband before they were married. How the still, small voice inside spoke to her in the evenings just before the wedding, whispering fair warnings against his dapper charms and perpetual insolvency.
She didn’t mind being poor. Everyone in town was poor. In her eyes, they were still lucky. They were, after all, content, if not happy, in their humble life—the children a joy, their home loving, good relations within their families and with friends. What more could these small town, Podunks reasonably expect from life? And this was the problem: Martin had ambition. He always had it and he always would have it. If it wasn’t The New Pearl Motor Inn, it’d be a car wash or a laundromat, or, God forbid, some greasy-spoon restaurant on the side of some desolate highway.
Not only did Martin have ambition, he was a chronic failure in business matters specifically, and real-world, grownup living matters generally. Never marry a dreamer, she thought. Maybe that’s what the small, still voice inside—a voice she’d muffled with her own smitten-ness—had been trying to say to her. Never marry a dreamer.
She watched as he walked back and unloaded the kids from the Oldsmobile, wondering what in God’s name they were going to do with the children. How could they raise a family in a motor inn? Where would they live? In the rooms? She lit a cigarette and looked at the horse-tail clouds clawing the evening sky and she wondered what the next step would be and how, if any way possible, she could circumvent the inevitable disaster.
She drew deep on the smoke and tried to access the still, small voice inside her with no success. That damn voice is never there when you need it.
By the time she finished smoking the cigarette, she had surrendered entirely. She snuffed on the butt with her shoe and snickered. Goddamn it, Martin.
In a moment, she made a resolution to herself to stay with Martin and give The New Pearl Motor Inn a chance. I’ll give him one year and then I’m taking the kids and moving back in with Mother. She smiled and conceded to herself that perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad. Then she laughed at her own Pollyanna—of course it would be bad! It would be an epic boondoggle. But she was still crazy about Martin and the deal was, for better or worse, done. Bill Hatcher! Martin cut a deal with Bill “The Bomb” Hatcher!
Evelyn followed the sound of splashing and laugher out back past the rusty chain linked fence to the pool area. Molly was on Martin’s slick back and Phillis and Christopher tugged on his arms, one arm each. Baby John was set in his carrier on the ground next to a wood picnic table. She walked over to check on him. He was sleeping soundly so she sat at the picnic table and watched Martin play with the kids.
Martin got out of the pool and walked over to Evelyn wearing a cotton towel around his waist and a coy smile.
“You okay?” he asked as he touched her bare shoulder.
“I’m okay,” she said as she looked up at him.
“This place, all of it, it’s just one big grain of sand,” he started. “Look at these kids. They’re great kids. I mean, really great. And you, you’re beautiful and smart and hardworking. It’s just that I knew that anything we did together would turn out great. We just gotta stick together and grind this place into a pearl.” He kissed the top of her head and smelled her hair. “I love you.”
She took the sea shell out of her dress pocket and looked at it thoughtfully. “You’ve got a year.”
“And I want that son of a bitch Bill Hatcher’s phone number.”
The New Pearl Motor Inn was just like any of the several motels dotted along RiverRoad in North Tonawanda, New York—halfway between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The Anchor Motel and The King’s Cove Inn were close by.
Generally speaking, the bulk of traffic heading from anywhere in the U.S. into the newlywed capital of the world travels north along Niagara Falls Boulevard. There are probably thirty to forty hotels and motels along this route, increasing in frequency as Niagara Falls approaches.
Martin’s fatal flaw was that he didn’t buy a motel on Niagara Falls Boulevard, but instead got himself tangled up with a marginal piece of property along a seldom-travelled back way to Niagara Falls.
As the Fates would have it, Bill Hatcher got Martin approved for a business loan and repairs began right away. Evelyn was nervous about the nature of the loan as Martin had no real credit to speak of except the small note on the house. There was that feeling in her stomach again.
In early June, the kids swam in the kidney-shaped pool as Martin and Evelyn spent their days painting and fixing up their new property. Evelyn had picked out a deep blue color and they decided that white trim would accent it nicely, give it an oceanic feel.
Evelyn, being thrust into her new position, began screening potential employees. They’d need a housekeeper or two, and maybe a general maintenance man. She also took charge of the rooms and quickly realized that they’d all have to be painted and new bedding and curtains would have to be supplied for each one—fifteen rooms in all. Martin also considered a valet or attendant of some kind, but the idea never took root. The office would have to be remodeled and the parking lot needed a couple loads of new gravel. Days were long and hot, and the work oftentimes went late into the evening. Martin and Bill Hatcher hoped to have the place open by the Fourth of July holiday. Evelyn thought it’d be a miracle if they made it by August.
Bill Hatcher was obese and did little to physically help out around the place. His fat belly bulged around his too-high belt, and his heavy eyes were set deep inside puffy hammocks of dark, spotty skin. They flitted around nervously, as if he were working for someone else, someone keeping tabs on the progress. Hatcher wore white leather shoes and often complained that they were getting dirty while walking around the property. He stunk like a cigar. Evelyn had never actually seen him smoke a cigar, so she thought it was strange that he smelled like one.
The thing Bill Hatcher did right was children. Sometimes on Saturdays, he and Mrs. Hatcher would stop up and bring fishing poles and lawn chairs out to the bank of the Niagara River and keep the kids entertained for hours while Evelyn and Martin pressed on with the heavy work.
They’d catch small-mouth bass and colorful sunfish mostly, but also their share of steely, gray-finned sheep-head. Bill always had a pocket full of Tootsie Rolls and suckers. This won him over rather quickly with Molly and Phillis. Christopher didn’t care for sweets.
Threatening news came just as optimism began to escalate. The last week of June, the local newspaper—The Tonawanda News—reported that the Niagara County Road Commission had decided that there were too many potholes on River Road, and that they were too deep to be ignored. Large crews of tanned men in bright green and orange safety vests stood on the back of large flatbed trucks and dropped orange and white striped barrels every ten feet. River Road was essentially closed from Ward Road in North Tonawanda up to Williams Street by the Summit Park Mall. Most, if not all, of the traffic was being diverted back down Ruie Road to Niagara Falls Boulevard—local traffic excluded.
“This is a problem, a real stickler we got here,” said Bill Hatcher as he bent down to wipe his shoes with a handkerchief.
Evelyn was livid and paced the office. “Didn’t either of you see this coming, with all your prognosticating and business wherewithal?” She crumpled up the newspaper and tossed it into the metal wastebasket.
“Now just relax. We’re in the phonebook and there are things we can do,” said Martin. His thick brow seemed uncharacteristically heavy.
Baby John started crying.
“Martin. There are not going to be any cars passing by here until August!” yelled Evelyn.
“What kinds of things can we do?”
“How many days till opening day?” asked Bill. “Eight days,” replied Martin. “There’s plenty of time.”
“There’s a little bit of time, but that weekend will make or break us,” said Bill.
“Martin Sweeney, you are insane! There’s no time!” Evelyn’s voice expanded.
“Now, hang on Evelyn. Let’s hear Martin out.” Bill turned toward Martin. “You were saying there were things we could do. Like what things?” Bill asked.
“We could have a bar-b-cue, for one. Put flyers all over town, take out ads in the local papers.” Martin said.
“Martin, what good are local flyers about a bar-b-que going to do? We need tourists to book rooms, not local drunks to come and fill the place up with the local beer-swilling, hotdog eating gentry. Who’s going to rent a room in that scenario? Who?”
“I know a guy. He’d sell us a pig,” said Hatcher. “We could dig a pit.”
“A pig is not going to help!” screamed Evelyn.
“Well, what about AAA? Can’t we get in touch with them and have them do something?” asked Martin.
Evelyn was very close to losing her mind. “What the fuck is AAA going to do?!”
“I got an idea,” Hatcher said. “What if we reduced rates for opening weekend? Thirty dollars a night.”
He pulled out his calculator and began pecking the buttons between brief intervals of looking up at the ceiling tiles, as if for answers. “Well, now, the lease payment is due the seventh, so … hmmm. Full capacity times 30 dollars is…I think we should be able to hold the bank off with that.”
Evelyn physically pushed Bill in the chest with her hand, forcing him back a step.
“Goddamn it, Hatcher, you are the bank!” She screamed.
“Well, not exactly. Then there’s also the line of credit,” Bill coughed.” That’ll be due the tenth.”
Martin and Bill glanced at each other almost imperceptibly. Almost.
“What was that look?” Evelyn turned to Martin. “What was that look, Martin?”
He stared at his shoes.
“What the hell is going on?” Evelyn yelled. She was close to his face now.
The baby’s shrill heightened.
“You may as well tell her, Martin. She’s got a right to know.” Bill added solemnly. “It’s just that, well, Baby…the line of credit didn’t actually come from a bank, exactly.” Martin choked out the words.
“Well, who the hell did it come…” She gasped and brought her hands up to cover her mouth. “Oh no...you idiots!” She looked back at Hatcher. “The goddamn Bomb. That’s what they call you. You goddamn greasy, snake-oil son of a bitch!” She hit his chest again.
Hatcher raised his hands to block Evelyn’s attack. “No, no. It’s not me. I didn’t do it!” “Who?” She screamed. “Just some…umm…” He looked toward Martin. “They’re friends of mine, really friends of my family.”
“Jesus Christ! You went to the Mob?”
“No, no, not the Italians. No.” Hatcher paused. “Well, let’s just say it’ll either be Janko or Gerwazy stopping by on the tenth.”
“You two went to the goddamn Polish mafia to finance this place?”
Molly timidly walked into the office. “Oh hi, Moll. It’s okay, baby. The grown-ups are just talking. Go find Christopher and ask him to take you swimming.” Baby John was now screaming inconsolably. “And here, Moll. Take your brother too. You know how to bounce him up and down to make him comfortable,” said Evelyn.
“How can I go swimming if I’m watching him?” asked the youngster.
Evelyn exploded, “Moll, just take him…put him in his carrier. Something. Go find Christopher!”
Molly started crying, lifted baby John’s carrier and ran out of the office. “Real good, Evelyn. Really nice on that one.” said Martin.
“You’ll have to excuse me, folks. I’ve got to get back to the missus,” said Bill. “I’m sure everything will work out fine.”
July third came without a single booking for the weekend. Evelyn remained in the apartment room behind the office. She drew the yellow floral-patterned shades tight and cried in bed all morning.
Martin fiddled with a stapler at the front desk.
Neither of them had seen or heard from Hatcher since their last meeting.
The day was beautiful, and Phillis, Molly and Christopher started in the pool early. Molly even took baby John into the shallow end just to get his feet wet. His toes splayed when they touched the water.
Around noon, Evelyn came out of her room and cooked hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill. All this food is going to be wasted, she thought. She wasn’t sure if she and Martin were going to make it, not after this. But truth be told, she was more worried about his kneecaps than their marriage. She looked at the red, white and blue bunting that hung from the underside of the roof. It looked great. The place looked great, too, with its blue paint and white trim and aquatic theme that included a large iron anchor next to the walkway and wooden posts with rope sectioning it off. Nautical, she thought.
Martin came out of the office and kicked the gravel, sending a couple stones skimming across the parking lot. He approached Evelyn and tried to give her a hug.
“No,” she said firmly.
For once, Martin had no words for her, no consoling charm.
He had been defeated utterly.
In her pocket she held the half seashell in her hand and rubbed it over and over.
Now and again a station wagon or a camper passed the motel and a faint hope spiked, only to have it dashed as the vehicles continued on.
Martin brought out a couple cold bottles of Budweiser and offered one to Evelyn, unscrewing the top for her. He sat down opposite her in the old Adirondack chair.
“Are the kids okay?” she asked as she took a swig.
“They’re fine. They’re in the apartment watching TV.” “Fireworks soon. Will we be able to see them from here?” She asked, looking up to the tree line.
“I think so. If not, I’ll walk the kids down to the river’s edge,” said Martin. He wanted to say something else, to add something…“You know…I…”
“Just don’t, Martin. I’m going to be taking the kids to my mother’s tomorrow,” she said in a matter of fact tone.
“Guess not every grain of sand becomes a pearl, after all.” Martin frowned and lifted his beer toward her. “I’ll be getting out of here, too.”
Evelyn looked up. She clinked his beer.
“Still, we did a hell of a job with this place.” Martin forced a smile.
“This place cost us everything.” Evelyn whispered.
Bill Hatcher’s Cadillac appeared out in the middle of River Road. He turned the car into the parking lot with screeching tires and put it in park by the mailbox. He got out of the car and left it running. He was wearing a red, white and blue cowboy hat and what looked like a blue leisure suit. He ran out into the middle of the street and started moving his arms like he was motioning something to turn in to the parking lot.
“What the hell?” Martin looked at Evelyn.
“I don’t know,” They both stood up.
They saw it simultaneously—a silver coach bus, with a massive front shaded windshield and custom red and blue pinstriping down its sides, turning into The New Pearl Motor Inn’s parking lot. Hatcher was jumping up and down, waiving his hat.
Evelyn and Martin looked in disbelief—Evelyn with her hands over her mouth, Martin with his hands folded on the top of his head.
The bus rolled to a stop. The marquee sign on the front of the bus read: INDIANA.
Hatcher got back into his car and sped into the driveway. He hit the brakes not ten feet from Martin and Evelyn and turned his radio down.
With the joy of a little kid holding a Fourth of July sparkler, he beamed. “They’re Baptists! Come in from Indiana. Some convention or some damn thing. I found them down at the King’s Cove Inn, but no one was there. Looks like old Dusty has closed shop. Anyway, they’ll have to double up, and I told them we’d give them a deal. They said I was an angel. Ha! Imagine that. Me, an angel.” His delight was palpable. Evelyn touched Martin’s hand. They watched the bus begin to unload.
“Hey, Bill,” shouted Martin. “How much did you tell them for a room?”
“Why, Martin. You should know me better than that. It’s a premium weekend! Fifty bucks a night. They don’t call me The Bomb for nothing. Boom!”
Evelyn removed her shoes and placed them on the path next to the edge of the river. It was Sunday, and seagulls floated above the river’s foam. She walked slowly through the long grass, feeling a soft prickling against the soles of her feet. She stood still for a moment and lifted her head to see the perfectly clear afternoon sky. She opened her arms wide and felt like a child pretending to be an airplane. Then she opened her palms and whispered “thank you” just in case anyone was listening.
Robert T. Krantz is a poet and writer residing in southeast Michigan. He studied at Niagara County Community College and The University of Akron. Since 2013, Robert has published several chapbooks and been featured in many literary journals, including Bare Fiction, Hamilton Arts and Letters, Antiphon, Grasslimb and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review.