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Short Stories


Esther (1855)

The Saints saw nothing but rock and scrub, the one lone Joshua tree dead, its arms defeated. They traveled by wagon, the four still alive, their clothes stiff with their own stink and with the smell of dirt. The dead they buried or thought they buried along the way. The animals gone, all but one, and that one fading. They tied casks to the wagon, dragged the wagon themselves, the wagon lighter now because mostly empty.


And All Their Silent Roars

“But why?” Charlotte whined. In the front seat, our mother consulted the map. “I’m not going to keep answering that.” Anyone who’d come within shouting distance of our old house the week before could have done it for her, given how often it had been repeated. Mom’s office was moving her to Binghamton, and Dad had found a new firm there, so that was that.


Where the Heather Grows

Clara drinks from water bottles so she doesn’t have to hear the tap running. She puts all the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and leaves the building until it’s done running, just so she doesn’t have to hear it. She does everything she can to avoid the sound. Showers, though—those are trickier. She can’t avoid washing herself forever. So she starts the tap, plugs the bathtub, and waits several rooms away until it’s full enough that she can shut off the tap.


Synchronous Online

It could have been ketchup. Or sriracha sauce. V8 or cranberry juice or pinot noir. It could have been Karo syrup with food coloring as it had been in Carrie or Bosco Chocolate Syrup as in Psycho. It didn’t matter. My dissertation had been on suspension of disbelief in scripted violence, and I knew that as long as the audience agreed that the red scarf pulled from Juliet’s breast was her blood dripping from Romeo’s dagger, it didn’t matter that it was a scarf.


The First Year

When you were inside me, I knew you were mine. Now, I’m not so sure. Cradled in my arms, you are an assemblage of parts I recognize: Noah’s cleft chin and narrow ears, my heart-shaped lips and upturned nose. But your eyes are something else. I angle you this way and that, your milk-drunk mouth smearing saliva across my hospital gown while I search your slumbering face for the pull of attachment, waiting for the surge of affection.


The Golden Hour

Thomas woke alone, and opened his sticky eyes to the dusty golden light filling the bedroom. He expected to see Benjamin in the other bed, beside him, as if they were still children together. The bed was filled with familiar shadows, but Benjamin wasn’t there. Instead, among their discarded toys, he found another boy’s body, again. His memory stuttered, caught on faces and places and angles of light, aromas and flavors that had long since faded to dust.


In the Walls and Beneath the Fridge

It was the unexpectedness of the scream that pulled him to his feet from a sofa slouch before the television, that sent him in a run the short way to the kitchen. Jess’s soft padding steps the same path a few seconds before, unconcerned, slippered, still sounded in his memory. Get me a packet of crisps whilst you’re in there, love, will you? The snap of the light switch. The clicking of the old school fluorescent tube coming to life.


The Summer Castle

I have spent my life trying to understand what the thing called memory is. I know some of what it is not. It is not the opposite of forgetting. And it is not a record of what happened. How many summers did we spend at the castle? Five? Seven? We did not go there every summer, though now it seems impossible childhood summers could have existed without the castle.


The Elements of Her Self

She remembered the scent of rain and bamboo. The squish of her shoes in the soft loam as she followed her father through the forest. He with his axe over one shoulder, and she carrying a lunch her mother had packed for them. She had always thought him a giant of a man, so powerful and strong. But she remembered following along behind him and noticing the delicate curve of his back.


Dick Pig

Ass o’clock in the morning and it’s black out. Black black, the kind of black you only get in these miserable, middle-of-nowhere places. No, “middle-of-nowhere” is too generous; this is past that, right at the line where nowhere becomes miles of uncharted forest thick with months of snow and screaming with wolves and whatever other ungodly feral things make noise when everything decent in the world is asleep.