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Content Categorized ‘Fiction’

Horse

It was Thursday, the week after Thanksgiving, and she was driving to work in the dark because a half-steer was waiting to be butchered before the store opened. Her hands gripping the wheel were bare, and numb from the bitter…

Organ Cave

Randy Colburn shifts his case of beer from one hand to the other and tries not to pay attention to the children. The world is full of children. It must have always been this way, but he’s noticed it more lately. All he wants is his twelve-pack of Natural Ice and he ends up in line at the gas station behind a family of four. “You heard your mama at the house, you ain’t gettin’ no cake,” the father says to a little redheaded girl who’s pointing at a rack of Hostess snacks. Randy focuses on how good his Natty Ice will taste, how he’ll open one up in the truck and drive slow, enjoying it, the warm July night-wind coming in the window. He wonders whether he ought to buy a pack of Pall Malls. He’s not sure he wants cigarettes but he’s pretty positive he deserves them, and he’s thinking this conundrum over and stepping up to the counter when he smacks into something. He looks down to see the little redhead sprawled at his feet, crying. Her brother is a few steps behind her, looking from his sister to Randy and back again. Their father is in…

Love Triangle by the Sea

The deep-sea fisherman was always squinting into the sun. The marine biologist studied the hearing abilities of longfin squid. The gift shop clerk wrote poems on the backs of receipts customers said they didn’t need. The clerk was pale, wiry,

Waltz

Up until her fortieth year, there hadn’t been a season of Marian’s life she hadn’t had to grovel and beg, send off invoice reminders couched in manic cheer: Just checking in! At forty, an unexpected windfall changed all of that. She bought a house in a town in the Hudson Valley that seemed occupied solely by arty people, and made a hobby of overpaying for furniture. She spent $5,899 on an antique chest of drawers, laughed as they loaded it into her car. “What’s funny?” asked the guy with the dolly. “Where to begin?” she said. The children adjusted instantly. They shrugged off their old lives like winter coats on the first real day of spring. Marian never caught them pining or calling the friends they’d left behind. She bought them anything they asked for, and they asked for a lot. Sophie wanted a horse and Dan wanted a BMX bike…

The Cool Girl’s Guide to Contortion

In memory of Jonathan Bernbaum (1982–2016), who lost his life in the Ghost Ship Fire   I didn’t have much of an audience. Guests were few and far between, chatting nervously with one another. As if to compensate, the DJ blared the music. He was playing the Black Eyed Peas. He may have been mocking the guests. He may have been mocking me. I was in a lyra suspended five feet off a raised platform. Front mermaid to splits. I took out the back catch in order to simplify the routine. I’d heard this tech firm was a zombie now, but they had gone ahead with the holiday party anyhow. My fee had been negotiated by my agent: five hundred dollars, yet to be collected, and shares. I had the feeling I wouldn’t get the former and wouldn’t want the latter. I hung upside down, dismounting into a handstand, down into the splits. I raised my hands in the air and received exactly no applause. I stood up and ran backstage. This was already the second of five scheduled miniroutines. What would happen if I just left now? At least my dressing room, tiny as it was, was an actual…

Parkway

We find bodies all the time. Lots of folks come up here to die or kill, or get killed. My first one came in the summer. We were up Back Branch, near the Virginia border, where the treeline thickens above the bald. It was me and Coralis, who trained me when I started with the Park Service. Coralis taught me pretty much my whole job, and the only part I’ve ever questioned is whether he taught me how to deal with the living and the dead the right way around. That first time, Coralis and me were heading from Back Branch to Sugar Knob. This was back in ’83, my first month on the job, before I got my own vehicle. I was one of the only woman rangers in the whole state then. We were heading north, coming out of an early morning fog, and we saw a flash off to the right, like a gleam off somebody’s smile in those old toothpaste commercials. We thought that was strange with it so gray and misty, so we checked it out.  Coralis pulled over in the grass near a mile marker—the old stones, white and square, the ones you see all…

Ouro Preto

The summer before my senior year of college, I spent far too many of my waking hours in the basement of the state natural-science museum, rarely leaving, even for meals. During my lunch break, I sat eating red licorice under the yellow orb of a desk lamp, turning pale and flaccid as a mushroom. “You need something with some damn nutrition to it,” my boss, Bill, would say, jabbing a thick finger at me as I chewed plasticky chunks. But he had a MoonPie with Sun Drop for lunch himself, so my eating habits felt like an act of solidarity. Bill was a geologist whose Twitter handle was @DrRocks and who played in a prog rock band on the weekends. I was his summer research assistant, having taken the job with little idea as to what it would actually entail but knowing it was the least popular option each year on the university’s summer work board. Mostly, I’d taken it as a sort of punishment. I wasn’t a geology major; I’d taken one class as a freshman to fulfill a science requirement: “Rocks for Jocks,” people called it. As summer drew near, though, I’d allowed myself to imagine some possibility…