This Is What He Does
Mitch stands in his bathrobe, staring out the living room window. Among the drooping arms of the fir trees dusk is gathering. There it is. The movement of something slipping stealthily between them in the corner of his eyes each time he blinks. The movement of some thing that his eyes will not catch.
The dusk creeps in for hours around this house, seated in a steep Colorado ravine that allows only a small respite from shadow each day, only a brief period of sunlight. Darkness grows from under the savage armed trees and slowly, nearly invisibly slides its way across the lawn until it envelopes the house. READ A LONGER EXCERPT
The letter was stashed between a repair manual for the 1968-1976 Dodge Duster and another for the 1986-1987 Ford Taurus which leaned against one another on a shelf over his workbench. Harrison knew it was there as he walked out the side door of this house towards the garage. He had known it was there while he sat at the table eating grapefruit with his wife earlier that morning. He had known it was there the night before when he lay next to his wife in bed. He knew it was there since he put it there yesterday. READ A LONGER EXCERPT
He heard the gunshot, a sudden popping that echoed through the neighborhood’s narrow yards, but he didn’t register it. As Fred sat in his backyard in the growing dusk of a late summer evening, he was looking at the moving blades of grass, the maniacal dance of the leaves of the single elm in the small yard, and he was wishing he could pave it all over with concrete. The movement of these living things, the intangibility of these natural mechanisms, distressed him. READ A LONGER EXCERPT
A Coyote in the Valley
Troy focused on the ball as he prepared to kick it. It was a large one with green swirls through white, the fun kind that you can buy out of the big bins at the IGA, but today he did not kick it in fun. He gave it a solid kick against the grayed boards of what used to be a chicken coop and then jumped quickly to recover the bounced ball before it snagged on the barbed wire fence that separated the yard from the neighboring property. The small old coop sat back against the dark trees of the McAllister’s place. Troy had to be careful to keep the ball from hitting the barbed wire fence. If the ball hit one of those barbs, that would be the end of the ball, and his game. READ A LONGER EXCERPT
Ever since she had passed three hundred pounds, Juliet found it hard to do much. And it became hard to keep up with her eleven-year-old daughter. "Deeann!" Juliet shouted, pushing the screen door open with her thick hand and stepping with calloused and dirty bare feet onto the concrete of the front porch. Winded from the twenty steps that she had taken from the kitchen to the porch, Juliet pressed her shoulder against the vinyl siding of the duplex, and took a drink from the sweating Diet Pepsi can in her hand. "Deeann!" She shouted again, her voice sharp and piercing, with its Missouri accent. Then she quietly murmured, "So help me girl, you’d better learn to come when your momma calls." READ A LONGER EXCERPT
A stomping through the hall, on the other side of the closed door, drew Abagail out of the book she was reading. She had been sitting in the window seat of her room, her eyes flowing quickly over the novel’s small typeface, but she was pulled out of that world.
At thirteen, Gail sensed the growing anger in the house, aware of its flowing in and out, like a fog which had now rolled in and filled up the halls and rooms of their house. On this day, she was the only one of the three children in the house, and thus she lacked the insulation that the presence of others could provide. With them there, shouting was less likely. Her parents might not even realize now that she was still in her room and not out in the afternoon playing with her brothers. She tossed the book down. READ A LONGER EXCERPT
A White Farmhouse
"Here." Paul pulled the tiles from his tray and carefully laid them out on the board. First the C, then O, D already there from her word dread, and then the Y on the triple word score. He looked to the concrete apartment ceiling to begin adding the score in his head.
"Cody?" Ann cocked her head.
"I thought we said names were okay. You know, Buffalo Bill?"
"Or, Cody, Wyoming?"
"Ha." He shook his head. "Or like that." He paused purposefully. "Forty-two points." He was content in believing that he might win for once.
She calmly added his score then looked at her own tiles. The board was now crowded with words, leaving few options.
"Do you think much about that trip?" He had thought about withholding his question, but for the wine.
"I really try not to."
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Brookforest was a low, sprawling facility that from the sky probably looked much like a smashed spider. The complex bore the traces of twenty-plus years under the Nebraska sun and storms and the neglect that reflected that familial neglect of those interred within.
Tracy’s stomach tightened each time she approached with the same tightness she remembered from the one time she had instigated an exercise regime that left her sore and sorry for herself. Coming up on Brookforest with Les made her feel worse. Surely he would think that she had just written her mother off and put her away for others to care for the way housekeepers care for the rooms of a highway motel. READ A LONGER EXCERPT
The four of them sat, two on each side of the dining room table, and on the table between them lay what remained of their dinner, plates crusting with the remnants of chicken and pasta with white sauce and stir-fry vegetables. A second bottle of wine was only half full. Isaac carefully noted the table (natural pine), the silverware (hammered), the dishes (store-brand). A desk with a computer sat in the darkness of a corner of the dining room. Under the table, Amy, his wife, squeezed his knee lovingly. The conversation lulled.
"It's a nice house you have." Amy broke the temporary silence. It had been clear to Isaac that she didn’t understand why they were all friends. READ A LONGER EXCERPT
It had stopped raining on their way back from the county clinic, but the water still flowed quickly in the gutter of the deserted main street. The sun that by now should have been bringing light to the quiet street remained obscured by clouds left from the storm that had passed during the night. It was early on a Saturday morning and their car was the only one parked at an angle between the stiff rows of buildings that composed the small town's center. The storefronts were all dark and cavernous, without light. Valerie sat in the car waiting for her husband who had gone into the Rexall Drug. He had not bothered to leave the keys in the car. She sat there in silence, without distraction. On the windshield in front of her the remains of a bug spread out across the glass. She began to cry again. READ A LONGER EXCERPT