Fiction from TC 9:4

“Stowaways” by Kimberley Idol

Catholic girls who fail their families learn to lie to their loved ones and tell the truth to strangers. My grandmother shared her secrets with cast offs and drifters who bunked at her place, pawned her knick-knacks, and forgot to let the dog out until it shit on the carpet. She lived in that kind of company because finding caretakers for aging addicts is a grueling chore. She would drink all day then drive through town in her big blue Thunderbird looking for spies or dead husbands or houses she no longer owned. If we hid the car she called the cops and blamed her minder. The cops didn’t respond, but the calls made them testy.

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“Cotton-Eyed Joe” by Charles D. Phillips

I spent week after week clearing my land in west Texas. Hour piled on hour in an avalanche of brain-stunning heat, gnarled cedars, thorny mesquites, chainsaws, pickaxes, and long-handled shovels. My four-wheel-drive pickup never left first gear. Its engine growled, and then it howled with all its wheels spinning as we fought for possession of stumps welded to the dry ground.

Sunburned shoulders, crackling knees, and tortured muscles incessantly reminded me this was work for younger men or for men with bodies stripped and then rebuilt strand on hard strand by years of killing heat and unending labor. The once-sharp lines of my own body were now blurred. Decades of wielding little more than a keyboard and wrestling with nothing more substantial than recalcitrant software had taken their toll.

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“Louvre Is All U Need” by Jason D. Schwartz

The rabbit’s neck bulged where the fence cut in. The fur around its new double chin blushed with blood. Its ears pointed to heaven and its grey body stretched straight back in the air like dry papier-mâché that would crumple if touched.

Ari felt the grass soaking through his white cotton socks. He could taste the rabbit’s creamy, rotted breath. He took a step forward. The trees whispered.

A fly landed on the rabbit’s left eye. Ari watched it dip its legs into the black bead and scrub itself. When it was clean, it buzzed away, weaving through the fence’s rusty rectangles.

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“Midnight at the Oasis” by Melodie Starkey

It’s not that Dad tries to be a loser. He just doesn’t even seem to realize it. Like last summer: we went to Boston for our annual road trip. I wanted to see the aquarium and drive to Springfield to see the Basketball Hall of Fame. He took me to tour Emily Dickinson’s house. Maybe there are lots of fourteen-year-old boys who would consider this the high life. It gets worse: at Emily Dickinson’s house, the old lady tour guide showed us the original manuscripts of some stuff, and asked if anyone wanted to read a poem. Now I’m about 100% sure she meant, “Do you want to look at these and read them silently to yourself?” But not my dad. He picked one up and proceeded to give a dramatic public reading of it, complete with the hand turning gestures my sisters make so much fun of. The other people in the room just stared at him, including the guide lady.

I died.

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