Hillary Leftwich (our Associate Editor) was recently published on Hobart’s website. Read her flash fiction piece, “I Lost My Orgasm,” here. Congrats on the publication, Hillary!
This winter, I live alone.
I collect dolls with marble eyes (ribbon core, oxblood, onionskin) and antler hands. I imagine they have bones and are not just stiff with sawdust. I keep the wood stove humming until the back of my neck is damp with sweat. Each day, I bake a loaf of sourdough, perfecting the ratio of sugar to salt to flour. But there’s no one around to eat it but me – by now, all of my children have gone missing or set out with their little suitcases and weaponless hands.
No matter. I still have all of their shoelaces. The sound of dogs howling from the next homestead over.
But the space between our houses grows while I sleep. The forest around me deepens. The trees fall in love and multiply. The snow an intoxicant. I pray the pines don’t get bolder, that they don’t grow organs and hands.
This winter, the sun only rises on certain days. I record them and carve a chart into my headboard. The townsmen would not believe me if I tried to teach them the patterns I’ve discovered, how things secretly align.
Like the woman I am, I keep to my house, my mule, my tasks.
One day I am out chopping wood and a little boy appears on the edge of my yard. He is not made of skin.
“There’s no one left to play with here. You should carry on your way.” I rest the axe on the splitting stump, but keep a hand on the handle. For some reason, I am afraid.
The boy doesn’t say anything. Against the snow, he is hard to see. He has no coat. I cannot tell if he trembles. I do not turn my back on him. His black eyes follow me. I try not to imagine how many rows of teeth he might have. I pull the axe from the stump and yell, “Git!”
I don’t see him again for four days. When he returns, it is on a day when the sun has not risen. On the edge of the yard, I scoop snow into pails to melt on the woodstove. Behind me I hear a little cough. In the dark, he seems smaller, less frightening. Maybe I imagined him wrong the first time. I invite him into the house but I do not touch him. After lighting the hurricane lanterns, I tell him to sit at the table like a good boy. He hesitates and then climbs into the chair where my husband used to sit. Some boys turn into men.
“Would you like some bread and butter?”
“Yes and cream.”
I keep cream in the blackest pitcher. I pour it into a bowl for him and he licks it as if he were a cat.
“Where are your people?” I ask.
“Will the winter end?” he replies while buttering his second piece of bread. His hands are dirty and rusty with old blood. His voice is so little it seems to get lost in the long corridor of his throat. But he is strong. I can see the tight muscles in his neck, and imagine how he’s come to hunt and scavenge.
“It always did before.”
“Does that make a thing true?”
After dinner, he fingers the hair of my dolls but does not take them down from the shelf to play. I give him my oldest son’s red coat. The buttons are missing so I use a bit of rope to belt it around his waist. In a blue lunch pail, I wrap bread and cheese between strips of cloth. I don’t give him meat. He doesn’t ask to stay. If we are both to survive this season, it will not be because of each other.
At the edge of the yard, he turns back to me, his black eyes inky with moonlight. “Where did they go, your children?” he asks.
“Does that make a thing true?” I reply.
Image Credit: ©/ Dollar Photo Club
Michele Finn Johnson has a new flash fiction, “Darby, Nightfall,” in Boston Literary Magazine. Michele contributed to The Conium Review Online Compendium earlier this year with her story, “DJ’s Addictions.” Congrats on the latest publication, Michele!
The gang’s all here! All nine stories from The Conium Review: Vol. 4 are available as part of this year’s Collector’s Edition. This beautiful box set is now available from our online store. Most orders will ship around December 15th. For a limited period, the Collector’s Edition will be just $30 (marked down from $32) with free shipping! It’s the ultimate holiday gift for the book lover on your list (or for yourself). These sold out rather quickly last year, so don’t miss your chance to claim one today.
Emily Koon’s “The People Who Live in the Sears” is the ninth and final item contained inside The Conium Review: Vol. 4 Collector’s Edition. Tomorrow, we’ll show off the book-shaped box that contains these beautiful handmade chapbooks and broadsides. The box is similar to last year’s, but it’s bigger (don’t worry, it still fits on most bookshelves). The entire box set will be available for purchase tomorrow (November 30th). A limited number of these boxes ship right away on the 30th, though most orders will ship closer to December 15th.
Emily’s story was the 2015 Innovative Short Fiction Contest Winner. The contest judge, Amelia Gray, noted that “The People Who Live in the Sears” is ” . . . a little George Saunders, a little Don Barthelme, but best of all a lot of its own thing, the neon Jazzercize glory of the 80s going up like the asbestos-fueled fire it features.”
This 12-page, 4.5″ x 6″ chapbook is printed on 67-lb. vellum paper with a 24-lb. ivory colored inner leaf and 24-lb. white linen pages.