Flush



“Here’s a ghost story,” I say when it’s my turn. “A true one.” This happened not far from here, on a cliffside road pinned by rusty metal railing on one side and woods on the other. The woods were so thick and dense and fog-webbed that people were always getting lost. Beyond the rail was a steep drop. White crosses wrapped in silk flowers clustered along its length like strange plants. A man was driving home. We’ll call him John. It was raining hard, sheets of water so thick against the glass that the car felt submarine. John was in a hurry. His wife Susan made dinner every night at 6 p.m. and she expected John to be there, but lately he’d been cutting it close. There was a woman from his office, Miranda. She was going through a breakup. “I like talking to you,” she told John, her breasts resting on the edge of their shared cubicle wall, skewing the magnet that held his nameplate. One huddled break room chat turned into lunch a few times a week turned into a meet-up today. It wasn’t cheating, but Susan was starting to get suspicious. Last night she pored through John’s phone while he watched, but he and Miranda always made plans at work. He didn’t keep her number. John rounded the curve. A dark fringe of trees lined the road along his right side. A tide of pale fog slipped across the road. A shape ahead. John braked. The back end of his car loosened on the road and swung out. John’s mind flared bright, blank with panic. The car hydroplaned. The tires skidded along the dirt and by some miracle stopped before he felt a crash. He sat gripping the wheel. When he realized he was trembling, he laughed. He could hardly hear himself over the rain. The tires spun uselessly against the mud when John tried to accelerate. John turned off the car. He listened to the engine tick as it cooled. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. Now he had a ready-made excuse. Wouldn’t Susan feel guilty when she realized that John had been stuck through no fault of his own? He glanced at himself in the mirror, hoping for a bruise to sell his case. This more than saved his evening, but it felt like an answer to a question he didn’t realize he was asking, because the universe wouldn’t reward him if he was doing something wrong with Miranda, even if he wondered about her nipples from time to time and how pink they might be.

Minutes passed before he remembered the shape on the road. John got out of the car. He looked at the road behind him. Empty. John walked down the road, and there, standing near a tree, he found a woman. She was pale, wearing a white dress that had gone translucent in the rain. He could see the round, dark disks of her nipples and the triangle of hair between her legs. She looked like she might be sixteen. “Are you okay?” John asked. He couldn’t make out what she said. Maybe the word “lost.” “Are you lost?” he asked. There was something strange about her eyes. They were blue with a milky, corrugated layer over them, as if she had been sprayed with something caustic. She didn’t blink. Her lips were full and red as a wound. John wondered what would happen if he could get her into his car. He took a step closer. She didn’t move away. “Lost it.” That’s what she was saying. “What did you lose?” She held up her hand. There was an absence where her middle finger should be. Blood ran down her arm and dripped onto the dirt. The slick, white knot of her bone was visible. John did not feel alarmed. “Where did you lose it?” He didn’t realize he had taken another step toward her. He was close enough now to touch her. She smiled. “Yours.” “Mine?” He held up his hand and looked at it. When she reached with her blood-gloved hand, John didn’t resist. She pushed his middle finger through the tight, wet grip of her lips. John felt a twitch low in his stomach. Slowly she pushed the finger as far as it would go. He felt her uvula as his finger went into her throat, felt her suckling. He got an erection. When she bit down there was a bright flash of pain. He didn’t move. She gave him back his hand. She chewed his finger. He heard the crunch of it in her jaws. He watched her throat ripple as she swallowed. She grinned. Her teeth were the color and texture of tree bark, something mossy and dark in the spaces between. Her breath smelled like the deepest part of a lake. John cupped her breast in one hand. He didn’t think of Susan or even Miranda. He rubbed his thumb over her nipple. Her body was cold and hard as marble. “What happened?” he asked, gesturing to her teeth as he stroked her with one hand and himself with the other. She pushed her teeth until they broke off at the root. Something dark and thick flooded her mouth. She swallowed and then gave a black-gummed smile. When John kissed her, he dipped his tongue to taste it.

She moved away. John followed her but stumbled. He remembered his hand. He looked at the missing finger, the dark blood soaking his sleeve. He felt weak. He stopped and wondered if he should do something, a tourniquet. When he turned back, the woman was gone. He looked around him. The road was nowhere in sight. There were only trees—trees so tall and tightly clustered that they blocked any light above. John began walking. He needed to find the woman. He headed deeper into the woods but had to stop. Something rooted in his mouth. He gagged and reached in with his healthy hand. He pulled out a tooth, mossy and dark. His tongue probed the open space in his gumline. He spit out teeth as he walked until there were none left. Then he sat down, too light-headed to walk farther. He vomited something black and oily and then began to tremble. When he laughed this time he could hear it. It was the only sound in the dark, empty woods. They never found his body. They searched after someone drove by and found the car abandoned, the blood not far from it. That was all they found of him—that puddle of blood. That and a few spare, brown teeth.

§

“You lied,” Marcus says after I’m finished. We’re sitting at the fire pit he built in front of his camper, which he lives in year-round. I stay there with him most nights. Mom doesn’t like him, mostly because of the age difference. I’m sixteen and he’s thirty-four. “What does he do to you?” she used to ask when she thought he was twenty-four, like I claimed. “What does he ask you to do?” Now she doesn’t say anything. Last week she came home early from work and caught him dropping me off in his truck. “Don’t get pregnant” is all she’ll say now, but she doesn’t believe me when I tell her I won’t. Marcus already has a kid. A boy with another woman. Aaron. He’s in my art class. He’s not bad at drawing. He has Marcus’s reddish-brown hair and broad, pale hands. “My dad’s a dick,” is the only thing I’ve ever heard him say about his family, but I think he was talking about his stepdad, the man who lives with him. Marcus doesn’t see him much. I don’t think Aaron knows that I’m Marcus’s girlfriend. Marcus told me not to tell anyone. “They won’t understand.” Sometimes he thinks I’m stupid. I know he could get in trouble for being with me. He tells me he loves me, sometimes. I know he must mean it if he’s still here. We’ve been together nearly a year. “I didn’t lie,” I say. The fire’s going low and I want to throw another log on, but I know if I ask then Marcus will snuff it out. He says I’m wasteful, that I don’t know the value of things because I don’t work. I had a job for a couple of weeks at our local McDonald's, but Marcus didn’t like how the smell stayed in my hair afterwards. He said it made him feel like he was fucking a deep fryer. “Don’t bullshit me.” Marcus pokes the fire, stirring the bright golden heart of it. I’m shivering even though Marcus gave me his coat. It smells like him, his sweat. I close the folds over my nose. “I know every street in Cheyenne better than you and there isn’t a street like that one. And if he was never found, then how do you know what happened to him?” “Why does that matter?” “You’re nuts,” he says. It’s something he always says. He kicks dirt over the fire and then pours the rest of his beer into it. “Well, it was a good story, I guess.” I follow him into the camper. It’s narrow and always smells like stagnant water. Marcus has a full-sized bed at one end and a makeshift kitchen through the center. The bathroom is in a cupboard. I’m allowed to use it as long as I only have to pee. Marcus kisses me. He tastes like beer and cigarettes. His tongue forces my teeth apart. I like the way he kisses me, the way he does everything. He never asks, so I don’t have to decide what I want or don’t want. After we’re naked, he slides his long warm body over mine. I feel his dick against my thighs and let them fall open, but he doesn’t move into me. He pulls up on his elbow and wraps one hand around the back of my skull. He moves his other hand over my face, rubbing my lips before sticking his finger deep into my throat. I try not to gag. Marcus watches my face. His eyes look navy in the light. I’m going to gag if he doesn’t take his hand away. He doesn’t. He slides his finger in and out, fucking my mouth with his hand. I can’t gag. I relax my jaw and breathe through my nose and try not to think about dying. It helps. “Bite,” Marcus says, moving his finger deep into my throat, his knuckles pulling back the corners of my lips. His face has no expression at all. I bite down lightly, then harder. Finally he moves inside me. He keeps his finger in my mouth until he comes. Afterward he rolls over and pulls the blanket over both of us. He wipes the spit off my mouth with his palm. He’s gentle when he does it, and I know that I did something good. Usually after sex Marcus goes outside to smoke, but today he rolls over onto his back. He lets me rest my head on his chest. The coarse hair itches my cheek, but I don’t scratch it. I haven’t told him that my mom found out about his real age. I’m not sure what he would do. Probably kick me out, for good this time. “Let me try again,” I say.

“Try what?” “Another story. I have a better one.” “I’m tired.” We’re silent for a long time. I think he’s sleeping when he finally sighs. “Fine. Tell me.” There was once a woman in an unhappy marriage. Her name was Susan. Susan was a good wife. She did all the things a wife should do. She cleaned. She cooked dinner, adjusting her recipes to her husband John’s tastes—barely any salt, no spice at all, no seafood—and she shaved her legs every other day. She slicked her body with sweet-smelling lotion and tidied her eyebrow hair. She tried not to nag, much. She tried not to ask too many questions. When John got home from work she let him have an hour to himself in front of television. It was his preference. Susan lurked in the kitchen, pretending dinner required more work than it ever did, waiting for time to be up. She felt like a ghost haunting her own home. She wondered, sometimes, why wives had to do so many things. She wondered what was required of husbands. When John was late for dinner, Susan scraped it into the trash. She knew he was interested in some other woman, but she had no proof. She went to the mirror and lifted her shirt to look at her slim but soft stomach. She bunched the skin hard enough to bruise and then dropped her shirt. She did the dishes. It took hours for the police to show up. They explained that John’s car had been found on the side of the road. Susan went to join the search party. They found nothing—just some blood and an incisor, which the cops said might not be his. Susan went home. She tried to cry. There were arrangements to make, people to call, services to plan. She didn’t do any of these things. She walked out to her backyard and dug her fingernails into the earth. She buried the tooth and smoothed the soil back over it. The next day, a new husband grew. He looked almost exactly like John, which was disappointing. “What should I call you?” Susan asked him, helping him off the vine. “You choose,” he said. His voice was deeper than John’s. It gave her a lovely shiver to hear it. She called him David. She'd loved a David in high school before she met John, and she’d felt fond of the name ever since. She helped David into the house. She showed him how to work the shower. She left him to shower himself, surprised when he reached for her. John had never liked sharing showers. He found it wasteful. Susan had to undress herself. David couldn’t figure out the buttons. When she was fully naked, David knelt before her and dipped his tongue between her thighs—another thing John was never particularly good at and so didn’t prefer. David was different. Susan cried after she came. John had a scar on his collarbone from an old accident on a bicycle. David was scarless, smooth. She ran her hands over his body. She tried ironing shirts but David tugged the fabric from her fingers. He pulled her onto the bed. They ate ice cream there, like children, not caring if they dirtied the sheets. The next day John appeared. His clothing was a mess and his hands were dirty. He barged into the house to find Susan in David’s lap. He was cradling her, gently. No one had ever touched her like that before, like she was breakable, like they cared if she broke. John was angry. He screamed that he had been lost. Why hadn’t she looked for him? Why hadn’t she worried? Instead he found her here with some other man. He didn’t notice that the man looked so much like him. When John moved to strike him, David rose and they fought. Susan couldn’t tell the difference between them with all the movement. She couldn’t tell who was knocked to the ground, or which one stood over him with the fire poker. Susan watched without speaking as one of them raised the fire poker and hefted it down onto the other’s skull. The skull split like old fruit. Glossy, bright blood was everywhere, and bits of pinkish clots that Susan realized were brains. She plucked some out of her hair. The one remaining looked at her. Susan stood and peeled back his shirt. When she saw the lack of scar, she kissed him. She was happy.

§

“What about his finger?” Marcus asks. “What about it?” He shifts the blankets down to his waist. I’m suddenly cold.

“The first one was better.”

§

The next day Marcus takes me shooting. There are still fields here that you can disappear in, even though Marcus says Cheyenne is going to hell. When he was a kid there was land everywhere. Now everything has been ripped apart for developments. Manufactured homes are arranged in rows, identical and evenly spaced, like a well-planned garden. Sometimes, when he doesn’t expect to run into anyone, he drives me around and points out the history of places. He tells me where he used to play as a kid. “I had a brother,” he told me once when he was drunk. He’s never said what happened to him. I don’t think he remembers telling me anything, and I know better than to ask. As long as I don’t say anything, Marcus will talk. He needs to forget I’m there. He will drive and point out places and describe how they once looked, the animals that used to run there, the salamanders he pulled squirming from cold creeks. Our side of Cheyenne is an ugly place, especially in fall once all the leaves are gone and the thirsty ground has gone gray-yellow with dying, but when he talks I can imagine how it used to be beautiful. The field is a far drive from his camper. I don’t tell Mom where I’m going. I’m not home most nights now. I used to lie and say I was staying with friends, girls named Sabrina and Rebecca, but she’s never believed me. She knows I don’t have any friends. There’s just Marcus. Lately Mom spends most nights Facebook-stalking my dad’s new girlfriend Janine. She uses a fake account to like all of Janine’s posts. She doesn’t really miss my dad, I don’t think. Being lonely gives her something to do since she’s given up on raising me. Marcus parks outside of a barbed wire fence. I follow him to the back of the truck where he keeps his rifle and old milk jugs filled with water. He puts two jugs in the duffel bag and gives one to me to carry. He tosses in three cans of beer, tearing them from the plastic rings. He rips the plastic rings apart with his fingers before throwing them with the other junk he keeps in his truck. It’s times like this I can’t help but love him. I’m the one who told him about fish in the ocean and how they get caught in rings like that. “Wyoming’s too far to worry about the ocean, Jess,” he said, but after I went through the trash cutting up rings, he started doing it, too. I want to touch his hand, tell him I love him, but I never say it first. Sometimes I think it, hard, wondering if he can feel the heat of my thoughts. “Do you believe in telepathy?” He glances at me, zips the duffel. He slings it over his shoulder. “Come on.” He pulls the barbed wire up to give me room to slip under. I drop the jug on the ground and duck under the wire and then reach through and pick it up again. Inside, milky flakes float like dust motes. I try to help Marcus over but he doesn’t need me. He pins down the barbed wire himself and lifts one leg, then the other. The inside of his thigh snags on the fence, but his denim is so thick that he doesn’t feel it. We start to walk again. I don’t know where we’re going. The long, dry grass scratches my bare shins. I shouldn’t have worn shorts. “Well, do you?” “Of course not,” Marcus says. “Don’t tell me you do.”

“Yeah. I mean, yeah. I think so.” “You believe in aliens, too?” “Sure.” He laughs. His mouth is dry in the corners. The sun is high overhead and he’s already starting to sweat, forehead flushing pink from the heat. Marcus says there are no seasons anymore, not really, not in Cheyenne. Now it’s only hot until it’s cold. “You’ll believe anything as long as there’s no proof.” “Just because we haven’t found it doesn’t mean there’s no proof.” It makes him laugh again. He looks at me and then cuffs me on the side of the head. I stumble on the uneven ground. He catches my arm to straighten me. We hold hands for a little bit before he lets go. “I bet you believe in God, too.” No one else ever asks me what I believe in. Not my mom, not my teachers, not other kids my age. Marcus is always asking me something. He asks and asks, even if he never likes my answers. “Sure.” “What do you pray for?” “Nothing.”

“You don’t pray or you don’t have anything you want?” I don’t know. “Why bother?” We have to stop. I step on a jumping cactus with the front of my sneakers. It arcs up and embeds in the soft skin above my knee. I try to pull it out, but the stickers prick my fingers. Marcus slaps my hand away. He crouches in front of me and cups his hand behind my thigh and uses the other to pull out the cactus. His hands are so calloused that it doesn’t hurt him. Blood wells and trickles down my knee. Marcus smears it to the inside of my thigh with his palm. He kisses me on the small, clean spot that’s left there. “Crazy girl,” he murmurs, and his voice is so tender that it surprises me when he then rears back and slaps my wound. The sting crawls all the way up to my hip, flushed lively and hot. When he stands up I kiss him. He lets me for a while. Then he unwinds my hands from his neck and throws them at me, his mouth twisted. “Fuck’s wrong with you?” Sometimes he disapproves of my love as much as my mom does. “Let’s go.” I follow him. I don’t say anything. He walks slightly ahead of me now. I look at the stiff line of his shoulders, how he taps his fingers against his thigh. When he stops near a pile of sandbags, I stop at a distance. Like a twice-kicked dog, I wait for him to look back at me before I continue forward. He unzips the duffel and drinks down an entire beer in three breaths. He places the empty can on the highest sandbag. He has to put a rock on top of it to keep it from tilting in the feeble wind. There’s nothing around us, flat, yellow fields for miles. Marcus finds the rifle. He shows me how to load it. “Aim it at the ground,” he says, “unless you’re about to shoot something. Don’t keep your finger over the trigger when you’re just waiting. Keep the safety on until you’re ready to fire.” I wonder if he ever gave Aaron this lesson, or if he only imagined doing it. Maybe I’m the only one he’s brought out here. Marcus doesn’t have any friends either. He’s never said this outright, but I can tell. I never see him with anybody. And there’s the way he always opens his door when I come back to his camper, even if he promised the night before that he wouldn't. I’m not sure what he would do if I told him about my mom. The other night I heard her moving around outside of my room, her breathing on the other side of the door. Her voice muffled, as if she had her cheek pressed against the doorframe. “A good mother would call the cops.” Her voice, almost a song. When I woke the next morning she was gone, no note, car missing from the driveway, like I dreamed her. Marcus shows me how to hold the gun. “Careful of the kick,” he says, but I’m not. When I fire, it punches back into my shoulder, and I gasp. The shot goes wild. I look around, as if expecting someone’s head to pop out of the grass to yell at us. But we’re alone, completely. The sandbags are the only sign that anyone has been here before us. I’d live out here if I could. “Why are these here?” “A few years ago some guy bought this land to build houses. The sandbags were supposed to be a stopgap against the creek flooding, but the houses were never built so they don’t care if it floods. A little higher,” he adds after I fire and hit one of the bags. Sand puffs in a dirty exhalation. I can see the black edge of the bullet hole. “And the creek’s dry now, anyway.” Marcus lets me have a few tries. He thinks it’s important that I learn how to use a gun. “Just don’t ever use it on me,” he says—a joke, I think. He’s finished the beers and waits for me to drop the nose of the rifle before he walks up to the sandbags to line up the empty cans. His eyes flick back to me, as if he really thinks I might shoot him. I like that he’s afraid. I wait until he’s out of the way and then I try again. My shoulder’s numb by now. I manage to wing the can on my sixth shot. Marcus lets me finish off his beer while he sets up for his turn. It’s hot and tastes awful, but I drink the rest. He shoots the cans on the first try. They fall back onto the long grass, one and then the other, dead. It’s my job now to set them back up. I rub my thumb over the hot, broken center of the can, the bullet rattling inside.

I move behind him as he fires. I start telling another story. Miranda was beautiful and young. She worked in an insurance office where she listened all day to people in pain. They told her about their accidents and house fires and hurricane-struck offices. Miranda murmured comforting things while she typed up their information on the computer, but it was difficult to concentrate. Her boyfriend, Nate, was going to kill her. She tried to tell people, but no one listened. Her cubicle-neighbor, John, seemed to listen at first, but then his hand crept towards her waist during a drunken Christmas party. She realized they had different ideas about what they were doing. Worse, the rest of the office agreed with John, and now no one spoke to her. Miranda cried a lot, but what good did crying do anyone? The idea came to her one night after John called. He’d been in an accident. “Can you help me?” he asked, and that was just too much, too fucking rich after everything, so of course she agreed. She found him on an isolated road. “There was a deer,” he said, cradling a bent arm. He stumbled, dizzy, and fell to his knees. It didn’t take much effort to stab him with the pocketknife Miranda carried on her key chain, a souvenir of an anti-rape campaign at her college. Miranda carved a slit from the back of John’s head down to the base of his tailbone. She peeled away his skin and stepped into it. She tested out her new body, her strong broad limbs, laughing. She couldn’t stop looking in the rearview mirror as she drove, feeling her new face. On her home street she passed Nate. He looked at her. There was no recognition. The skin lasted a week before it began to rot. Miranda had to find a new one before it was too late. She went home and found Nate. She killed him and slipped into his skin, leaving John’s to puddle on the floor. She— Marcus grabs me by the shoulders. “Shut the fuck up. Just stop. Just stop with the fucking stories!” He shakes me hard. My head snaps back. I go quiet. I stay frozen after he lets me go. He takes a step back from me. His hands curl at his sides. “I know what you’re doing,” he says. He turns away to gather everything up. He punches the bullet-bitten cans into the duffel and zips it closed. He starts to walk away. I wait until he’s almost out of sight before I remember to follow.

§

Marcus points out the prairie dog hole. “Have you ever seen one?” he asks. Of course I have, but I shake my head no. He’s not really asking. He wants to distract me from what just happened. He’s never shouted at me before, not like that. “I bet there’s one down there.” He’s bent over the narrow hole in the earth. His eyes slide to the corners, watching me. “Here. Give me your water.” I’ve barely had any, even though it’s hot enough that I’m sweating. Drops track down my spine. The underside of Marcus’ arms are shadowed and damp. I take a quick drink before handing the jug to him. The water doesn’t taste clean. Marcus uncaps the jug and then sets it on the ground beside the rest. He tucks the caps in his pocket. “My dad and I used to do this. We’d hunt prairie dogs sometimes. They like to hide underground. You have to flush them out. Come here.” I stand by the hole. He walks out about twenty feet, eyes scanning the ground, until he finds the other end of the tunnel. “Okay,” he says. He doesn’t speak louder than before, and the wind has picked up. His neck is so red from the heat that I’m starting to get worried. “Start pouring!” I do. I empty one jug and then toss it aside to keep the flow going. Halfway through the third, I see movement on the other end. Something a little bigger than Marcus’s shoe darts from the hole. It makes it three feet before the crack of the gun. I startle. The jug drops from my hand and bounces. Water glugs out of it to darken the ground. The dirt is so dry that the water pools on the surface for a long time before it begins to settle in. Marcus stands there staring at the thing. I walk over to him. I think that maybe it will be alive, but when I get closer, I realize half of its head is missing, a red bloom where its ear should be. It is fat and beige. If it got a few feet farther it would have blended perfectly with the grass around it. “I didn’t know you were going to shoot it.” Marcus doesn’t say anything. I can’t read his expression. He won’t look away from the prairie dog. I’ve never seen something like this, freshly dying. I toe it with my sneaker, as if I might shake it awake. Hot saliva fills my mouth. I breathe through my nose. He will never forgive me if I throw up now. “What are you going to do with it?” “Nothing,” Marcus says. He kicks it. It turns over and lands on the cleaner side. This eye is closed. I think of how in movies and books they always say some dead thing looks like it could be sleeping. Now I realize how silly that is, absolutely stupid. There’s no confusion. The limbs are twisted all wrong, even if I could ignore the blood. What an awful choice we gave it—drown and stay secret, or run and be blown away aboveground. I’m angry, suddenly, at Marcus for making me do this. I feel tricked. He catches my look. “What? What do you want to do with it, Jessica? What did you think we were going to do? Fucking think, for once. Jesus.” He rears back and kicks the animal. It arcs into the air. I don’t look back to see where it lands. I watch Marcus turn away from me. He kicks the water jugs, sending them flying in every direction. The back of his neck is purple and slick as raw liver. He’s breathing hard. I stare at his back. I wonder if he’ll leave me out here. I wonder if I prefer to be left. He catches his breath and then looks back at me. He wipes his sleeve over his forehead. “Come on,” he says. He’s not yelling now. I barely hear him again. We walk back to the truck. When we get back to the fence, he helps me through. This time I nick my shoulder on a barbed point. I can feel it bleeding through my shirt, the fabric sticking. Marcus drops the tailgate and we sit on the edge and let our feet dangle. He lights a cigarette. His hands are shaking at first, but gradually they still. He blows the smoke away from me. “You think you’re the only person who’s ever been treated bad, but you’re not,” he says. “Everyone treats everyone like shit. They can’t help it.” He stubs out the cigarette on the tailgate. The filter he folds into his palm and sticks into his jeans pocket. “I used to pray.” I want him to tell me what he prayed for. I want that more than anything. Marcus is the person I know best in the world, better than my mom, better than anyone I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t name his favorite breakfast cereal if asked. “You looked young, when I grabbed you. Most of the time I forget how fucking young you are.” I shift a little closer to him. I wonder if he’ll push me away. I move until our bodies are flush, arm to arm. The sun’s too hot for sitting like this, but I don’t want to move. “Why’d you kill it?” The prairie dog’s death doesn’t bother me as much as the soundless way it died. It seems like everything should have a chance at screaming at least once. Marcus doesn’t answer. He’s not looking at me. “I have another story.” “Okay,” he says. There was once a woman who died. She wandered the woods trying to remember her own name. She was so lonely that her night cries scared all the birds from the trees. Nothing lived in the woods but her. She needed help. One day she found a road. A man was driving. He nearly wrecked, but then he wandered out of the car, and he found her. She hoped he would listen, but he didn’t, so she left him in the woods to find someone else. She waited by the road for lights to pass, waiting to scare someone into stopping so she could tell them all she needed. “Help me,”she would say. She waited for a car to stop long enough to listen. I stop talking. I don’t know how this one ends. I wait a long time, but Marcus doesn’t ask.



LAURA PERKINS is a writer living in Cheyenne, WY. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Bodega, failbetter, Cutbank, Chestnut Review, San Joaquin Review, Cagibi, and elsewhere.