Category Archives: sudden fiction

Alpha Male…

Alpha Male

My legs are starting to cramp. Shit.

I been under this desk three hours but I don’t dare make a sound. I’m barely breathing.

Meg’s back. She’s outside the study door now. I can tell. My little girl.

The trouble started when that giant rooster come straggling out of the woods yesterday afternoon. From where, I couldn’t tell you. He was huge.

That boy was the cock of the walk and took over the coop. He rousted out a bunch of the hens and just stood in the doorway, head darting back and forth. Just begging somebody to have a go at him.

I ignored him. Had enough to do.

About two hours later, there was a big ruckus in that hen house. I heard screaming and looked over. The entire structure was shaking and buckling.

Then I see Meg come screaming out of there with blood all over her face. She was carrying on something awful. Said the rooster had spiked her when she went into the coop to collect eggs.

Well, that can happen. Nothing out of the ordinary there: roosters can be mean assholes.

All that blood. I got Meg cleaned up and calmed down. Then I went out to the coop to break that thing’s neck.

And I’ll be damned if I don’t see seven or eight dead hens scattered under the laying boxes. Their heads lay ripped off and piled neatly into a little pyramid there in the corner.

That rooster, he was sitting on the edge of a laying box like he was king shit. His head tilted as if wondering how I had the balls to come into his realm, or some such thing.

I got a shiver up my back, just looking at that thing and his little pile of heads.

I decided to leave it alone for a while. I’ll admit I was spooked.

You might want to know how I came to be squatting under this desk, with my legs cramping.

Well, I got nothing better to do right now.

Meg was fine at dinner tonight. I’d patched her up and comforted her. Things her mother used to do before the cancer got her.

That night I hear the rooster crowing and I think to myself, that thing’s going under the ax tomorrow. Spiking Meg is one thing, but crowing in the blackest part of night is another.

I was just starting to doze off when something made me open my eyes and look down to the foot of the bed and I almost shit myself: Meg was standing down there. Eyes all rolled up white in her head. And blood spilling out where her tears are supposed to.

Then those eyes rolled round, looked right at me and off she went. Just left.

‘Course I followed her back to her room and she was lying in bed.

I got to checking. She was awful hot. Sweating and panting.

I called nine-one-one straight away.

I was on the front porch when they pulled in, lights but no siren. I told them Meg was upstairs.  They told me to stay put, and up they went.  I heard that rooster shriek again. I mean, it must’ve been two in the morning at this point. What the hell is he doing?

Then from up in Meg’s room I hear all this screaming and bumps.  Lamps crashing.  I ran up those stairs and I still can’t believe what I saw: the heads of those EMTs piled together in the corner. Meg staring at me. Just like that goddamn rooster.  Blood smeared all over her cheeks.  And dripping down her flexed fingers.

She started to smile a little and that set me off running down the stairs.

I was heading for the front porch, but standing there, proud as you please is that demon rooster, pushing one of his big talons through the screen door.

I heard Meg pounding down the stairs behind me so I crashed into the study, here. Locked the door and climbed under this desk.

Well that brings you up to date.

I heard the cops show up a little while ago. Probably checking on those ambulance boys. Well, either that rooster or Meg -or both- got hold of them. I nearly puked listening to that.

Now, there’s some unnatural sounds coming from right outside the study door. Oh, Meg. What’s he done to you?

Nearly sun up now.

I’m gonna try and rest a little.

Then I’m going out this window, getting my axe, and that fucking rooster is going down.

And Meg?

Well, one of us will be here to greet the next squad car.


Casting about for ideas to write about today. The news wasn’t sparking anything so I pulled the OED out and chose two words at random. Believe it or not: “Alpha” and “Male”.  I was staring out my window looking at our chickens walking around and the story just sort of dropped out onto my lap. I am glad we don’t have roosters anymore. BB

Image by Ryan Abel

Rest For the Weary…

Rest For the Weary

Traps empty. Again.

Family hungry.

Fished out.

No jobs.


Deep quiet underwater.


Photo –

The Song Collector…

The Song Collector

I don’t know where they come from, Burrell Sykes and that woman he call Deka.

What kinda name that anyhow? Deka.

One day we sittin’ under the huge chinaberry tree up behind Maxwell’s place. Pluckin’ our flat tops and havin’ us a iced tea to keep our throats from gettin too parched in that damn Carolina heat. Maxwell and me. Always together since we was kids.

Maxwell says “That doctor? He don’t know shit. What you survived in your life? Hell, ain’t no congested heart gonna take you down.”

I run a hand ’round the bottom of my neck. Yeah, that sure was something for a boy to survive. “Let’s forget ’bout that.” I say.

So we take a sip and set back. Then we see this man and a woman come walkin’ up the dusty road. I recall thinkin’: where they come from? Ain’t nothin’ but swamp down that other end of the road.

They come abreast and stop. And  of course these two be none other than Mr. Burrell Sykes and his island witch, Deka, which we was about to find out. And they both just standin’ there, glistenin’under that sun. Staring..

I knew she was obeah the minute I seen her. All that long, twistin’ hair falling around her face and shoulders. But it was those white eyes. Lifeless eyes. Like one of them Alaska dogs. But worse, see. And those eyes sittin’ in there amongst the blackest skin.

And she just looked at me, hungry-like, with her big purple tongue lollin’ out and glidin’ over her cracked lips every few seconds. Like she wondering what I taste like.

Burrell, he stood there in this dark suit with a thin black tie. Lookin’ like some half-ass undertaker.

Well, Maxwell breaks the ice and invites them two to sit a spell, on account it’s hot enough to be meltin’ the tar on the side of the road.

“What are the two of you doin’ walkin’ around in all this heat? Come on now and pull up a crate. Have some tea.”

After some introductions, Burrell Sykes, he says to me, “Mind if I strum a while on your guitar?”

I was so uncomfortable with that witch lookin’ at me, that at first I didn’t understand it was me he was talkin’ to.

Maxwell elbows me in the side and nods his head toward our visitors and I snap out of it and hand the man my guitar.

Well, I tell you, that man sent his fingers crawlin’ all up and down that fret board. Not the fastest I’d ever seen, but somehow, the feelingest, if that’s a word.

Listenin’ to Burrell Sykes, I got to thinkin’ that he’d forgot more ‘bout playing than  I’ll ever know. His fingers reached right across eight or nine frets. It was unnatural.

But the music he played liked to break my heart right down the middle. This wasn’t no Piedmont blues, as they call it now. Burrell Sykes, he played a kinda music inside the music. I had the feelin’, no, I knew,  what he was playin’ was old, old, music.

You didn’t hear it with just your ears.

Out the corner of my eye, Deka she twirlin’ and moanin’ to this music. Leapin’ around under that chinaberry like some demon on fire. She go over and pull Maxwell up off his chair and get him to dancin’.

Didn’t last long, though. She pass her hands over Max’s face and down he go, in a trance.

Burrell Sykes he continue playin’ and I know I should go over and see to Maxwell. But this music is inside me, burnin’ in my blood.

Now, here come Miss Deka for me.

She stand over me, all swayin’ and sexy. Swirlin’ them hips. Arms snakin’ round.

Then she open them white eyes and look right down deep into my soul.

I can tell she lookin’ for things. She lookin’ for songs she don’t know yet.

I can’t tell you how I know this but she inside me now.  And she can’t keep no secrets from me.

Here’s somethin’ that come clear: she’s a song collector.  And she been huntin’ the songs of man for a long time. Since those cave people was bangin’ gourds on rocks, I expect. Then all the first folks in Africa, living out their lives and  makin’ beautiful music. I hear it all.

And I hear slave song. And babies taken from mothers. Beatings. Burnings. Lynchings. All of it.

How can this be happenin’?

Then I feel Deka’s long bony fingers pushin’ into my skull and down they go, searching my guts. They find a memory, buried deep. An old injustice. Those fingers come right back to that childhood rope burn ‘round my neck. Seventy years ago.

And she pulls that memory out of me and makes me look at it again. Walks over to Burrell Sykes, whispers something in his face, and before I know it, he singing my song.

And under that chinaberry tree, Deka, that travelin’ song collector, stand me up next to Burrell Sykes and we just sing it out.

We sing it right out loud.


This is excerpted from a novella I’m writing. I think it stands on its own as a flash piece, but a case could be made that there’s no reason to name Burrell Sykes and Deka for the purposes of this short piece. Their names have meaning in the longer story. Just a mea culpa…BB

A Drunkard’s Dream…

A Drunkard’s Dream

Pete Tramper fell into bed.  Janet slept with her back to him, her long blond hair turned bone-white by a shaft of moonlight.

Another DUI would mean jail time. This time a hit and run. Jesus.

She’d come out of nowhere. Or that’s what he was telling himself.

He looked up at the ceiling. He’d seen her face when it smashed into the windshield. She’d looked directly at him. Long, light-colored hair, dark, Goth eye makeup. Black lipstick. Her teeth broken, bloody.

Pete shook his head to rid himself of the image. Too tired to get up and undress, he climbed under the covers fully clothed. Slamming into that woman had sobered him up a little, but the room still spun furiously.

Janet reached behind her to pull him into a spoon position.

He held her tightly.

What had he ever done to deserve this woman? He knew she’d stand by him no matter what happened. A drunkard’s dream.

He ran his hand down her side, his face buried in her moon-white hair.

Just on the verge of passing out, he heard the telephone ring.

Fuck, he thought, did someone get his plate? But no, if that were the case, they’d just show up here to arrest him. They wouldn’t be calling him, godammit.

He had to know. He reached across Janet, who slept like the dead, and picked up the phone.

Tentative. “Hello?” Up on one elbow over his wife.

“Peter. It’s Janet. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m not there -”

“Janet?” Peter mumbled.

A hand caressed his cheek then yanked his head around.

Looking up at him, a pair of Goth eyes, glowing red.  An insane black-lipped sneer.

He screamed as the cracked teeth opened wide then rose to his throat.



Freezing rain ticked against the window.
The young woman buried her face in the folds of her husband’s jacket.
The dark-suited salesman was silent.
The husband leaned forward, pointed: This one here.
The woman looked up: Too big?
It’s our smallest casket, ma’am.
Outside the trees bent under ice.



Bouncie reached across the darkness and lightly touched Eddie’s arm.

“I’m sorry, Eddie. She wasn’t supposed to be home. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

Eddie Forge glared back at him. “You mean to tell me, Bouncie, that I’ve taken you under my wing, put good money into you to train you to do this here job, and for this I get stuck in some broad’s closet?”

The closet in question was in an apartment on the fifteenth floor of the Wexler Building on Central Park West. A closet they’d had to run for when, in the process of removing several expensive bracelets from Mimi Del Sarte’s jewelry box, they heard her coming down the hallway calling, “Bijou? Where are you my big boy?”

Now, they could hear Mimi down the hall, still calling for Bijou. They spoke in whispers.

“Eddie, I swear. I folded a C-note into the doorman’s fist just this morning. He told me she went to the spa every afternoon at two and didn’t come back til four or so. I mean, he let us in for Chrissake.”

“Yeah? Well she’s here now. And it’s not four or so. What did she come back for? And who the hell is Bijou? I promise you, Bouncie, if there’s some big fucking Doberman in this apartment that tries to bite my nuts off, I am going to gouge your eyes out with my thumbs. This is just like high school again, Bouncie.  You remember the time at the packie that never carded you ‘cause you was so big and you saw Judge Tallman and you just had to go over and say hello, you stupid shit?”

Bouncie peered at Eddie through the closet’s gloom. “Sorry Eddie.” Then, “Did you notice some of this stuff? Mimi’s got some nice duds here.”

“That’s ‘cause she’s rich. Her old man had a big life insurance policy and that’s why I put you on to casing this place. I was trying to help you out , see? And now, look at this mess we’re in. What the fuck are you looking at?”

Bouncie eyes were fixed on something just above and behind Eddie’s head.

“Eddie. I think I found Bijou.”  Bouncie began to shake.

“Where-“ Eddie’s head was ripped from his neck. Blood spattered the clothes then dripped to the white Berber carpeting.

Bouncie didn’t know what Bijou was, had never seen anything like it. But it was devouring Eddie with frightening speed and making quite a bit of noise in the process.

Bouncie pushed himself back into a corner and pulled dresses and boxes in front of himself.

The closet door opened and there was Mimi Del Sarte. Bouncie could smell her perfume.

“Bijou, what are you playing with in there? Oh, look at this mess. Bad boy! You come out of there this instant. Oh, my Prada!”

Bijou slithered out of the closet, leaving a wide slick of blood on the floor.

Bouncie peeked out from behind a Hermes Birkin handbag. There was no sign of Mimi or Bijou. Eddie’s head was lying on the floor, eyes wide open, staring up at Bouncie.

Bouncie stifled a cry and  whispered, “She wasn’t supposed to be home, Eddie.”

A shadow. “But I am home,” said Mimi, standing in silhouette in the doorway. “Bijou, take him to the bathroom. I don’t want my Versace ruined.”

Space Plumbers…

Space Plumbers

Dr. Ernest Blovings hissed through perfect, white teeth and jabbed at the call button once again.

“Facilities. What is it?” a voice crackled out of the tiny speaker.

“Yes, this is Dr. Blovings again, on deck twenty-two? I reported, not less than one hour ago, that the gravitron in my lavatory is malfunctioning. There is now an increasing amount of fecal matter floating about the lavatory, and I was promised someone would be right up to deal with this.

“They’re on their way, doc.”

Dr. Blovings was just sitting down when there was a knock at the door. “Now, that’s more like it,” he said under his breath as he strode to the door. The pneumatic door slid open with a whoosh.

Two men in stained jumpsuits and blank expressions stood side by side in the hall: a fat one with his arms folded, a toothpick sticking out of the side of his mouth, and a tall, lanky one with a filth-encrusted tool resting on his shoulder.

“Dr. Blovings, I presume?” This from fatso.

“Yes, yes. Please come in. The head is just over here.”

The lanky one said, “The heads are all in the same place in each cabin, doc. We know where it’s at.”

Blovings stared at them. A rat and an ape, he thought to himself. “Then I’ll leave you to your repairs.”

The plumbers went to the lavatory door and appeared to do nothing but titter and look back over their shoulders at Blovings.

After a few minutes, the fat one turned around and said, “Alright, doc. We got your problem figured out, but we can’t fix it from in here. The venting duct is blocked.  So we’ll need to spacewalk and snake it from the outside.  That’s gonna require divisional clearance. Maybe take a week. We could get you moved to another cabin until then.”

“Blocked? Blocked with what?” The doctor turned red.

“Dunno,” Lanky said, and then looked at his partner, “maybe with some…fecal matter.”  They snorted and chucked each other in the sides with their elbows.

Blovings chose to ignore their sophomoric behavior. He had bigger things to deal with.

“What happens if we just force the door open?” he asked.

Lanky said, “Don’t wanna do that. You’d have a gravitational cross-rip.”

“A what?”

“Think of it this way, doc,”  Lanky said. “The environment in your head is right now normalized to the pressure gradient of space right outside your window here. Outer space. The pressure sensors around the door to the head picked up the difference after the discharge vent got blocked and the gravitron stopped functioning. Just like they’re s’posed to. The sensors then locked this door down to prevent a gravitational cross-rip. If we were to open it or, say, break the glass here in the door, we’d be torn apart. Not to mention the potential damage to the station and probable further loss of life.”

Blovings stood in front of them, slack-jawed, and said, “Gravitational cross-rip.”

The plumbers nodded in unison, looking sympathetic.

Blovings puffed himself up, stood taller. “Gravitational cross-rip? I’ve never heard such nonsense. Gentlemen, I have Doctorates in both Particle Physics and Continuum Mechanics. And there is no such thing as a gravitational cross-rip!”

“Suit yourself, doc. You can try to open the door and take care of your little problem all by yourself then. Just let us get a few decks away from here. Good luck, doc.”

They packed up their tools and left.

Blovings looked through the window into the head. Large globules of shit pulsed and undulated in the zero gravity chamber.  Like a smelly lava lamp, he thought to himself.

Luckily, the idiots hadn’t looked too closely. In all their haste to make fun of him and avoid doing their jobs, they’d overlooked the girl’s hand sticking right out of the venting duct.

He thought he’d get the plumbers to open the vent and then he could kill them too.

But then they came out with all that ‘gravitational cross-rip’ shit. He didn’t believe a word of it. All he had to do was break the window and let the pressure normalize. Then clean everything up.

He grabbed an iron bar and swung it at the glass. Gravitational cross-rip, my ass.

The plumbers were just getting back to facilities when the space station shook violently.


Okay, I have to admit this is not an original concept. In Damon Knight’s superb book “Creating Short Fiction”, he muses about space plumbers as a concept to build a story around. I mean, given the fact that someday we may all just have to live in space stations, surrounded by galactic oceans of zero-gravity, the guys (and gals!) who ensure our waste goes where it should will be in huge demand. Just as they are now, in our gravity-laden lives.  I had a vision of these two guys, smart-asses, but savvy enough to present their ideas in such a way that it would be impossible to tell if they were serious or just having you on.  The awful truth about Dr. Blovings just popped into existence and took me completely by surprise.

Wheel of Misfortune…

Wheel of Misfortune

There’s no moon tonight. The stars are bright and crisp, but it’s dark enough to sneak out of the house and get across Daly’s field without anyone seeing us, me and Paulie.

I’d finished my homework early and told my old man I wasn’t feeling well. I knew once he thought I was asleep, he’d take out the bottle and that would be that.

I can hear him snoring down there now in front of the TV. Some Western.

I tiptoe to the old man’s bedroom and grab twenty bucks from his wallet. Time to go.

My window is already open because it’s so hot tonight. I crawl out onto the roof but before climbing down the drainpipe, I take a moment to lie back and stare at all those stars.

The asphalt shingles still hold the heat of the day. The warmth feels good on my back. As usual, this time of year, my thoughts turn to Mom. Gone three years now. The old man, he never mentions her anymore. That’s a done deal, he says, whenever I want to talk about her. That’s a done deal.

So, I climb down and go pick up Paulie.

“What took you so long, Frank?” he says.

“I had to wait for my father to pass out. If he knew I was going again, you know he’d beat my ass.”

Paulie just shrugs. He wants to have fun. He doesn’t want me to complicate things with my family shit.

We take the short cut to the fairgrounds through Daly’s field. Already we can see the lights of the carnival. Just have to pass through this stand of pines and, there it is: Clark and Redmond’s Travelling Carnival.

Paulie and I ride the Tilt-A-Whirl twice. We eat corn dogs and go around on the Ferris Wheel a few times. The stars are invisible on the midway due to all the lights. There are the shooting galleries and ring toss pits where we lose money every year. We get some chili dogs.

Paulie is having a grand old time but I’m anxious to move on. We’re not here just to play games; we have other stuff to do: adult stuff.  Paulie wasn’t sure he wanted to come with me this time because last year one of them ladies in the back tents tried to grab his dick.  God, that was funny.

We walk down the side of the funhouse, cross the field where all the trucks are parked, and arrive at the tents. The wind brings an odor of stale beer, vomit, and the hayfield beyond.

And here’s the same guy who took our money last year. He looks like he’s lost a few teeth since we last saw him.

“Stefanie,” I say, holding out a ten.

He takes it and says, “Hey kid, it’s none of my business, but – ”

“Then shut up,” I say.

The guy looks at Paulie with raised eyebrows.

“Just him,” Paulie says. “I’ll wait here.”

So, the guy turns back to me with a shitty grin on his face. “Last one down on the right. Can’t miss it.”

I walk back amid all the little white canvas tents. A woman’s hissing voice comes out of one: “You put it on now or you can get out, you hear me?”

The tents are held up by coarse ropes that are staked into the ground. I trip over them occasionally.

Finally, I’m here at the last tent on the right. There’s a kerosene lamp burning in there allowing me to see Stefanie in silhouette. I take a deep breath and open the tent flap.

She looks up from her magazine. “Jesus Christ. What is this? Sydney? Where are you?” She gets up from her folding chair, wrapping a dirty silk bathrobe around her. She pushes me out of the way and strides back to the entrance. So I follow.

I hear her say, “Sydney, you ignoramus. I told you not to let him back here! He’s just a kid for Chrissakes!” There’s some muttered response from Sydney about giving back my ten bucks, and then she turns on me. She pulls me by the T-shirt and sends me tumbling past toothless Sydney.

“Get out! Don’t come back here! Jesus Christ! This is no place for a kid!” she screams at me, although I’m only six feet away.  “It’s no place for a kid,” she says again.

So I run. Like I ran last year and the year before. Paulie catches up with me and we head back to Daly’s field. We lay down in the sweet grass and I’m thankful it’s dark enough to hide my tears. My shame.

“I thought she’d be different this time.” I say.

“Your Dad’s right. ” Paulie looks up at the Milky Way.  “It’s a done deal.”

All the Way Round the World…

cornfield sunrise

All the Way Round the World

Delsante Corporation told me I could take it or leave it. Can you believe that?

My family owned this farm for ninety-two years before I had to go and sell a majority stake to a local distributor. Well, Delsante is way up his ass so you know they’re now up mine.

But I tell you what: if I make it out of this alive, I am sure going to enjoy watching those corporate bastards take a red-hot one in the ass. Same for the USDA.

We had no choice. They told us to plant the G646-DSGMO-666 or we could forget about distribution of any of our corn. Well, if we can’t sell anything, we may as well just give the farm to Delsante and be done with it. They’ll hire some Mexicans to come up here and plant that shit for them and they’ll never even remember my name.

So we planted it, watered it, and did fuck-all that their scientists told us to do. I have never in my life seen corn get so big so fast. After a month, I could disappear into those fields. And I’m six-three.

The USDA inspector came out one day along with a fella from Delsante. They were so impressed with how things were coming along. They took some cuttings away in a small plastic bag. Never said a word to me what they were for.

Well, along about eighty days into the growing cycle we started seeing a rust-colored pus oozing out of that corn. I told everyone to stay out of the fields and not touch anything. We walked the perimeter. That stuff just dripped down the ears.  I got on the horn to the local distributor rep and I guess he called Delsante because they came out to the farm with a huge RV that had a lab right inside of it.

They set up spotlights on the cornfield and kept them going all night long. They said it was just a precaution. Precaution for what? I remember thinking at the time.

There were lots of guys in lab coats and SWAT uniforms. Nobody told us any details about the pus, but I could tell they hadn’t expected it, and they were running around like their heads were on fire and their asses were catchin’.

Then one day, I was over in the barn replacing a fuel filter on one of the combines when I hear somebody start screaming. I thought one of the lab guys had stepped in horseshit again. I looked out the window and saw a huge red dust cloud swirling around. All the lab guys and the SWATs were gasping and choking, falling to the ground. I could see they were dying. All of them.

Not thinking, I just ran for the combine and closed myself inside the cab. The wind blew that red dust right into the barn and it covered everything. I can’t see anything through the cab windows now. And there’s no water in here.

So, I’m hoping Delsante Corporation sends somebody out soon to find out what happened to their scientists and soldiers. I saw them die; at least I think I did.  But now I hear things shuffling around the barn and grunting. And one time, something tried to open the cab door, which I now keep locked. I don’t even want to think about what that thing was.

Far as I can tell, anyone coming near this farm will meet the same fate as those things stumbling around my barn. The chemistry folks at Delsante sure did a bang up job. The only thing I know about chemistry is H-2-0 is water and K-9-P comes out the ass end of a dog. But, I’m a farmer and I know pollen when I see it. That red pus dries and blows off. I think Delsante Corporation has a little problem with their fucked up corn.

G646-DSGMO-666 was engineered to survive. I think of all that pollen on the wind.

You can’t stop the wind. It goes all the way round the world.


Now I want to be explicit and state that this is a work of  FICTION and any resemblance to actual corporations and/or actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.  Go here for the real horror story…


ballet dancer

Dream Wife

Tran will not let me touch her anymore. Not like a wife should.

And who could blame her? My academic career is of no use to us here. It’s just dirt, smoke, and hunger now. I am no good at chopping wood or creating a shelter from rubbish. It is obvious to me: the men who are in demand now are those who can offer protection from the wind and rain and heat. Men with practical skills. Carpenters. Masons.

Tran is dirty these days, disheveled, but still lovely. And sexy too. Her legs still maintain the strength and shapeliness that got her to the National Ballet.

Each day we spend hours scavenging for food or pieces of trash we hope will be useful.  The Revolutionary Council has forbidden us from working. Our pedigree is too urban, too educated, for inclusion in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

In the evenings we swelter, the sheets so saturated they cling to us like giant leeches. I wake in a panic several times a night, thinking I am being enshrouded and dragged into a fetid swamp.

Sometimes, when I wake from one of these swamp dreams, Tran is not in bed with me. Of course, I’ve had my suspicions that she leaves for someone else’s bed. That would be the final humiliation.

Tonight, I’ve awoken again, my breath stolen by fear. I arch my back and expand my chest to swallow as much air as the humid night permits. I grasp at the sheets on Tran’s side of the bed. She is gone again.

An image of Tran straddling the stonemason down the street enters my mind and will not leave. She still has a ballerina’s body: hard, sinewy. She glistens in the moonlight and smiles down at her lover.  I let out a small groan and cannot decide if it signifies a voyeur’s pleasure or a cuckold’s anguish.

Then, another image fills the screen of my mind. Tran is in the alley behind our shack. She stands on a small packing crate, under an enormous, silver moon. Her arms extend gracefully to the heavens as she slowly spins. Then she leaps from one side of the alley to the other, like a jungle cat.  She floats and swirls. I can see she is crying, her tears turned to tiny drops of mercury by the moonlight.

I cannot turn away from all this beauty. I will not risk losing it.

But then Tran is here, sliding back into bed with me.

“Where have you been?” I ask her.

Her back to me, I can barely make out her muffled reply.


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