Attachment Theory by Lisa Mecham

E, my 15-year-old daughter, has invited me to her therapy session. We sit side-by-side on a couch across from her psychiatrist. Her doctor stands and billows a sun yellow yarn blanket overhead, letting it fall on E’s lap where it’s tucked securely around her legs. Their comfort ritual.

I am a guest here.

 E talks about her drive for perfection, how the gap between what-she-is and what-she-wants-to-be is vast. How her depression takes root there. Her eyes on her therapist, never on me. She reveals her fear of being abandoned and suddenly I am on guard, tallying up the ten thousand hours.

“Don’t you know I would never leave you?” I say. “I’ve always been right here.” I slap the couch cushion space between us. She looks at me now and where I expect fight I see despair.

The gap between what-she-thinks-I-am and what-I-think-I-am is vast.

I remember E when she was a few days old. We are back from the hospital: me, E, and her Dad. We have this bed called a co-sleeper, it’s a small crib attached to our bed so E can sleep close to us, and I can easily reach over to nurse in the night. We used it with her older sister M, and it worked very well. But E isn’t like M–she’s fussy. Doesn’t like to be out of my arms. Even being swaddled in the blanket won’t do. And of course it wouldn’t. After nine months of womb dark and warm, how could a blanket help? Her tiny body contains only one cup of blood.

Her Dad is different this time too. Easier to irritate. Tired, all the time. He’s deeper into his medical training than he was when M was born. Medical Board exams are coming up and we have to decide where he will pursue his fellowship. A big move away from our city with two young children. It’s daunting.

E cries a lot. She doesn’t like being separated from me. Our pediatrician is old school, been practicing for over forty years. “Let her cry it out,” he says. “Don’t breast feed her too much.”

So this time, the co-sleeper won’t work. E senses me so close and wants to be in my arms all night. It makes her Dad do this silent rage thing, an anger that needs no sound to go noticed. We move her to a big crib in a small room on the other side of our apartment. I can’t put anything in with her because she might suffocate so she’s just in pajamas. In the dark. So far away from me that we can’t even smell each other.

And she cries. Wails. Endlessly.

It turns my bones inside out. My breasts swell, dribbling milk.

I look forward to the nights her Dad is on call and has to stay over at the hospital. On those nights, E is in bed with me. She slips into my shell, our eyes lock, her lips purse against my nipple. We drift to sleep and stay that way for hours.

But most nights she is alone. Eyes wide to the dark, tiny balled up fists flailing. Her throat cried raw as breath becomes whimpers becomes silence which can mean anything but all of it is a kind of death.

Now, in her therapist’s office, I share this memory with E a few weeks shy of her Sweet Sixteenth birthday. The therapist—skilled, professional—even I can see her eyes widen a bit. “It’s no wonder.” We all agree. No wonder.

I ask E, “Can I hug you?” And she nods. I scoot across the cushions and cradle her in my arms. I pull back so she can look at me, I want her to see how deep this runs. “I am so sorry,” I say. She cries and I cry. In this moment, I’m not good mother, not bad mother. I’m witness. You did live these things and they are as you remember.

And there is time. Her face still fits in my hands.


 

Lisa Mecham

Lisa Mecham is a writer living in Los Angeles and she finds bios boring. Instead, please read the work of Jayy DoddJasmine SandersColette ArrandJoyce Chongb: william bearhart and María Isabel Álvarez.

 

Tom Vs May by Christopher James

May and Tom were an attractively odd-looking couple. May wore suits she bought in thrift stores and fedoras she decorated herself, and Tom liked stripes. Both of them thought Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl got a bad rap. May could whistle with her fingers and make sounds like an owl with her cupped palms, and Tom could burp the alphabet but didn’t. He did, though, make bubbles on his tongue that floated a foot toward the sky before bursting. She read the dialogue in books out loud, even on the train. He had done ballet until he was seventeen and could still stand on his tippy toes.

They met at the housewarming party of mutual friends. Both of them gravitated fast to the kitchen and spent the night talking there over under and around people coming in to get beer or dip or glasses or a dustpan and brush. Their conversation wasn’t deep but it flowed well. They spent ten minutes keeping track of how many people entered the kitchen wearing something green vs something red. Red won. Another ten minutes inviting everyone who opened the fridge to take a swig from the tabasco sauce. If they did, May would take a swig with them. If they didn’t, Tom would take a swig alone. They went to a coffeeshop for ice-cream, then to May’s place. They listened to Kid Koala’s version of Moon River and watched on YouTube the English National Ballet perform to Queen songs. Tom stayed the night and in the morning while she took a shower he made the bed neatly and brewed her a cup of tea. More dates followed, then space cleared in each other’s cupboards, then a move to an apartment all of their own and tomato plants and fresh herbs growing on the fire escape.

“What do you think about children?” May asked.

“Not a fan,” said Tom. “Smelly, expensive, and a fifty-fifty chance you get a monster.”

“I’m pregnant.”

“That’s great! I always wanted children!”

May knew Tom was lying, and knew too he was lying because he loved her, and she felt a surge of love for him on account of this that was so strong it demanded a physical manifestation. She squee-ed!

(At the same time, she wondered if his decision to lie about wanting children would one day be a spike between them, the root of resentment, and so after she squee-ed she searched his face for the future, and squee-ed again until he squee-ed too.)

In the hospital she was giving birth in one room and another family were giving birth in the room across the way. “Are you filming it?” asked the father of the other family to Tom as they both grabbed coffees from the vending machine. “You’ve got to film it.”

“I don’t have a camera,” said Tom.

“Not even on your phone?”

“I don’t have a phone.”

“I’m sure you can find a camera somewhere. That’ll be with you forever.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” agreed Tom, still no intention of filming it.

“I’d love to see your wife give birth,” said the man.

It took a thousand years between Tom putting the coin in the coffee machine and the coffee coming out.

“If I film it,” he said, “I’ll let you take a peek.”

Their daughter was gorgeous. Her eyes enormous and jet-black, like they belonged to a teddy bear instead of a baby girl. Tom thought he’d been in love with May, but holding his daughter he knew he could never love anyone as much as he loved this child, this girl he’d made all by himself. He told this to May, who said she felt the same way. But she couldn’t feel the same way – nobody could feel the same way Tom felt. Nobody ever had or ever would.

They called her Max.

She was deaf and they all learnt sign language. Sometimes Tom dreamt about him and Max making up their own sign language, that May wouldn’t know. If you combine our names, he said, you get Mom. Or Tax. She liked vegetables more than fruit. She’s a dancer, he said. She can be anything she wants to be, said May. She wants to be a dancer, said Tom. He held her with one arm and manipulated her feet into pointe with the other. You shouldn’t do that, said May. Tom didn’t say anything, but when May wasn’t around he didn’t stop.

May and Max were badly hurt in a car crash and Max’s legs would never be the same again. She’d never dance. Tom realized, belatedly, that the hospital had made a terrible mistake, mixing up his child with the daughter of that other family, the one who’d given birth across the room. He wrote to the hospital, email after email after email, and called them day and night, night and day. He refused a paternity test. He stopped going out. He saw families from the fire escape with daughters that could be his, daughters with two normal legs. It was some time before he realized May and Max had gone.

He got a fish he called Unconditional Love and forgot to feed it so it died.

He missed his dad so he called him, but the number was disconnected. It took him a week to find out he’d moved house a year ago and had a new number. He called the new number but when someone answered he remembered why he’d stopped talking to his dad, and he hung up without saying anything. When the phone rang back several times throughout the evening he ignored it. He’d never be able to answer the phone again.

He didn’t like his shoes anymore, so he threw them away, from the fire escape.

Then his pants.

His shirt, his tie, his socks, his glasses.

All he kept was the tomato plant, which had one sole cherry tomato, or one normal tomato that hadn’t yet grown the whole way.


 

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Christopher James lives, works, and writes in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has previously been published online in many venues, including Tin House, Fanzine, McSweeney’s, SmokeLong, and Wigleaf. He is the editor of Jellyfish Review.

The Faces of Strangers by Liz Howard

She lifted up the card from the plastic case and saw “think of a reason to keep smiling” in glossy gold print with a bouquet of multicolored, unidentifiable flowers sketched beneath it. She thought she had only rolled her eyes, but it was clear that she had audibly huffed when the woman behind her stopped to peer at the card and when, as she whipped her head around, the woman pushed her cart along quickly, past the produce, away from her.

She gripped the card trying to sort out why she was so angry. She reasoned at first that she wasn’t genuinely irritated, just scoffing at something cheesy in a way that was small, calm, composed. But she felt the outrage swelling, and she knew it was more than that. She looked down at the dainty shimmering letters, and she wanted to crumple the card in her hands. She took a deep breath in a way that would make her therapist proud and when she opened her eyes, the feeling struck her in a dull, disappointing way—the feeling wasn’t small and composed, and it wasn’t really anger either. It was ostracization, a sense of distance between her and all these people around her, an incredulity at the thought that this simple saying could be deep or meaningful to anyone. Shards of memory began slicing their way through as she realized she’d felt this way once, before she’d lost her son. In a burst of energy, she shoved through the mass of cheerful Sunday shoppers and plopped the card down on the conveyer belt.

She generally made a habit of avoiding eye contact in grocery store checkout lines because she knew it encouraged conversation, and this kind of small talk was one of the worst for her anxiety, but she also knew that at this particular grocery store it was unavoidable. She smiled vaguely at the cashier who practically chirped in response and whose greeting wave was so enthusiastic that all of the little pins on their vest began shaking.

“Oh look at how cute this card is!” The cashier lifted the card off the belt and slid it across the scanner. When that was met with only a silent nod, they pushed: “I’ll bet this is for someone really special?”

She knew it had been inflected as a question, so she managed a soft “Oh. Yes.”

“That is so sweet—” and then the cashier was telling some elaborate story about a Valentine’s Day date, and as she slid her debit card into the chip reader and smiled politely along with the story, her mind went blank trying to remember her last Valentine’s Day, a Valentine’s Day, any Valentine’s Day in the last few years, and she knew she couldn’t remember because no matter which Valentine’s Day her brain landed on, the memory would be the same: she’d been alone.

In the car, she balanced the card carefully on her lap before she pulled out of the parking lot. She had declined a bag when the cashier offered her one because she didn’t want to pay the bag fee—she was embarrassed enough already having spent a few dollars on the card considering every time she looked at it she felt a bit sick and, worse, despite what she’d said to the chipper cashier, she didn’t have a “someone special” to give the card to. She supposed she could send it to her sister, maybe draw something like a smile with some of its teeth knocked out, but in her haste to purchase the card, she’d forgotten to grab the matching envelope. And anyway, even that felt like a pretty pathetic plan.

As she climbed the stairs, her apartment was silent, the same way it was always silent when she got home. There was a slight electrical hum she could pick up on when she really focused, but there was nothing else—no laughter, no greeting, no feet shuffling across the wood floors toward her. When she reached the top, she looked up to see a framed picture of her son. She stayed still for a few minutes, just absorbing the details: this picture was several years old, so his hair was thin and wispy and his teeth were small and round and she could spot where drool was just beginning to collect in the corners of his smile. She knew that anyone else would probably miss these tiny details, not knowing that as a baby he always drooled a bit this way, not noting the way his teeth had almost magically transformed from circular little nubs to fully formed incisors, canines, molars.

Suddenly, all in a rush, she grabbed the photo down off the wall and, still grasping the card firmly in her hand, she began moving into the living room, pulling down each of the framed photos as she went. She continued this way through every room of her home: the kitchen, the bedroom, her son’s old room, collecting every picture she’d framed and hung over the years into her arms until she was scared she would collapse and smash them all. She returned to her bedroom and set them all, a massive pile, down on the floor. Carefully, she placed the card down next to them and then slowly, methodically, she began to arrange the photos around it.

When she was done, she stared hard at the strange collage in front of her. Folding the cover of the card back, she found the blank page inside. After another quick survey of the photos around her, she uncapped a nearby pen and began writing:

I am forever, perpetually smiling. And yet, see my teeth? Forced. Here in these   photographs, these faces, these selves. I don’t recognize these photographs. The faces of strangers.

And with that she grabbed the card, jammed it into the drawer of her nightstand, and began returning each of the photographs to their proper spots along the walls.


 

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Liz Howard is a queer single mom living in Philadelphia with her troublesome three-year-old & very loud beagle. She has work in: Split Lip Magazine, FIVE:2:ONE, bedfellows magazine, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @Mother_Faulkner.

Mouthfuls of Bombogenesis by D. Arthur

“Do you think you’ll ever love me?”

“Maybe when it snows in Florida.”

I asked, and Jared answered, on the metal bench of the hockey locker room where it smelled like weed. Or at least, I thought it smelled like weed, but he always quickly pointed out that I didn’t really know what weed smells like. I just knew the dark air smelled sharp, bitter, and like something that would get me grounded for at least a week, something threatening that reminded me that a 13 year old girl  shouldn’t spend so much time with a 16 year old boy.

Back then I thought love was transferred through fluids. I thought when you kissed you physically spit your love deep down into them, watering something inside, making it grow. When I kissed Jared, I imagined my spit taking a journey down through his pink throat.

Thirteen years later, I sit at a bar in Brooklyn, tight jeans tucked into snow boots, parka kept on over low-cut tank top. I look “winter hot.” The room is only lit by a few dangly edison bulbs and the glow from my phone as I scroll and I scroll. The Cyclone Bomb, winter weather system, is set to arrive. The president threatens war on twitter. It’s so cold I wonder if nuclear winter has already arrived, if I overslept through the impact and awoke to the cold seeping into my mortal bones.

Tweets blend together— cyclone bomb, bombogenesis, nuclear bomb. One, however, catches my eye. There are snow flurries in Florida’s panhandle.

The whole city smells like a hockey rink, cold and rank, tinged with ketchup, each corner a mobile concession stand.

I feel thirteen again.

Jared is easy to find on instagram. Like me, his high school rebellions have been sanded out over time: his dyed black hair now a soft—thinning— brown, black band t-shirts replaced by black tailored suits. I can almost see the twin mattress on the floor of his parents’ basement going through the natural evolution to become a Casper on an Ikea frame in a Murray Hill loft.

I slide into his direct messages. I like how it’s called sliding. It feels both slick and childish, a hose blasting over a tarp, the cool yellow plastic of playskool beneath my short shorts, large hands guiding me down a fire pole during a class trip.

“It’s snowing in Florida. Wanna grab a drink?”

“Too cold for bars. Come to mine?”

“Sure it is. *smirk emoji* Send me the address.”

I take the 4 from Crown Heights to Midtown. It’s near midnight and below zero. I have my pick of seats in the empty car. The blue plastic feels frozen solid. The chill seeps past my denim jeans, wool tights, and cotton panties. My cheeks feel as if they could stick like ice to the bench.

I spend the forty minute ride rehearsing scenes in my head. I don’t normally do this sort of thing, Jared. I don’t normally go home with guys without making them buy me a drink first. I don’t normally reach out like this. It’s so crazy, I’m so crazy, blame it on the weather. I mentally turn each line over until it comes alive, comes true. I convince myself I don’t normally do these things, forgetting that I actually do.

It feels good to press my spit-covered love into open and wanting mouths, willing bodies, salty skin. I imagine eventually finding a mouth that fits.

“You’re actually here.” His voice through the intercom makes it sound like he is miles away, back home under the bleachers, sixteen years old. For a moment it’s as if his voice traveled time, and his body is still there waiting to go to second base, back-down on a surface still slick with chilled sweat.

“Yes, and it’s fucking freezing. Buzz me up.”

He grabs beer, asks his smart speaker to put on Frank Ocean.

“This beer is called bombogenesis, how funny is that?”

I laugh but don’t mean it, swish the beer through my teeth, feel the storm in my mouth.

He doesn’t remember the Florida remark, but is happy I reached out. He does remember where to touch me on the small of my back. I wonder if he found a primal erogenous part of me when we were just kids, or if that spot turns me on because it was the first spot that was touched.

He takes me to bed, and part of me misses the cold metal of the locker room bench, the rumble of the Zamboni in the distance.

He falls asleep quickly after— his body smooth and solid, as if he is a statue I brought to life just long enough to screw before he had to return to his stoney form.

I grab my parka and a blanket, wrapping both around my still-naked body. I climb onto his small ice-covered balcony to smoke a cigarette. I think of all the times I have thought about Jared over the years, how quickly I remembered our deal the second that snow started to fall in the south. Then I think about Chris, Steven, Malik, Robby, Jason, another Chris, men, men, more men. I think of how often I think about them. I wonder how much time I spend thinking about men who never think of me at all.

Each drag in— he loves me. Each drag out— he loves me not.

He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.

Eventually I realize that the cold makes it impossible to tell where the exhaled smoke ends, and my visible breath begins. The frigid air fills with soft white clouds from my mouth.

He loves me not. He loves me not. He loves me not.

 


D Arthur
D. Arthur is a Brooklyn based fiction writer and humorist. Her humor writing can be found on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Belladonna, and Robot Butt. You can find more of her work on her website, but she’s most fun on twitter: @babydmarie.

 

Small Mercies by Karen Jones

When you play Monopoly with your brothers, let them win, she says. Boys don’t like to lose, especially not to girls. She’s patting her face with a powder pad, as though her features will fall off if they’re not pressed in place. When she’s out at a dance, I sneak into her room and play at being her, being beautiful, being good with make-up. When a boy asks you out, always say yes. It doesn’t matter if he’s not the best looking, the cleverest, the funniest – it takes a lot of courage for a boy to ask a girl out, so be grateful and always, always say yes to boys. I take her lipstick and pout as I smear the scarlet grease over my too-thin lips on my too-fat face with its barely-there eyes. I can never look like her, but I can do as I’m told.  And so, I did. I said yes to boys. All the boys. The ugly boys, the short boys, the boys who smell like sewers and the boys with urgency mapped out in spots on their red faces. When your brothers get up in the morning, draw their curtains, make their beds – be useful. The liquid eyeliner almost makes me have eyes. Not eyes like hers – not violet, not startling, but at least existing. My mother made me easy – a thing she never was to me. I’m sure it wasn’t her intention, but I was nothing if not obedient, so I said yes over and over again. Until I finally got it, finally realised what I’d become. I used her cold cream to erase the face I’d painted. Then I said no. I said no over and over again. But the boys told me they’d heard about me and no really meant yes, and did what they wanted anyway. That hurt more, so I went back to being the girl my mother made me – the yes-girl, the old-before-her-years girl, the never-as-pretty-as-her-mother-so-beggars-can’t-be-choosers girl. Now she complains that I never gave her grandchildren. Oh, but I did, Mother Dear. So many half-formed girls that neither of us got to hold or mould.  Small mercies, Mother. Be grateful.

 


 

Karen Jones

Karen Jones is from Glasgow. Her stories have appeared in numerous magazines and e-zines and have been included in print anthologies including Discovering a Comet and more micro fiction, The Wonderful World of Worders, An Earthless Melting Pot, City Smells, 10 Red, HISSAC 10th Anniversary, Bath Short Story Anthology, Ellipses: One, Bath Flash Fiction Volume Two and Flash Fiction Festival One. She’s been successful in short story and flash competitions including Mslexia, Flash 500, Writers Bureau, The New Writer, HISSAC and Words with Jam. Her story collection, The Upside-Down Jesus and other stories, is available from Amazon.

 

The House Lamps by David Drury

When the house lamps got to talking, they talked about the sun. They whispered so no one would hear. What have you have seen? What have you heard? What does it mean? They marked the rising and setting of the sun. They kept a record of shadows—of figures passing windows, tree limbs crooking along tabletops, branches and ladders and lampposts falling slowly across their brass laps. The house lamps with their screwed in bulbs, had never cast shadows like these. What light is this? Who can contain it? Who would dare try? What manner of light brandishes even darkness, sharpening the edges of shade, gashing boundless space at will?

News and observations were dispatched regularly. Like sentries, the lamps in the living room sent word to the front hall. Tell the lamps in the master bedroom what we have seen from these, the largest windows. Announce it to the second bedroom, proclaim it in the guest bedroom, read it aloud in the study, discuss it in the den, lay it out in the laundry room. News of even fluctuations in brightness caused by clouds eclipsing the sun broke through the house like prophecy. Each message was relayed down the line until it reached the last and least of the lights, a chipped ceramic table lamp on a workbench down in the cold, dark basement.

The lamps contemplated the mysteries of the sun in the form of fabulous tales. In some of the tales, the sun ruled over the world of lamps with intimidation. In some of the tales, the sun bestowed the warmth of a great glory. In some tales the sun burned with a desire to destroy. In some tales, the lamps were being readied to one day inherit the throne room of the sky.

As time went by, the lamps grew accustomed to sunshine and their regard for mystery slowly fell away. They grew even to loathe the sun as a bore and an intrusion and a showoff. Their story-making continued, but only as an inside joke, a cruel game aimed at the one lamp who was naïve enough to still believe the stories—that chipped ceramic table lamp down in the basement. They told all manner of fictions about the Great Light—as if it was a person, as if it was coming to one day permanently erase all shadows, as if it was on the lookout for chipped basement lamps drowning in darkness, so that it might usher them into the throne room of the sky. The house lamps all laughed behind the back of the chipped lamp.

One day the homeowners moved out. The carpets were rolled up and hauled off. The furniture was sold. The floors and walls were stripped. Only the lamps were left behind. But even so, the electricity in the house was disconnected. Finally, on the sunniest day of summer, a crane with a wrecking ball moved into position in the yard. It all was going to be knocked down to make room for condos. This was the end. The lamps were so beside themselves with despair, they had not passed any of this news to the basement.

The chipped lamp in the basement had sat in an all-consuming darkness of many days wondering what was happening, having heard only sobs from upstairs,. Even the little night light above the workbench had gone out. Don’t worry, little night light, the lamp said. I have it on good authority that there is a great light called daylight, a gift from the brightest of all lights the sun, which shines like ten thousand lamps. We will see the great light someday, you and I both. The great light will peel away the ceiling and take down the walls and light like we have never known, it will come flooding in. And where there is no ceiling, my friend there is nothing to separate us from the throne room of the sky.


 

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David Drury lives in Seattle, Washington. His fiction has been published in Best American Nonrequired Reading, broadcast on National Public Radio, and is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review and Zyzzyva. He has been kicked out of every casino in Las Vegas.

Maintain Speed Through Tunnel by Claire Hopple

Allie’s sustained belch echoes off the room’s high corners at the neighborhood scrapbooking party with a striking resonance.

The cul de sac woman beside her is assembling a memory book for her adopted daughter.

The neighbor with the offensively high fence pieces together her son’s mascot career, immortalizing his time as a high school tiger. She is unable to accept that childhood is a stage rather than a permanent state. Her name is Gretchen.

Barbara, the group’s host, decoupages an elaborate display of a family reunion at Disney World.

Naturally, Allie decides to construct a book devoted to her failed acting career. This scrapbook will prove she is no longer exasperated by failure. Appearing in one episode of Boy Meets World and a legion of murder mystery dinner theater productions, perhaps it’s best to describe her career as merely slumberous. Or even lurking, awaiting its resurgence. Its plans will not be thwarted.

As Allie nestles Rider Strong’s candid pose into the gully of glue on the page, Barbara looks up from her own handiwork.

“You know, my friend’s dog was in those canned bean commercials a few years ago. Remember those? A network wanted to make a whole spinoff series starring the dog, the ads were so popular,” Barbara says.

A pair of binoculars rests between a pile of sticker sheets and glue sticks in the middle of the table.

“Do you birdwatch?” asks Allie, gesturing toward the binoculars.

“No.”

In the resulting silence, Allie mourns the dueling piano bar she left behind in order to move here. She got it for a steal since it used to be a Pizza Hut and she hadn’t bothered to replace the signature roof. Her band, The Wet Bandits, headlined every Friday and Saturday night.

“What kind of stuff are they eating when it’s purple? And what are they eating when it’s the standard black and white?” Allie asks no one in particular, refusing to relinquish the idea of birdwatching.

The cul de sac woman leaks a single tear onto the page and then labels it “Gotcha Day” in puffy paint.

 

If anyone in the party would look up from their respective scrapbooks and ask Allie about herself, Allie would tell them that until yesterday, her grandfather’s personal life was a complete mystery to her. That she was settling into the property she inherited from him just fine. That on this property, next door from where they are sitting this very moment, she had discovered an underground bunker. Her dog happened to defecate near a vaulted door shrouded by some overgrown grass. Her mother then revealed that he was an engineer for the government and that building a fallout shelter during the height of the Cold War wasn’t altogether unheard of.

Allie’s fingers are still grungy from exploring the bunker earlier that morning. Though small, it did house an alcove with two sets of bunkbeds, a storage closet filled with unmarked canned goods, a narrow corridor littered with a trenchant and somewhat provocative term paper about the moon written by her mother. Reading it earlier, Allie learned about the moon illusion, that it appears larger to our eyes when close to the horizon line than it does positioned higher in the sky. This made Allie think about the daunting gap between perception and reality. She was suffused with a kind of fear. The moon report shook in her hand. But then she thought that it was okay for perception to be skewed. Reality still needed to prove itself anyway.

Allie finds it comforting to have this evidence of the schoolgirl version of her mother. She reflects on a paper she herself wrote in Social Studies about World War II. She imagined a group of women with her shared name rising up against the Axis powers. This fantasy lasted until the teacher revealed the altered pronunciation of Allies in class the following day.

 

Enthralled with a loss that for once does not belong to her, Allie listens to Gretchen’s lament. She and her husband Joe moved their former tiger son into his college dorm two weeks ago.

“The backseat was so empty.”

Gretchen examines the double-sided tape too closely.

Allie enjoyed the drive here, all the tunnels bordering the state line. The “Maintain Speed Through Tunnel” signs before every opening to help with traffic flow. As if the signs would prevent drivers from braking once the restraint of enclosure hit them, or allow them to navigate the relative darkness with a forced confidence.

“Oh how sad,” says Barbara, “Please pass the glitter.”


 

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Claire Hopple is the author of TOO MUCH OF THE WRONG THING (Truth Serum Press, 2017). Her fiction has been published in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Bluestem, Jellyfish Review, Timber, Heavy Feather Review, and others. More at clairehopple.com.