His Girls

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She and her sister once saw their father dancing, with their mother out in the scruff between the house and the barn, dimly lit by the forty-watt on the back porch. Their father was surprisingly gentle for a man with such rough hands, dried like late autumn apples. His head rested on hers; they swayed to music that wasn’t there. Or maybe it was just the wind and the cicadas.

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Sloth

LLike us, the city was built on water. We headed for the calle nearest us, walking fast to elude tourists pouring onto the main strada. El bacchanale, the famous comedy group, was touring in our turquoise place. Fans of their humor—vulgar, bilingual (equally vulgar in both languages), live cunnilingus—were overweight and wore clothing with strange flower prints. We saw them from our windows and made a beeline for the canal, for dinner, a romantic walk, or anything else we could only do at night.

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Autumn, as Seen Through Her Bedroom Window

I didn’t want to leave, though it was now getting late. I needed to get back to my dorm. Storm clouds slid above us, swelling and rising; and the rain was just starting to fall. In a corner of her bedroom, the radiator hummed. The sky took on a dull shade of pink. Luna was sleeping beside me, and somewhere off in the distance, I heard an alarm. And it was cold in the room; I felt Luna beside me. I could make out the shy sound of her breathing. The sheets hardly moved with each breath that she took. And it was because of this shyness I decided to leave…before the rain could take over the city.

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The Dangling Conversation

She could have saved herself the gas money if she’d known they sold emergency contraception at Target now. She drove right past the clinic the first time through because it looked exactly like every other house on the street—who puts a Planned Parenthood in a residential neighborhood? She didn’t know that could happen. It was charming, though. It had a private driveway lined with blooming forsythia bushes, which had a surprisingly convivial effect as she made her way up the porch steps to the front door. It only took a few minutes and a brief conversation with the nurse, and she was back in her car before the coolness from the air conditioning could be swallowed by the unseasonable humidity outside. All things considered, she thought, that was relatively painless.

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The Shepherd

It was Sunday, and a storm spread over the old country house like black ink, blotting out the sun. The change in lighting made Lottie look up from the table she was setting for lunch. A slow rain began, and a single drop splashed against her shoulder. Annoyance prickled at the edge of her mind. Cotton had opened all the windows this morning despite Lottie’s warning that it looked like rain.

“Cotton! Close the windows!” Lottie hollered, closing the ones nearest to her as quickly as she could. The sound of the rain was quickening, and it wasn’t long before she felt more splatters on her skin from the adjacent window.

Lottie could hear bare feet scampering on the floor above, and the slam of a window assured Lottie her yelling paid off.

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Snowdancer

The girl was happy with her new shoes. She walked back and forth by the row of full-length mirrors on the store wall. She tapped her feet, then raised up onto her toes and turned slowly. She smiled and turned again. She skipped and leaped and spun in the middle of a leap. Her dress swirled and she laughed. Finally her mother said, “Milleah, that’s enough. This is not a dance studio.”

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Mud Bottom

There’s a stillness to it all, when the breeze stops, that makes me think I’d done something that even time hadn’t managed to do, and that was make the trek out here. No Mockingbirds sing, no red squirrels rustle the branches, and the pond’s water sits idle; the whole world acting as a picture that could be from anywhere. That was the thing about pictures; in those images, a man’s life could be mapped out like rings of a tree. Time would show on smiling faces the same way hard work shows on a man’s palms and hard living would show in the eyes of those who knew it, but nature didn’t seem to know time like us.

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Atrophied Mink

She was thin, frail, near bird-like in structure. I sat behind her in homeroom and studied her assembly; how each ligament and bone bled together to form the perfectly spurned machinery of Jacobi Rusk. It was around this time that I started believing in God. To understand the high quality of His concepts and the ineptitudes, He floated down into the world. It was nearly two months before I found the courage to speak to her, and once I did she insisted we cut through the cemetery on the way home from school. She seemed enamored with all those bodies in the ground. She’d get down real close and brush the sediment from the headstones and make up lies for them. I loved the way her mind got going, like an engine that’d never idle. “If only the moments would slow and sleep themselves?” she once said. “Maybe that’s what death is?”

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