I spent my life looking for the map until I realized I had to draw my own.
She is silent and still. An almond-sized heart flutters under layers of downy brown feathers, as delicate as lace, paper wings tucked into a rib cage made of air. Holding this tiny creature makes you realize just how powerful you are. One shift of pressure would end her life—the macabre vision flashes for a strange, primal moment—but you kiss her little head and tell her she is safe and hold her ever so gently in your hands, hoping she can feel your good intentions. It is rare to find a dove flying in your kitchen. A pigeon, maybe, but a kind, gentle dove seemed like an omen. She was frantic, careening into walls, until finally lodging herself behind a soup pot. Now she is in your hands. What now?
The Bard Owl
At first, Rob tallied each day of Milo’s homeschooling with a valorous pencil mark behind the computer until the wall resembled a prison sentence and he stopped counting. The coffee ring on his pine desk grew permanent and the knot beside it became a Rorschach test that shifts according to mood. Tonight it is a clown, and a clown is not a welcome sight in the shadows of a dour gray… Thursday? Monday? Rob moves the mouse, checks the date. His face is chalk dust in the flickering glow, harsh angles and parched eyes.
Deep in the flatlands of Diamond, Missouri, amid tangles of shingle oak and cypress, a little boy was born without a name. No one knows exactly when, because the little boy was not born free. He had dark skin and a fate written in the cotton fields, and when slave raiders arrived in the middle of the night, they kidnapped him, his sister, and their young mother and sold them in Arkansas. It cost the infant’s owner a broken-down racehorse, worth three hundred dollars, to bring him back, but his mother and sister were never heard from again.
- V+ Fiction Award Winner
Twenty Miles South of MaconV+ Fiction Award Winner
One night Mabel kept driving. Her arms hung heavy on the wheel. Her mind was blank. The fork in the road passed, and with it the turnoff to Harveys Supermarket where she would buy three cans of boiled chicken, a bag of reduced-fat Wheat Thins, a loaf of bread, and a pound of tomato-shaped objects to last her the week. Tillary called them tomato-shaped objects because she used to work at the Macon farmers market and felt the new job was beneath her. A tomato, she said, should taste like something. Trailing vines. Summer rain. These things taste like the tears of the Mexican kid that picked them, and life is not worth living when you’ve reached the point of eating like this.
Every afternoon Nandi traces her dreams into the ribs of a bull with no name. She nestles her face into his side, feels the movements of masticated grass through the corridors of his gut, and sometimes her voice joins the rumble, a Texas girl’s scat with a jazz band of cicadas. The bull’s hide is jet black and oil-slick with sweat, rank with the earthen wild of muscle and grit, and when Nandi stretches her anemic arms around the creature she too is strong. Two thousand pounds of strength pulses through her chest with each of the bull’s soporific breaths. Two thousand pounds of strength help her face another stone-silent dinner and another untethered day.
Smoke Trails on a Burning River
The truth is, I don’t know how to pray. The words evaporate before they are words. But if you feel me like I feel you, you know my heart, and maybe you can see it, too. I’d imagine it’s burnt black, because there is a scalding vat of iron in my chest, and I haven’t slept, Ma, I haven’t slept for eight days.
Rise Again, a Sailor to Destroy
She emerged as an apparition one night, a glowing ember on reflective waves, and danced her devotion to the star-flecked sky. She did this every night, for her admirers spanned galaxies. Constellations pushed through the dark cloak that is always thickest over endless water, and as the years passed, the sky became even whiter with birthing stars. It is said that she is the cosmic mother, that her movements send a ripple of light upward to undulate with ether, and from this holy union comes a new chapter in a never-ending tale. The universe will end if she stops dancing.