Short Stories

  • A Bench with a View
  • A Flash in the Pan
  • A Purpose of Words
  • A Sawyer’s Education
  • Adoptees
    Penny almost tossed the letter from the adoptees’ group, but on second thought set it aside to read. She’d sent them ten dollars just to be on their mailing list and keep track of their maneuverings, so she should at least glance at this latest missive. Standing at Harmony Acres’ bank of mailboxes, she still <img class="alignright size-medium wp-image-1686" src="" alt="" width="200" height="98" />had the slim, upright posture that had helped her command schoolrooms, her dark pantsuit blending a teacher’s casual neatness and a widow’s severity. Her complexion did not betray her age, and her hair was so neatly coiffed one might almost think she’d chosen to color it white.
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  • Anticipation
    The doorbell. Peter ignored it. He was near deadline for the piece on his computer screen -- puffery to accompany the statistics of a corporate report. After two days of starts and stops, he had a handle on it. Finish this, and get back to the novel. The doorbell again, more insistent. He sighed, left his study and went to the big Dutch door in the kitchen that served as front door. A small man, graying, with a black bag. "Mr. Keating? I'm here to tune the piano."
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  • Anticipation
  • Arson
    Max’s insistent barking roused her. She slept facing the wall, where orange light now flickered. There was smoke in the room! Not thick, but unmistakable. Propelling herself up, she stepped to the window.The Dionysian Public Libary The poodle came, whining. Looking down, the hatchway doors were a sheet of flame, beginning to surge up the side of the house. She strode back for her cellphone: 9-1-1. Thank God, it was answered immediately. “I’m at 243 Ridgefield. The back of my house is on fire!” “Yes, operator, the back. The cellar hatchway.” “There’s smoke in my room, but I’m okay.” “Yes, I can get out safely. The stairs go to the front.” “Only me and my dog.” “Yes, I will. I’ll be out in front.” She looked at the phone. Three a.m. It will be chilly. She hurried to the closet, shrugged into denims and a wool shirt. Good thing I threw David out. If Max hadn’t been here in the room, I’d have been harder to waken. David had never liked the dog – Maxim, a handsome black toy poodle, star graduate of discipline school; most people adored him. Not David, who exiled poor Max to the downstairs front foyer when they came to bed. Which is where Max would have been if David still lived here. He might not have smelled the smoke so quick. Or gotten my attention.

    * *

    His treatment of Max wasn’t why she ended it, but was a glimpse into the man she’d increasingly found him: demanding, intimidating, insanely jealous, quick to clench his fists and tighten his jaw. She knew, long before he hit her, that it wasn’t going to last. When it came, she didn’t wait to be hit again. “Pack your things and go!” she told him, with the presence of mind to take her phone to the far side of the room by the windows, the bed between them, and dial 9-1-1. “This is Patti Sanders at 243 Ridgefield,” she told the operator. “I’m calling so you know that I’m throwing my boyfriend out. I want that on the record if anything bad happens.” “His name is David Carter, operator.” “Do I want you to send an officer? How about it, David?” “No, operator, he says he’ll go quietly. Thank you. I’m hanging up. If I re-dial, you’ll know why.” She stayed on the far side, phone in hand, poised. When David’s suitcase would take no more, she stepped to the bed, stripped off a pillowcase and threw it to him. Neither of them said a word. He finished and started to the door. She’d heard Max fussing on the other side. “Come, Max!” she called as soon as the door was ajar. The poodle bolted to her before David could even think about kicking. She picked the dog up to her chest, suddenly frightened and wanting solace, immobile until she heard the car start, back out. From the window she watched David drive away, then fell onto the bed and let Max lick away her sobs of relief.

    * *

    Quick decision now: hiking boots. She had them half-laced when she heard the fire engines. Hurrying downstairs, she picked Max up again and let herself out, then set him down and perched on a step to finish lacing. The firemen needed no directions: The back of the house was a beacon. She watched as two ran toward the fire, while two others spun out canvas hose, finding a hydrant two doors down, then ran with it after the first two. Like carrying a gushing fountain, she thought. I should take a picture. “Stay!” she said, taking the phone from her pocket. Imagine! 3:12. No wonder I was hard to waken. David intruded on her mind again. Fires don’t just happen in the middle of the night. Someone will ask: Do you have any idea how. . . ?  Should she say? Goad a vindictive man into some more lethal outrage? But they knew about him, didn’t they? Somewhere they had a record of her call that night. “Heel!” Max following, she gingerly made her way to the back, stepping over the firehose and keeping to the edge of the yard. It’s getting dark again. And in a moment, amazingly, the fire was out. Two firemen went back to the truck for huge flashlights that probed the darkness. “Is there a backyard light, lady? We gotta be sure we have it all out. Look for smoldering pieces, y’know?” “Yes,” she said, and ran to the front, Max at her heels, to hurry through the kitchen and flick the switch. Unlocked the back door, out to watch as they toured the blackened rear of the house, hosing it all down, then converged on the hatchway. Max growled, deep in his throat and low, as one stepped toward her, a phone to his ear. He put it away and took off his helmet so she could see ‘CAPTAIN’ lettered on it. “Sorry to prolong this, ma’am, but I’ve called the police. That hatchway had been soaked with an accelerant to make it burn like that.” “Accelerant? “Kerosene.” “Oh, my!” I thought maybe. “You haven’t been using kerosene back here?” “No, I haven’t. No!” That bastard. “They’ll ask if you know anyone who might have done this.” “Of course.” I wonder if the same 9-1-1 operator is on duty tonight? “My men will have the gear stowed,” the captain said. “But we’ll stay to have a word with the police.” “Thank you.” What shall I tell them? “Are you all right, ma’am?” It’s one thing if they nail him, put him away. But if not? Infuriate a man whose fury already kindles fires? “Thank you. A bit shook up, but okay.” “I hear your dog being protective. Well-trained.” “Yes. He smelled the smoke, and roused me.” “Good for him. Maybe saved your life.” “Yes. Yes, surely.” “Close call, ma’am. Hope they catch the one with the kerosene.” “Thank you.” God, I hope so too.”  


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  • At Daybreak
  • At the Shad Dam
    He was almost 14 when he first tried shad fishing. Mr. Bailey offered to take him. “Your dad was a terrific fisherman, Tommy. Least I can do is help his boy get a start.” He wanted to accept, of course, but Mom was uncertain. Mr. Bailey had come over with a golden armful of forsythia from his garden, and they had a consultation in the kitchen. “I’m not sure I want him at the river,” she said. “We’re not going swimming, Millie. We’re standing on a solid bank, throwing hooks into the river.”
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  • At the Swing Tree
    Someone was sitting in the swing that hung from the tree by Alumni Lake, the one everyone on campus called the swing tree. It was strung with holiday lights that illuminated the figure dimly. Not swinging hard, just rocking. During summer session kids swung hard, high into the air, then leaped into the lake and swam back for another try. It would be crazy to try that in December: The water was so cold that thin, brittle sheets of ice lined the shore -- cold enough to numb muscles before one could even try to swim back. He edged closer. It was a girl
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  • Autumn Snow
  • Barnyard Election
    The barnyard was not safe. People were disappearing, being snatched. Someone had to keep the place under surveillance at night. They would elect a watchman. At first, it seemed the obvious choice was Mother Goose. She had been around a long time, was familiar with the barnyard, was wise and experienced. And she had always especially loved the children, who were most at risk. But some thought she had been around too long. Factions sprang up. “We need someone with a loud voice to sound an alarm,” said her supporters. “Geese are famous for their loud voices.” “True enough,” said others, “but she’s old. She sleeps a lot. She isn’t as alert as we need.” There were alternatives.
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  • Behind the Locked Door
    She surely knew better than to go for a stroll. It wasn’t the same neighborhood it had been for most of her life. The shortest route to the park now went through some blocks he himself would hesitate to walk through alone after dark. She ought to know better than to go wandering, anyway. But maybe not: She’d been slipping recently.
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  • Behind the Mutiny
    The official account, by Nordhoff and Hall, would have you believe Fletcher Christian intended from the outset to lead his crew to moulder away on a remote South Pacific island. In fact, he intended nothing less than a takeover of the Royal Navy and an ethnic re-population of the British Isles, rescuing them from what he deemed an alien intrusion of Celts and Scandinavians, Teutons and the wretched remnants of Roman expansion into France and the half-Muslim Iberia, all illegal immigrants of slovenly habit and limited ability. Most of the crew of the H.M.S. Bounty were progeny of such intruders, of course. No matter; Christian judged that the infusion of fresh blood he planned – golden-skinned, well-proportioned, bright and willing – would suffice to turn the tide.  
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  • Beyond the Reef
    After breakfast they waded through the shallows, wearing reef shoes that seemed absurdly thick -- until they clambered onto the reef, a narrow flat walkway of razor-sharp coral that made them glad for those heavy soles.  It was low tide, no breeze yet astir, the sea lake-calm.  He explained to his city-bred wife how generations of coral polyps built the reef, contributing their skeletons to communal growth.  A rainbow kaleidoscope of fish shimmered through slanting sunshine in the deeper water just off the reef.  Hundreds of sea urchins clung to the edge, golfball-sized reddish orbs with toxic spines as long as darning needles.  Despite the ominous-looking urchins, it seemed a  friendly reef.
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  • Birding
    “Oh, Charles – may I call you Charles?” said Betty Morgan. “I’ve admired your work for years! It’s wonderful to know you’re here at Melody Acres.” Betty Morgan – they were all wearing name tags – was a handsome woman.  Surely on the short side of sixty, blond bobbed hair, age not yet withering a high-cheekboned face. A figure she had not let go. Reminded him of Henrietta in her prime. Maybe he’d be glad he chose this place. Already glad he’d worn the flowing shirt, open down to chest hair, that he’d had tailored after his costume as Henry V.  A little touch of Harry in the night.  
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  • Bonding
    . Gerry was stuffed into a suit he hadn’t worn in years. If Gretchen were alive, she’d have let it out; she was a terrific seamstress. In fact, Laura wore a dark dress that Gretchen re-tailored for her to start college two years ago. She looked so much like her mother. The rest in the receiving line, his brother Marvin and Gretchen’s siblings and their spouses, were dressed formally. And here came Jeremy, skulking in and squeezing next to his sister, in cut-off jeans and a long-sleeved red jersey, his hair spilling out of a baseball cap on which was lettered Life has no meaning.
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  • Bristling Senescence
    Riding by Methuselah reminded Buck Everett that he was tired, and maybe getting a little old for this work. He’d spent most of yesterday tracking down a bull that – like all the damned bulls -- had followed some bovine whims along the-11,000-foot flanks of White Mountain and down a grassy canyon below the sparse McAfee Meadow. With the help of extra hands who’d ridden up to help, the herd of cows and calves had been rounded up easily and driven down Cottonwood Creek. They were by now back at the ranch, whose valley browse had matured while they were up here on summer range and would be ample to get them through the winter.
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  • Buying Votes
    The revolution began with a Washington Post estimate that, collectively, presidential candidates and their backers spent $25 for each vote cast in 2016. A truck driver, Horace Smith, wrote the editor: “All that money to clutter my TV with attack ads? Just send us the money, please, and give us some peace! I’d sell my vote for $20."
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  • Buyout
  • By the Park
  • Carny Couple
    The first surprise was when she asked me to carry her across the threshold the way young newlyweds do. I’d thought she knew.  My apparent body-builder’s physique is some sort of genetic trompe d’oeil.  Even in my prime I had fake barbells made, a set that looked twice as heavy as they really were.  With recent new materials, I now have a set that are even lighter – and I need them. In those early years, I admit to some histrionics in straining and heaving to do a “200 pound” bench press.  Since my back problems began, it’s no fake.  Even with balloons it would hurt.
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  • Chip Off the Old Block
    A brassiere had fallen or been stuffed under the driver’s seat, from the back seat. Stephen kept a folding umbrella in exactly that spot. A light rain had begun as he pulled into the company parking lot, so he’d reached back under his seat to get it. The umbrella was there, but so was the bra. A lacy, frothy, wireless garment. For a well-endowed young woman, he judged. Amazing how taut and firm young breasts were. Carol hadn’t worn anything so revealing in years; nowadays she wore a lot of Spandex to hold up -- or in -- the sags of age. Maybe this filmy thing was from Victoria’s Secret? He’d long wondered what those were like.
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  • Closure
    Her initial reaction was outrage: That woman daring to show up here, for God’s sake, at this solemn and heart-wrenching moment. She was tall, a dancer back then, and carried herself even now with a posture that could hardly be missed -- despite a black shawl against the November chill and a black veil that no one wore nowadays. She had the decency to stand apart, behind everyone else, but it wasn’t that big a crowd. Up into our seventies, Carol thought, there aren’t so many left to mourn. Helene. An apt name. Helen of Troy, the legendarily beautiful seductress who brought on the Trojan War, launched a thousand ships. Even after four decades, seeing her was a stab in the heart.
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  • Coffee Break
  • Connubial Counsel

    Give him credit, she thinks: his first thought is of her.

    “Alice, are you alright?”

    “Probably a seatbelt bruise, but okay. You?”

    “Okay. Belt kept me off the steering wheel. Can you see where we are?”

    “Not a thing straight ahead.” Little wonder: the car is nose-up, the hood sprung. “From the side window, I’d say we’re inside the store. There’s glass all over the sidewalk.”

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  • Connubial Distance
  • Consultants
    “And you need to remind the nation,” Jamie persisted, “that you’re still the man.” Ah, yes. The heroic general who ended Tecumseh’s rebellion in an epic battle on the banks of an obscure Indiana river whose name became his.
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  • Consultants
  • Consultants [1]
    “It’s too long.” “There’s a lot to say.” “Jamie, no president ever delivered an inaugural this long. A damned oration.” Even after Dan Webster’s editing, it had taken him two hours to read it aloud last night. “You owe your election to a lot of people.” Jamie fancied himself a political guru as well as speechwriter. “They all expect to be mentioned.” “Listen, I’m 68 years old.” He wasn’t sure he could stand up that long, let alone on an outdoor platform.
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  • Crossing
    Swim The Channel again? Charles, my friend, I’m not sure I could make it. Not sure either of us could. Neither of us has been training.” “We could change the rules of the game. Make it whoever gets farthest.” “What, the first one plants a stake in the ocean wherever he gives up and climbs into the boat?” “Ne sois pas si démodé! Don’t be so yesterday. We all have GPS on our smartphones; we can mark that spot avec précision, mon ami.”
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  • Customer Service
    “Good morning. I need to return a purchase.” “I’m sure I can help. Can you hold just a moment while I look up your account?” “Of course. What luck! You answered on the third ring, I didn’t have to wade through one of those long menus, and I got a real live person! Are you allowed to tell me your name?” “My family calls me A-I, but you can call me Alice Irene.” “Well, Alice Irene, you tell Tudbury’s they get points in my book!”
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  • Darwin
    She rouses first, puts on a robe, sits up in bed. “Do you mind?” Taking his sated groan for assent, she reaches for the remote, snaps on the set. “Look, George, zebras! A huge herd.” He opens an eye. It is a BBC nature program. The sonorous voice of David Attenborough accompanies a huge herd of zebras, a kaleidoscope of undulating black and white stripes against a sere landscape of ocher sand and azure sky.
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  • Dawn Babel
    The refrigerator compressor cycled on. Walter lifted his head from the pillow to see the clock. Five. A wispy hint of daybreak brushed the window. He wanted another hour’s sleep. At least. Not likely. A Japanese visitor last month had observed that in modern society one is never out of earshot of man-made sound. A Buddhist monk who probably spent his days in Zen meditation in some mountaintop temple surrounded by dark, silent pine forests, he’d been a guest at the home of a philosophy-professor neighbor.  
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  • Déjà vu
  • Doctor’s Orders
  • Earthworm Ruminations
    In the garden, I meditate, motionless. Birds, ignoring me, flit to the feeder. A fat earthworm scrunches and telescopes across the flagstones into the sunlight, toward the feeder. Seeking food? Do earthworms eat what birds spill?
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  • Empty Nest
    The house feels vacant, forlorn: no nestlings under its wings, no one waiting impatiently to use the bathroom, no young voices hurrying down the stairs. Had Henry brought her home, he might have shared the hollowness, mitigated it. But he was still angry, and they got back just in time for school. “I’m supposed to greet the kids, Carol. You go along; I’ll get a ride home at the end of the day.” The end of the day. She is sentenced to solitude the first long day with both kids gone.
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  • Escalator Reunion
    Eddie saw them first: friends they hadn’t seen in a decade, on the up escalator beside the one they were riding down. “Chuck!” he called. “Chloe!” It was a long airport escalator, two stories or more; he’d recognized them twenty yards away. Their faces – Chuck’s still capped by a blond mop, hers with almond eyes seeming untouched by the seams of age -- broke into a starburst of smiles as they recognized and called back. “Eddie! Peg!”
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  • Exoneration
    The worst part was that he saw the skateboard kid. Assumed he would veer away. Any driver makes assumptions: The guy in the left-turn lane won’t turn right; the woman at the bus stop won’t step into the street; kids on the sidewalk will stay there. You can’t stop for every possible irrational behavior. Howard prided himself on being an alert driver.
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  • Extraordinary
  • First Buck
    Eddie saw the deer first, as they brushed teeth at the pump in the frosty first light. Peter was studying the barren talus slope behind the cabin, memorizing phrases for his journal: fractured gneiss, craggy as ice cubes, climbing to a staccato of stunted junipers at the crest, etched against a pale sky. He planned to be a writer. “Hey, kid!” Eddie whispered.
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  • Firstborn
    She looks for Stanley every morning in the vastness of Saint Anthony’s Cathedral. Walking slowly down the long center aisle, she glances discreetly at the few others who have come for the seven o’clock Mass. At the altar rail, she genuflects to the Christ silhouetted against the brightness of the stained glass, and turns right to light a candle at the statue of the saint, patron of lost things and missing persons. She kneels a moment by the flickering bank, then stands to survey the sea of hard-backed pews, still nearly empty, before retreating to her usual spot near the back.
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  • For Unpolished Beauty
    The mountains of Connecticut are worn down. Eroded is the proper word: The sharp edges sanded, rasped and buffed by wind and water and time, their tectonic origins scoured away by microrills, brooks, streams and rivers and deposited into mudflats, sandbanks, deltas and submarine sedimentary layers waiting to be thrust up by seismic bursts and begin again. I understand the geology well enough; but the outcome is that they appear worn out, spent, drained, weary. A fit place for me now.
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  • Fortissimo
    Loud music filled the theater. Stentorian music, reverberating, with no bodies, suits or coats in the audience to absorb any of the sound. Standing in the back, waiting his turn to rehearse, Jonathan was afraid that his oboe would be swallowed up by a permanent maelstrom of sound: It seemed suddenly as puny as a tin whistle. The orchestra’s sound — harmonic, gorgeous, but overwhelming — did more than fill the hall. It filled his head, driving out Richard Strauss.
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  • Getting to First Base
  • Getting to Know You
  • Getting to Know You
  • Gigolo

    From the tables Rita was serving, he stood out: a young man dancing with an older woman. A few open steps, in perfect time with the music, then wheel. Nice variations. She knew Roberto was a great dancer; they’d met in a dance hall. Medium-tall, guapo handsome, hair ebon. A weight-lifter’s chest, emphasized by his short brocaded tuxedo, almost like a toreador’s chaquetilla jacket, that he’d found in a second-hand store when all this began.

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  • Granddaughter
  • Harmonic Distance
    Drusilla rather enjoyed solitude at first. Harmony Acres’ ceaseless activities were mostly enjoyable, as were her fellow residents – like her, well into retirement. But a respite was pleasant. But by now social distancing, which meant staying in her apartment with meals and mail brought her, was becoming a drag. Necessary, her daughter Belinda reminded her by phone from Vermont every Sunday evening: “You’re 86, Mama. A likely target for that virus.” Still, a drag.
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  • His Child
  • His Child

    “Safe trip, Jason,” she murmured. “It’s been wonderful. I’m pregnant. Don’t worry; I’ll take care of it.” The engines roared and the water roiled before he could even process her words, let alone respond. In a moment there was fifteen yards between them, she waving and smiling, and he was on his way across the lake to the bus stop and the train and New York City. He felt sweat in his armpits as he tried to phone her from his cell. No luck; there was not an adequate signal up here in the boondocks.

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  • Hitchhiker
  • Independence
    Howard fingers the “no” button, remembering his campaign promise: “No one will ever tell me how to vote. I’m your man, independent.” Tall, with a chiseled jaw and brush-cut blond hair, he stands with the ease of one who spends his work days standing in classrooms. Because a resident of the capital, he’s one of the few who can keep doing his day job at least part-time.
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  • Iniquities
    Sun-drenched. Exactly the right word, learned just a few weeks ago in Miss Hirschoff’s English composition class. The sun, still an hour from mid-day, was an orange orb in a blue sky, so vivid that looking up hurt his eyes. He reached down to feel the knee-high meadow grass. It must have been dew-drenched at dawn; now it was warm and dry. Would Susan want to lie down in that thick, verdant growth? Or would she worry about telltale grass stains? He had no idea what to expect.
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  • Intimations of Mortality
    Charlie, you ever think about how you’d like to go? You mean, like die, Mr. Sweeney? Yeah. I used to think Nelson Rockefeller had it right, sir. In bed with a woman half his age, wasn’t he? Not sure I’m up to that anymore, though. I wasn’t asking for barbershop humor.” Sorry. You want just a trim, right?
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  • Keepsakes

    And what about this lacy thing? It feels seductively smooth. Must be real silk.”

    “I was an only child. Papa wanted his daughter to have the best trousseau that money could buy, or at least that he could afford. Made me feel guilty. But I wore that nightie in Hawaii, and kept it as a remembrance.”

    “Along with that nightstand photo of you two, half-naked on some beach, like Deborah Kerr and what’s-his-name.”

    “Burt Lancaster. ‘From Here to Eternity’.”

    “Right. What a handsome man my father was. That photo must be Waikiki?”

    “A passing tourist took it for us. It’s the only one of us both. People didn’t have camera-phones in those days, and we didn’t court very long. There was a war on.”

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  • Kindling Desire
  • Likenesses
  • Limerence
    His Alice had been gone two years – the grief of loss diminished, but never entirely assuaged – when he saw the obituary for Yvette’s Howard. He’d hardly known Howard, but they stayed in touch over the years through Christmas cards, and Yvette sent a sympathy card when Alice died. With her characteristic attention to detail, the next Christmas card was addressed not “Mr. and Mrs.” but simply “Chuck,” and she scribbled “Sorry again for your loss” on the card. On the way to work he bought an equally classy condolence card and scrawled “Thinking of you” below the printed message. He wanted to write more.
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  • Mama’s Stuff
  • Man with a Riata
  • Matches
  • Math Game
  • Maury’s Mustang
  • Méchant
  • Millie’s Mane
    She turned from the mirror, still brushing her hair: ten, eleven, twelve. Clothes put away, bed as tautly made as a soldier’s; big fat, faded Pooh-Bear, showing his advanced years, propped on the lone pillow; Mother’s seascape behind the bed the only splash of real color on pale peach wallpaper. Not to complain about the watercolor, but all her friends had puffy pillows, bedspreads and drapes in bold colors, and rock groups’ posters on their walls. “Mother,” she’d complained last week, “my room is so juvenile!”
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  • Miss Sam
  • Most Recent ⬆︎ – – – – Others ⬇︎Alpha Order
  • Mountain Test
  • My Great American Ornament
  • New Beginnings
  • Open Carry
  • Opportunities
  • Options
  • Orchestral Passions
  • Parting Company
    Where "Parting Company" is publishedHe felt in his pocket for the key. The place belonged to the bank or the auctioneer now, but they would hardly mind his coming for a last look around. By the end of the day there might be nothing left but the empty walls with which he’d started four decades ago. Rudy’s Hardware, in old-fashioned huge neon script, stood out in the infant dawn. Good: They’d had the decency to leave the sign switched on. In the plate-glass window, his tall, lanky reflection had a ruby cast that gave way, as he neared the door, to the pallor of the overnight lights inside. He smiled at himself under his wide-brimmed canvas bush hat, the trademark image he’d adopted on his first day of business. Taking a deep breath to expand his chest, he gave himself a toothy grin, then deftly opened the door, strode to the counter and reached over to disarm the alarm system and turn up the lights. He didn’t want the beat cop seeing a dim mysterious figure in here; better to be easily recognized as good old Rudy.
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  • Parting Company
  • Parting Thoughts
  • Penances
  • Quake Lake
    The path through the brush-thick meadow disappeared into a tangle of alder and willow. Jupiter was a growing pinpoint in a fading northern evening; the Madison River clamored unseen down its stony bed only a few yards away. Tom was tired after a day on that river. Fishing well demands concentration, forcing out of mind workaday problems, stifling distractions, recollections, ruminations. This was where he had waited, four decades ago, for a bride-to-be who never came. He had managed not to think of her all day. This evening, ambivalent about poking up the embers of memory, he had almost stayed at the camper. Perhaps should have. He was about to give up for the day when the park ranger materialized, beckoning from a dark patch in the thicket. “Can I help you, mister?”
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  • Rabbits and Coyotes
    Joanie was usually in bed and asleep when the rabbits arrived. So was Fifi. By whatever intuitive sense dogs have, though, she sensed them in the courtyard and dashed out at full yelp. Since the electronic minder wouldn’t let her go beyond the gazebo, she stopped there and barked at her disappearing prey. And barked. And barked.  
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  • Ransom
  • Relinquishing
  • Rescue
  • Sandstorm
  • Scorpions
  • Seeing Charlie Off
  • Shy Boy
  • Sirens
  • Spiders
  • Strawberries
  • Street People
  • Surveillance [1]
  • Surveillance [2]
  • Sweet Charity
  • Talking with Ravens
  • Tattoos
    Tattoos I’ve written this responding to an unusual challenge by a literary magazine called “Barnaby Snopes”: To write a short story entirely in dialog, without even a “she said.” Tattoos “Excuse me for being personal, but that’s a handsome tattoo on your arm.” “Thank you. Have you decided what you’re going to have, ma’am?” “I was thinking about the blue plate special. Does it hurt, making it?” “Shall I put you down for the blue plate, then?” “Yes, please. I suppose I shouldn’t ask such personal questions. But does it?”
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  • Tchotchkes
  • Thanatopsis
  • The Aeronautical Lawn Chair
  • The Appearance of Mary
    “Joey, I need you to come live with me.” Grandma got him aside after the funeral. He wasn’t surprised that she was already planning ahead: Although Gramps’ death was unexpected and her grief was unmistakable, he knew her as a practical woman. “I’ll have to take in boarders, and I don’t want strangers in the house without a man around,” she said.
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  • The Daddy Tree
  • The Geppetto Camera
  • The Golden Key
  • The Good Seed
  • The Handkerchief
    A lacy handkerchief stood perkily in the driveway at number 245, caught momentarily in a shaft of dawn sunlight on the passenger side of a sporty red convertible. Relatively new neighbor, 245: Bruce something, a coach at the university. White man. A bachelor, Charles thought he’d heard; maybe Sally told him. He might have broken stride, gone up the drive, put the handkerchief on the windshield where it wouldn’t be missed. He was already past it, though, and did not turn back.
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  • The Leopard
  • The Lineman
  • The Man Who Cancelled the Newspaper
    He called The Courier the day after they buried Priscilla. As town librarian for decades, she’d been the one who read it, occasionally calling his attention to local news. His only consistent use of the paper was to clip the crossword they did in bed together each night before turning out the light. He tried a puzzle the night after the funeral, but didn’t complete it. And he clipped the obituary, of course. Worried it from pocket to pocket, and finally folded it into his leather-bound copy of Alcestis. The wife who died before her husband.
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  • The Other Woman
  • The Redhead
  • The Ring
  • The Terrorist
    The agents at the Direction – the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure -- were certain the killer was an Arab, probably from Algerie; they’d given him the sobriquet Mahomet. A latter-day Jackal. Three ministres of the cabinet killed by rifle fire outside their homes – all, it appeared, shot from a block or two away by a sniper of uncommon prowess. Jules had undertaken to hunt down and kill the assassin two months ago, expecting to have it done by now. A terroriste reube would be no match for a veteran in this game, and the récompense would be substantial. Now it had become, unexpectedly, a duel.
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  • The Terrorist
  • The Tree
    Troy discovered the tree hut in the spring of his first year in middle school. He hadn’t noticed before, perhaps because it was high up in the massive oak at the edge of the forest, hardly visible unless you knew where to look. “Why don’t you go for a walk until you feel better,” Mother had said. It was not a question, and meant what she sometimes said aloud: “until you are decent company again.” So he stomped through the knee-high grasses of the newly-verdant meadow, warm in the afternoon sun, and into the woods, where he threw himself face-down on the soft duff under a hemlock. After a time he rolled over, and saw that the feathery branches brushed the bole of the oak. And a few feet off the ground, a weathered board was nailed into the tree.
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  • The Trombone
  • The Watchmaker
    The old man peers into the case. “I worked on this watch.” He says it ‘vorked on this vatch’. He screws the loupe from his eye. “A good timepiece. Your grandfather’s? He is still living?” The fusty workspace, redolent of watch oil, is smaller than the one Henry visited with Granddad, at street level on Main Street, its sign in Gothic gilt letters: D.A. Gordon, Watchmaker. This is in a tired building in a decaying downtown block, neighbored by social-service providers, lawyers, tax preparers, a home-loan agency, a cell phone shop. Like all clients and customers, Henry announced himself on an intercom outside the street door to be buzzed in. The plain-box elevator, as slow as time passing, deposited him in a dim sixth floor hallway. He found the door, the name in smaller Gothic letters, plain black on a frosted-glass window with mesh reinforcement. “Yes, my grandfather’s. He died last year. I came here with him at least a dozen years ago. No, more.” Granddad had called it a conductor’s watch
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  • The Watchmaker
  • The Whole Truth
    “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” “I’m sorry, young man. I affirm.” “What?” “I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, sir. We’re supposed to refrain from taking the Lord’s name in vain. Aren’t you supposed to refrain, too? You’re a district attorney, for goodness’ sake.” “Never mind. Do you swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help. . . . Do you so affirm?” “I do, young man.” “You’re not holding your hand up, ma’am.” “That’s because I’m not taking an oath.”
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  • Threshing
    The cemetery, with its sculpted trees and manicured lawn, was a bright green postage stamp in the wheaten vastness of the Nebraska prairie. One horizon was punctuated by the town’s lone church steeple and, in the nearby railroad yards, stark concrete-tube grain silos. In all other directions the flatness went on forever. Ellen had wanted to be buried here, in a family plot, close to the Platte River and the sandhill cranes she remembered from early childhood.
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  • Thrift
    Frugality was in the Fenns’ bones. Their farmhouse hadn’t changed much since a grandparent had been born there. Power had come a decade earlier, I would learn, but they’d hooked up only three years ago. A television tempted them, but the clincher was that they could freeze the food they grew and raised. She’d always canned. That needed wood for the stove, boiling water, and jars that were getting expensive. Freezing would be more economical.
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  • Time Passing
  • Tiresias
  • Trails
  • Une Piste pour Le Petit
  • Vigil
    They had long since agreed not to prolong life with artificial gadgetry, and celebrated that commitment by inviting friends to a party to watch them sign living wills. Both were firm enough in their faith that they did not fear death.
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  • Waiting
  • Wandered
  • Wanted
  • Watching for Lion
  • While the Wife’s Away
  • Wildlife
    The new people fed birds. “We just love songbirds,” the wife said.  Susan something.  I made a mental note to have Jerry look up their names on the Internet when he got home that night. I’d gone over to say hello when the moving van pulled up. I could have just cut through the back yard, but I went all the way around the block to be polite and meet the new neighbor at the front door. I should have saved the effort: Susan Something was already in her back yard, a few feet from our line, screwing a two-armed pole into the ground, tube feeders full of birdseed on the ground waiting to be hung.
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  • Windfall
  • Without a Paddle
  • Strawberries
    The weather lady predicts a scorcher, unusual for early June. If Lucinda goes now, in the dewy cool, she can pick a flat and be home before it's too hot. The rest of the news will just be more Obama-Republican yammering anyway. She finishes her granola, turns the TV off, puts the yogurt in the fridge and goes back to the bedroom to put on a long dirndl skirt and a long-sleeved white blouse. "And sunscreen, Mom," Carol insisted when she phoned last night.
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