(and sometimes nonfiction)
Sarah K. Stephens
September 12, 2016
I gave your bedroom a door when you were fifteen. Perhaps I should have waited longer.
I am not a good mother.
I am a great mother. Daughters don't leave mothers like me.
Sure, you visited, but slopping peanut butter on a cracker or wiping the table couldn’t obscure who you’d become. It frightened me, as you rinsed your hands and told your father about the chaotic heat in your apartment, how powerful I'd made you, dropping into our lives at your discretion. Closing your own doors at will.
August 22, 2016
Big-Headed Anna and the Baby Thieves
CUIDAD JAUREZ. 1917. Before I crossed the Rio Grande half of me had already vanished. My hands were a mess of cow pox, my lips welted with horsefly bites. I was that big-headed girl in the milk barn trying to nurse her baby girl. People said I was slow-witted and couldn’t raise a wee one. The baby snatcher that stole her took her to Monterrey. And there was all the milk that my baby would have drunk, making my chest swell and my nipples crack, until I had to squeeze out the watery gruel. When I stood over the trough with a jelly jar of human milk, I tried some. It tasted sweet. I wasn’t afraid of Mexico. Its yawning nostrils and ocher wind crying, “Death to the Rich.”
July 13, 2016
Gabe squirted the hose at crows feasting on the grass seed he’d sown so his grandkids would have a place to play. As he swung the nozzle, he composed a couched come-on in his head to his decades-out-of-date version of the woman he’d loved in college, incorporating esoteric words to impress her. The sun heated his head, lulling him into a stupor on this, his last day of peace. Tomorrow his parents would descend with their hovering and bickering, ending the tranquility of his winter stasis.
The warm Saturday afternoon demanded a verboten pale ale. He envisioned one in the very center of his refrigerator, moisture shimmering on the brown bottle, but he’d dutifully uncapped and drained every beer in his house when he got slapped with the DUI. He sipped hose water then turned the stream on an errant crow. Like a ship cresting a wave, his parent’s salt-water rusted Chevy Impala nosed onto his driveway. He reached behind him to wrench off the water. The hose in his hand went limp.
June 28, 2016
Liam says he can do it, that he’s going to make it, but I have my doubts, and here’s why:
First of all, Liam is small. He’s always been on the lower end of the vertical spectrum. Sure, he’s healthy, his pediatrician says he’s growing at a normal rate, but in comparison to his peers, he looks four instead of six.
A few months back he was named Student of the Month in his class for Perseverance. All us parents sitting in uncomfortable steel foldout chairs, the air so cold in the new school that we couldn’t strip off our jackets and scarves and hats and sweaters, the kids miniature body builders with their quilted coats, a whole gang of them lining up to receive their certificates and coupons, and there was Liam in the middle, hands clasped at his front, standing quietly while the others twisted and shaped themselves above him. A Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
June 21, 2016
The convoy passed the Iraqi checkpoint in front of the base; from the turret the Iraqi Police looked cold as they tried to breathe warmth into cupped hands. All of the Marine posts on the perimeter of the base were manned, but there weren't any of the normal smoke trails from cigarettes or dim lights Marines used to read books. The MRAP came to a jerking stop in front of Forward Operating Base Riviera and everyone started to dismount. I heard something about “River City.”
“We're in River City. Did you hear what happened?”
June 21, 2016
Emily first got my attention the night she threw a tennis shoe at the shared wall in our apartment complex. We were both college students living in adjacent apartments, her in 3R and me in 3L. I had a few too many beers one night and was apparently listening to music too loudly. She tried ignoring it, listening to her own music with headphones, but ultimately ended up screaming for me to “turn the fucking music down!”
Finally, she picked up one of her sneakers and threw it as hard as she could. I, of course, reciprocated with a basketball. Then she returned with a metal waste basket. After several minutes of banging and throwing, we met in the stairwell to yell it out. It truly was love at first fight.
The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.
—Cervantes, Don Quixote
© 2016 The Indianola Review