5/20/15 Stories in Water

Stories in Water



It all started with the screech of tires, a thump, a gasp, and the cracking of ribs. A lump in Theo’s throat as his mother fumbled frantically to extricate herself from the car. His breath leaving a receding fug on the living room window from where he watched the scene unfold.

It was a little thing–the last-time breath the dog ever took–and Theo didn’t cry. He was never much of weeper. He always felt his mother did enough for the two of them. In many ways it was similar to the day his mother finally realized Dad wasn’t coming home.

The light rain pattered the pavement as Theo ran down the driveway. His mother only stood over her, the little pooch, just stood over the white dog and watched. When Theo bent to run his hands through the fur, they came away oily and wet, smelling of life.


Can we take her inside, he asked, looking up at his mother, whose eyes were rimmed red.


How did she get out? was all she said.


Theo slid his arms under the cooling body and he hoisted her up. He walked slowly back to the house. Theo placed Dottie in the small dog bed near the fireplace and sat with her as his mother parked the car along the street. He noticed she didn’t come in for a long time.



Dottie was gone the next day. Theo woke up to find his mother had left, presumably with the dog she had killed. The small dog bed, that Dottie had so often occupied over the years, drew his eye as if the body were still there. Then, two weeks after the incident Theo arrived home from school to find his mother beaming, Dottie curled in her bed. But she wasn’t the same.


Do you like it? his mother had asked. Her freckled cheeks were a bit too shiny and something glossy was hidden behind her eyes that were framed by her straight raven hair–dyed with some noxious smelling stuff the week before.


She looks like she’s sleeping, was all Theo could say.


I know, I know, cooed his mother. I wish we could have saved her.


Theo nodded. He understood the weirdness of the situation, and the weirdness of his mother. It was like when she had surprised him on his tenth birthday with a stethoscope and a pair of elbow length latex gloves.


Now you can be a surgeon, like your father, she had told him.


He humored his mother every day of her life. He loved her too much to tell her the truth–that he didn’t want to be a surgeon, he didn’t want to see Dottie anymore. He humored her because she did her best; it was just unfortunate that her best was much worse than other people’s.

Even though Theo didn’t want to see Dottie like that, he still held a morbid curiosity for his dead pet. Where had she gone? Was it possible that she was still in there? Somewhere? In the middle of the night Theo crept down the hall, stethoscope around his neck, and press the diaphragm to the place he knew her heart had once been. The silence within was strangely comforting; how could he find something so sick and twisted to be so beautiful?

4/3/15 As Long As Your Intentions Are Pure

When a dirt trail replaced the rocks she felt a little more stable. The sun was setting as she, still above the treeline, walked down the trail. It was such a nice evening; the clouds there were acted as texture to the brilliant colors unfolding above and in front of her. The smell of the trail changed from pungent life to crisp cold and she increased her footsteps, wanting to be at the bottom of the trail by dark.

She had seen only a couple other climbers that day. One with a dog. She loved dogs, but right now, without her own place or the income she needed there was no way she could have one of her own. She entered the trees and the dim light of the evening was darkened considerable. She unslung her backpack and pulled out her sweater and put it on. She also grabbed her phone in order to use its flashlight. She turned it on. It buzzed. A message from an unknown number flashed on her screen. She thumbed it and read the text.

Hey, this is Alex. Nathan passed along your number. Welcome home.

I’m living in Bellingham, not sure where you’re at, but if you’re ever in the area, let me know.


She thumbed out a response. She didn’t want to go back home. Anything to stay out of the house. Hopefully he’d be up for a drink or two. She wasn’t too far from Bellingham.

Days Earlier:

She sat with her phone. She’d asked Jen, her co-worker if it was weird to do this and she’s said no. Or she’s said, “as long as your intentions are pure I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

So why was she hesitating? Was it because she’d never had an actual conversation with either of them? Was it because she didn’t want to people to think she was creepy or weird? The worst that happened was they didn’t respond. She found Nathan R____ on facebook and her thumbs slid across the phone typing her message.

Hey Nathan,

I was thinking, since I’m back up North, it would be fun to connect with Ben and Alex– I always thought they were super rad and would love to kick it. Can you pass along my number to them? Thanks.

The thumbed down her number too. Outside her car Seattle was hustling and traffic was clogging the streets of downtown. Without look back at the screen she pressed the send button. She just wanted some cool friends to go hiking with, she told herself.

When she got back to her car parked at the trailhead it was completely dark.  She’d texted Alex back. Something that was truthful, but maybe a little forward. Was it too sudden to spring a couple beers on someone she’d not seen since high school? Well, either he said yes or no. She climbed into her car. Her phone buzzed. It was her mother. She confirmed that she had not broken her neck on the way down the mountain.

I’ll be home late. Visiting a friend.

She texted.

3/29/15 He’d Pulled Too Far Forward… Again

The car was in front of the house on the other side of the fence, but it didn’t quite look right. He’d pulled forward a little too far again, and now purple of her tulips were clashing horribly with his orange 350Z. Hadn’t she told him time and again–time and again–to park his car so the purple flowers weren’t backdropped by the body, but instead the tires because nothing could go so well with purple as black. But there it was anyway, for the whole neighborhood to see, purple and a glittery orange. How embarrassing.

She let the curtain fall shut and turned to her husband. Gordon sipped a beer, his arm thrown over the backrest of the sofa the remote on his lap, his crew cut sexy and trim but slightly uneven. She’d get him a better stylist, that was unacceptable. She could see–what did they call those boob muscles on men?–his chest muscles under his shirt. He always took his button down off as soon as he got home. He thumbed the remote and took a sip of beer.

“Babe,” she said.

“Yeah?” his eyes flicked to her, then back to the wide flat screen.

“You pulled forward too much and my tulips are clashing with your car.”

The side of his lip curled. He did that when he thought she was being irrational, she knew. But hadn’t she told him? Really, time and again?

“You can move it.”

“I can’t,” she said. I don’t drive stick.

“You don’t need to drive,” he said. “just let it roll backward a little. It’s not in gear, you just have to let off the parking brake.”


“On the table.”

She table was cluttered with mail. He’d dumped it there even though they had a designated mail catch. It even had name tags so you could sort out the mail according to whom it was addressed to. That mail catch was a labor of love and did anyone appreciate it?

She barely fit in the car. It wasn’t because she was large, no. She was just long, she’d always been long. Long neck, long arms, long legs. And thin, too. good genes, dad always said. She thought he was right. But trying to slide into the driver’s seat she was suddenly wishing God had given her some shorter legs. How Gordon fit in here–nobody knew. He was a good deal bigger than she was and it was his daily driver.

One hand on the wheel, she let off the parking brake. The driveway was on the smallest slant imaginable. With one foot on the brake pedal Margret pushed the ground with the other. The car crept backwards. She didn’t let it go more than six inches before she pulled the parking brake. She got out of the car and walked around to the other side. She looked at her tulips. They were so regal backdropped but the flat back of the tire. Much better. She went back around to the driver side of the car and was just about to swing the door shut when she noticed a mess of black and colored wires protruding from under the dash on the left side of the drivers seat. A small cube with a small light set into it was wrapped up in them. It wasn’t on. She closed the door and clicked the fob and the car beeped signalling locked.