by Mary Lynn Reed
He stands on the porch, smoking his last cigarette again. His hands are too smooth and his shoulders slouch. He tries to keep the smoke blowing in the right direction but fails, every time.
The stuffed monkey has no eyes, nose, or mouth. The children stare but no one says why. They all smile and nod their eager approval.
She grips a little vanilla cookie between finger and thumb. Holds it up to her mouth but doesn’t bite. It’s awe-inspiring, she says. Perfectly rich.
The devil will not tell you he’s a devil. He will tell you many things, rarely truth.
It’s a chemical reaction, she says. Not something you can switch off, or will to be different.
Stop looking at me, please.
There is a table and chair and a bottle of beer. Only one, he says. Why is there only one?
Down the road is a cabin neither of them want to talk about.
The past is either delusion or fiction. It shouldn’t be this way.
What is narrative, he asks. What moves you from A to B? Why should I care?
What does it mean to be alone, to not be alone?
He never felt whole in her house. He could never sit still.
She planted marigolds in June. She took a long walk. Softly, it began to rain.
Mary Lynn Reed’s fiction has appeared in Mississippi Review, Colorado Review, The MacGuffin, Litro Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Smokelong Quarterly, and New World Writing, among other places. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Maryland.