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Doctor's Note

by Erik Fassnacht


"You can't box anymore."

            I shifted my weight on the metal folding chair.  I looked at the doctor and put an unlit cigarette in my mouth.  "How seriously do you want me to take that?"

            The doctor sighed.  I didn't really hear him when he told me that "anymore" meant exactly that. Boxing was my life.  Everything around that little circle of light was shadows—empty pizza boxes, sweaty socks in little piles by my sofa, and occasionally old girlfriends who glided in and out like loose newspapers on the streets.  I paid the doctor—something—a couple wads of twenty-dollar bills, and walked out.

            It was raining.  An old sedan was parked out front: mine.  I lit the cigarette under the office's green awning.  I had all the time in the world.


            "He's hurting," Schonwetter said.  "Ribcage.  Left side.  Body shots."

            I tried to nod.  Water entered my mouth from an unknown source.

            "Get it done," Schonwetter growled in my ear.  "Body shots.  Break those fucking ribs."

            My nose was chaffed and stinging.  I knew there was skin missing, breaking off and flaking like burnt paper.  Didn't matter.  The cure for one ailment was the existence of many.  My left knee popping without reason.  Left cheekbone a disaster.  A purple inkblot blooming where Hunnington had hit me, but I wouldn't see it until later, through a dirty mirror.  The bell rang.

            Gravity changed and I was on my feet.  Sweat in my left eye.  Brush it off.  Move the legs. The ring shifted. Hunnington was coming straight at me.  A danger sign, when they stopped hesitating and walked at you like an angry, incredulous parent.  His red shorts were too short—boy shorts, dork shorts—that's what I was thinking when his glove snapped up into my face.

            My head whipped back, saw the ceiling.  Time sped up.  He came at me with a combination, the gloves thudding, rumbling off my body like hail on the hood of a car.  I swung blindly, hit nothing, and he backed off.  I reset.  Left jab, blocked.  Left jab.  Jab again.  Everything grazing now, Hunnington on me again, more thudding, thinking of hail, gloves up, and the bare skin of my back touching the ropes.

            A right hook slammed in from the side and hung Christmas lights across my eyes.  I fell backwards, got up, and suddenly, terrifically—got pissed.  I jabbed at him and spun, pushed him backwards with a right, took a partial shot to the lip, and slammed my glove into his ribs.  There was a soft sigh, like a baby coughing up porridge.  I hit him again.  And again.  He mumbled something, went backwards.  I heard the assholes in the crowd shouting. My left knee popped again.  His gloves were up. I kept punching.  Something crunched—his ribs?  Had to be his ribs.


            I frequently wonder what my childhood defining moment was.  People have to have them—little instances amidst the water gun fights and pigtail pulling—moments where subtle, internal shifts occur, tiny pulleys raising and trap doors opening, and one's personality and viewpoints get slowly set in stone.  My friend, Billy Jenkins, his moment was the time he got his baseball mitt stolen by a grown man driving a pickup truck. The glove was a present, his only present for his eleventh birthday, and it was a beauty: a jet black leather miracle.  No one else could wear it but him, and he wore it everywhere.  On a warm September day Billy and I were walking back from Birkin Elementary, down a long stretch of sidewalk with leafy elms tinting the world green.

            "Giants play today," Billy said.

            "No they don't.  Tomorrow."

            "Today.  I checked the paper.  Box scores. They say who is playing, like a boxing match, and they predict all the points."

            "What?  Box scores are for yesterday's games, dumb ass.  That's why they've got all the numbers.”

            Billy was silent.  "Shit," he said.  "I guess they do play tomorrow."

            "Yeah, no shit."

            "I got in trouble yesterday.  My mom said we swear too much."

             I laughed.  "Everybody swears now.  All the older kids swear. This isn't kindergarten."

            "She says people who swear a lot aren't trustworthy.  I'm pretty sure she's talking about Uncle David, though."

            I searched for a response, but we fell into stride and walked quietly.  This happened a lot.  It was a measure of best friends; how often you could simply move in one direction and walk and shut up. Up ahead, where the street ended, I would go left and Billy would go right. We lived in different subdivisions—Billy's was surrounded by Range Rovers and manicured gardens that, during summer nights, would glow turquoise from all the backyard pools. My subdivision was different.  There was a large shadow over us. 

            I looked up and was pushed out of the way, hard.  The neighborhood twisted and I was on my back, with the needles of a front yard prickling my ears and neck.  I looked up just as Billy screamed.

            There was a man in a brown jacket tugging at his arm, trying to pull his arm off, it looked like.  Billy screamed again and I started moving backwards, farther into the front lawn.  I was scared.  The man had a lot of hair, and thick glasses.  Something about his look made him seem from another planet. Finally, he yanked extra hard, and Billy fell, and I saw what he was after.  The holy grail of baseball gloves was in his hand.  I was bigger than all the kids my age, a trend that would continue, and stupidly, I ran at the man.  I shouted “hey” but the words were scarcely out of my mouth when the brown coat turned and the man slapped me with the baseball mitt.  I fell backwards and he hit me again, using all his force, knocking me onto the sidewalk.  Something came down on my face that seemed like rain and turned out to be spittle.  I heard rapid footsteps and the gunning of an engine.  Down the street, a pickup truck was moving in the opposite direction.

            Billy was staring blankly.  I was, as would frequently become the case, pissed off.  To hell with getting slapped!  Where were all the lame ducks living in these houses?  Where the hell was everyone?  All the windows were blank, reflective, the interior lights off.  What were these pricks doing—hiding?

            For Billy, this wasn't quite the moment that defined his childhood.  And it wasn’t mine, either, even though I got spat on.  It was the catalyst, to be sure, but not the final act.


            "That's what I'm talking about," Schonwetter said.  "You broke something.  He's going down this round, right?  This round."

            "I can't see straight," I said.  More water.  I spit it out, let it dribble down my chin.

            "Get this prick," Schonwetter said.  "He's made of glass.  Keep up those body shots."

            My lip was split, stinging.  I saw Hunnington in the other corner, eyes closed in a grimace.  He was hurt.  Something was broken.

            The bell rang.  I rose to my feet and Hunnington did the same.  Schonwetter in my ear again: "For the love of God, watch out for that right hook.  Give him some of that punishment back."

            We circled for a moment.  Hunnington didn't come at me right away—he was slower, lumbering, content to flank me.  He threw the first punch and I could tell it hurt him just to raise his arm.  I sidestepped easily and uppercut his ribcage with all my strength and anger.  He dropped like a gym bag full of dumbbells.  He was on his knees.  I turned to look at the crowd—a decent sized gathering for this location.  I looked back and Hunnington whipped me with a right hook across my temple that made me see a flash of Billy's baseball mitt, the day it got taken.  I thought briefly of the man with the shaggy hair and the glasses, the man who had backhanded me in just the same way, with outrage.  My head hit the floor.


            For Billy, his defining moment came later that day.  When he came home and explained what had happened to his baseball glove, his mother didn't believe him.  Where are your bruises, she said.  A grown man attacked you and you don't have a scratch?  And why would a man steal a child's mitt in the first place?  She thought Billy lost the glove, or gave it away—didn't trust him anymore.  She thought I had something to do with it.  All those curse words, Billy said later.  He was grounded for two weeks, and I wasn't even questioned about it.  All she had to do was ask me what happened, but I guess she figured, what was the point?  I was the root of the problem anyway.  Billy lost some kind of faith after that. There was a degree of trust, of blind trust that all children have, that was gone, replaced with something else.

            I tried to talk to his mother once.  About a month later, when I knew I was in the process of being filtered out of their lives.  It was a Saturday, and she came to pick him up at Crescent Park, where all the kids played football.  She parked her dark luxury sedan by the curb and waited.  I approached first, knocked on the car door carefully. I knew the difference between this and my father's dented station wagon. The window rolled down. There was soft jazz playing inside.

            “Yes?” she said, in the same way my father addressed door to door salesmen.

            “It’s me, Mrs. Jenkins.  I…just wanted you to know I was there when the mitt got stolen.”

            “That’s old news now.  Billy’s already been grounded.”

            “But I was there when it happened.  I was there when the man—”

            “Just like you were there when the principal’s car was all scratched up?  Just like you were there when that little boy broke his arm?”

            “I got spit on,” I said, finally.

            Mrs. Jenkins was silent.  She shook her head, ever so slightly, and her earrings seemed to dance and leer. For the first time in my life I wanted to be somebody else.

            “It’s true, Mrs. Jenkins.”

            “What’s true is that grown men don’t steal little boy’s baseball gloves.  It wouldn’t even have fit him.”

            “Maybe he was stealing it for his kid.  Maybe he was poor.”

            “Enough.  For once, enough.  My son isn’t like you, and I don’t want your lies or your curse words around him anymore.  Do you understand?”

            She rolled her window up and soon I was looking at a stretched out reflection of myself, and beyond that, far in the background, the hanging trees and kids playing football.

              It seemed fine to me that afternoon.  I had other friends.  I was tough, I could deal with it.  But maybe it didn’t go as easy as I thought.  Nobody cared that I got hit and knocked down and spit on, nobody could even tell me why, and someone out there had a new baseball mitt without paying for it.  Pretty soon after I was beating up all the kids I didn't like—giving them their own childhood defining moments, handing them out like a Jehovah’s Witness passes out flyers.  So maybe it was that.  Maybe for me it was October in the park, with Mrs. Jenkins looking at me, shaking her head, telling me how it was.


            I used the ropes, pulled my body like I was hauling a chest from the depths of the ocean.  I saw two and a half Hunnington's, and to my surprise they were all still on one knee, eyeing me warily.  My vision stayed blurry.  I slipped a bit, gripped the rope tighter and held myself up.  Hunnington finally rose to both feet, his left arm down by his ribs, protecting.  Briefly, I noticed the noise from the drunks in the crowd.  They'd come with faint hopes of a good fight, and were getting a bloodbath.  It didn't matter who won now.

            I'd been beating on people my whole life.  Always I was the bigger one, and this was the case here, but Hunnington was trouble.  He didn't seem to care that his sternum was floating with broken bone shards. He must have had his own moment of understanding at an early age—he knew things, he'd had realizations, and he was as pissed off as me about them. 

            I came at him straight away.  There were still two and a half of him, but I could see the center, the nexus.  He was covering his ribs.  I swung at him and missed; the crowd roared in response. Hunnington jabbed at me with his one good arm and connected, but the jab wasn't his strong suit.  He struck out again and I backed off, stumbling but not hurt.  I came at him with a combination, he tried to counter, and suddenly we were both on the ropes.  I went for body shots but he was covering his ribs with everything he had.  Two quick jabs in the mouth and I had to back off again, my lip gushing blood.  He was cornered, an injured animal, still dangerous.

            I came right back, blocked a couple crosses, and went straight for the ribs.  This time, as he went to block, I threw a left hook that snapped his head back and forth like a bobble head.  A double jab and a right cross and Hunnington was down again, flat on his back.  I backed off and once more, he rose to one knee.  The bell rang.

            Schonwetter in my ear, shouting at me, white noise coming from all directions.  Two and a half Hunnington's sitting on the other side of the ring, heads bobbing.  Water hitting my lips and bouncing off. 

            A new round.  As I stood up, facing Hunnington, my ears started ringing, started humming, and like a switch everything went black. I am told the crowd adored that ending, because after I fell on my face, Hunnington fell backwards into his chair and snapped it.


            I saw Billy once when we were adults, about a year before the fight that ended my boxing career.  It was November and I had on my leather flight jacket with all the Air Force badges stitched to the sides.  I saw Billy as he was entering a gray financial building in one of the more decent areas of the downtown.  I practically bumped into him, knocking a coffee out of his hands.

            “Jesus, pal,” he said, grimacing.

            “Billy,” I said.  “No way. How’s it going, buddy?”

            He stared at me.  He was wearing a dark pea coat and brown slacks and seemed to have trouble focusing.

            I nodded at him.  “It’s me.  Former best friends, right?”

            Billy smiled, finally.  “I didn’t recognize you.”

            “It’s been years.”

            “It has.”  He shifted his coffee and shook my hand, his forearm gleaming with the weight of a heavy wristwatch. “What’s new?”

            “Not much.  Boxing.”

            “You’re a boxer.  Wow.  In town?”

            “The outskirts.  You know the places.  Shannahan’s.  Iron Pete’s.”

            Billy nodded, frowning slightly.  “That’s great. Sounds like you're doing your thing.”

            “And you?”

            “Accounting.” His eyes were on my jeans, which I remembered were frayed along the knee line and stained with powdery dirt.

            “Managing money, eh?” I nudged him.

            “It's nothing special. Pays the bills.”

            “And the fancy coats, looks like.”

            Billy smiled again, but his eyes trailed to the door of his building.

            “You got to go,” I said.

            Billy shrugged.  “Duty calls.  It was good seeing you.”

            “Listen.  You want to meet up some time?  Grab lunch?  Watch a Giant's game? It’s been awhile.”

            “I’d have to check my schedule.  This week's filled. Let me get back to you on that.”

            “But you don’t know how to contact me,” I said.

            Billy looked pained.

            “Let’s just set a date, man.  Come on.  Like old times.”

            When he started to walk backwards I realized how stupid I looked.  I’d gotten the same feeling back when I talked to his mother by the car.

            “Billy,” I said.  “I’m not a stranger, man.  It’s not like that.”

            He shook his head.  “I don’t have anything. I really don't.”


            “I don't have any money, okay?  I don’t have anything I can give you.”



Erik Fassnacht has studied in Ireland, taught high school English, and collected over one hundred vintage Chicago Bulls games on DVD.  He lives in Chicago, Illinois while working on his M.F.A. for Columbia College.  This is his first published story.




by Melissa Studdard


It was the morning after, or the morning before. Who knows which? Besides, once you’ve been through the wash, it doesn’t matter much anyway – there’s only one result, and that’s change. Not the kind you find in the bottom of your dryer when the cycle is done, either.

There were impetuses. Barely clothed women who wore their hair loose and their morals looser. There were deals. Men trading bad for bad. Yachts and parties, drugs and hidden agendas, indulgences with food.  There were long nights that ended with confused feelings and injured hearts.

And Stanley, what an ass. Always mistaking sleaze for glamour. Living the good life, or so he thought.

Rewind.  9:00 p.m. sharp the night before – that smoky night, that moonlit night, that night that clung to the treetops like a wounded bird. Jenna in her cutoff shorts. Jenna with her short, short red hair, always trying to look like a boy.

Stanley screwed Jenna that night. Over. But what’s to be said? They were restless times, and he was a restless man. Wearing his Hawaiian shirts at night, untucked, his beachcombing sandals, wearing his smile broader than a wide brimmed hat.

Jenna’s Stanley.

Some say cupid was drunk when he made the introduction, or stoned. But that was years before. Thirteen to be exact. You couldn’t even call it a sense of humor cupid had. More like a misfire or the launching of a hefty debt you can never pay off.

It went like this (back to the night before). Jenna beside the pool table, or beside the wall. Depends on your angle. She leaned over, her perfect little rump backed into, but not fully on, a stool. Her back was tan and toned, and you could see the small beads of sweat on either side of her spine, like little drops of salt you might lick off before tequila. Her legs were crossed and looked long as the two banks of the Mississippi.

She looked at Stanley, gave the thumbs up. Her eyes were green saucers. Caucasian round. Innocent as the day she was born. Her legs were freckled. Her nose was freckled. Her arms were downed in light blonde hair. She was Stanley’s Jenna. An accidental  muse, a lucky charm.

Stanley though. In him there was no innocence. A gorgeous smile, yes. Pecs to make girls squirm, yes. Innocence, no. Loud and drunk, he was, showing off for the crowd that formed to watch his impeccable game of pool. You could hear his gloating and trash talk from the next cabana over. Hell, two cabanas if you had an ear for it.

Motherfucker this. Shitbag that.

There in paradise Stanley littered the air with his obscenities. Tossed them out like coins into a fountain, with less thought than you would give a penny you accidentally dropped on the street.

He was a lawyer, you see.

Criminal law. Drove a beamer. Dated clients behind Jenna’s back. What had happened to the sweet boy she’d fallen in love with, she couldn’t say. The change had been so gradual she hadn’t even noticed. Well, not up to that point, anyway.

But 9:00 p.m., July 27th, Jenna noticed. She noticed that she was embarrassed, not proud, to be with her husband. She noticed that she would rather have been in her suite reading than out drinking with Stanley, that she wished she’d taken the trip with friends instead of her husband.  She noticed that Stanley hadn’t shaven since they’d arrived the week before, that he looked more like the criminals he represented than the lawyer who would defend them in court. And she noticed, most of all, the way Stanley eyed a blonde haired beauty at the bar and the way the blonde’s large, male companion eyed Stanley back. With no exchange of words, a challenge was made, primal, gritty, man-to-man, or so Jenna thought. 

Those rose colored glasses cupid had slipped Jenna the night she met Stanley now lay cracked in a ditch. The truth reeled through her brain, a swarm of images like flies so thick she could never swat them away.

9:34 and the volume increased. There were shots. Now the tequila kind, not the pool kind. Fade to blur. Fire dancers spun and ate fire in the distance, shook their loins, one of those beach shows for tourists. The feast was laid out, a buffet. Lobster, steak, scallops, fried plantains. More shots.

They picked two chairs by the pig pit. Beach chairs for eating right on the beach. Tropical style. You had to hold your plate on your lap for this feast.

Jenna noticed the blonde heading up the wooden steps towards the bathroom. The blonde dipped her feet into the bucket, washed away the sand before stepping onto the resort. Stanley excused himself. Gotta take a whiz. Jenna saw the blonde look back over her shoulder, slow down. Such a coy look. Stanley sped up.

To a casual observer, he accidentally ran into her and apologized. At least that’s what the rose-colored glasses would have once reported. Now what Jenna saw was Stanley making contact, flirting, feeling out whether or not the blonde had intended for him to follow.

                The blonde slipped into the women’s restroom. Stanley followed. Didn’t even look back to see if Jenna was watching, or the woman’s enormous date. Just followed his pecker blindly to disaster.

                Most likely in an earlier time Jenna would have believed the lies Stanley told when he came back a half hour later. Indigestion. Something not sitting right. Too many shots. Instead, she walked along the beach, her feet in the surf, nursing a mojito and grinding the mint leaves between the back of her upper teeth and the front of her lower teeth. The mint juices burned an ulcer she had in her mouth, and the burn felt good, brought a deeper pain to the surface. And she cried hard, harder than you would from feeling a sting on your ulcer.

                9: 52. The strange hand came from behind, rested on her shoulder. The blonde’s man. You saw it too. Was it a question or a statement? The man’s teeth glowed in the moonlight. The whites of his eyes. The perfectly buffed fingernails that remained on her shoulder. Yes, she saw it too.

                What happened to your hand? she asked.

                Iguana bite.

                He didn’t elaborate, but through her mind flashed the image of an Iguana she had fed the day before. A strawberry. She thought of the Iguana’s bright coral colored lips, his serrated teeth, the spikes on his head. Lucky he hadn’t bitten. Never hand-feed an Iguana, she thought. She filed it away. Toss the fruit to the ground. Let them eat it there.

                What about you and me? the man asked.

                What about us?

                We just gonna sit here and take it, or we gonna get it on?

                Two maxims entered her mind simultaneously: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and don’t stoop to their level.

                She opened her mouth to make language, but she made noise instead. A primitive cry, the cry of the cucquean. She turned on her heel and began to walk quickly towards her room. It was almost a run. The man called after her.

You bitch. Why are you doing this to me?

                Between two huge leaves of a palm tree Jenna noticed the little spot of moon. Would have made a good picture, she thought. She walked past the buffet, up the wooden steps, past the concierge. She hadn’t bothered to wash her feet. She walked into the hallway that led to her room, across the carpet that smelled dank like mold after a rain, or dirty diapers. She ran her keycard, heard the click.

                Stanley’s voice wafted up from the beach, sounding loud and distant at the same time. She opened the balcony door.

                You can’t own another human being. Your people should understand this.

                Such a lawyer. Jenna wondered who else could hear. He’d either get decked or the guy would buy him a drink. From what she could hear, it was still fifty-fifty.

                10:05. She heard words like pendulum, swinger, and club.

                I thought you said this was the way to make her swap, the man shouted.

                She remembered times when Stanley had pointed out other men and asked if she thought they were attractive. She’d thought he was jealous. It just goes to show that perception can be limited by what’s possible in our own minds.

                Yes, it’s clear now. It was the morning after. The day Stanley became his own client. Who knew a hit could land so hard?

No one remembers much of what happened next. The blonde advising Stanley to call the police. Asking Stanley how he could have possibly not known his strength.

                No ambulance ever came.

At 7:00 o’clock a hearse took the body.

At 8:45 Stanley was escorted from the resort in handcuffs.

                That is all.

                Like the end of a movie without a sequel.

                Like static on a screen.




Melissa Studdard is a contributing editor for Tiferet and The Criterion and a reviewer-at-large for The National Poetry Review. She hosts Tiferet Talk, the journal’s blogtalk radio program. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Boulevard, CT Review, Gradiva, Dash, and Chelsea. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and teaches English and creative writing for Lone Star College-Tomball.


A Wheel In a Wheel

by Kristina Moriconi


She lived in the midst of perpetual construction. Drywall dust. Half-painted walls. Unhinged doors. The skeleton of a three-room addition sitting unfinished atop her roof. With five children, she longed for the added space, but the matrix of two-by-fours housed only wasps, their mud-hardened nests caked in any crevice where daylight crept in. She heard the buzz of them swarming in the few quiet moments in between the chaos, the hours she spent trying to take hold of something that did not move.

The youngest two children clung to her as if someone might snatch them away. The others hardly paid her any mind, orbiting around her like interplanetary dust.

Often, she wondered how this had become her life, why anything resembling happiness had for too long been one step beyond her reach. She settled. She scraped by. She clipped coupons and scoured second-hand stores for well-worn treasures. And with the income she made from her job making doll clothes, she bought dented canned goods and day-old bread to feed the holding pattern of fledglings lining up beside her, their orbed mouths always wanting more.

In the hours of darkness while the children slept, she picked up a small needle, threaded it beneath a magnifying glass and weaved the tiniest stitches in and out of scraps of fabric she’d saved for years, having made clothes for her babies during the nine months of nesting before each birth. With little faux jewels stitched here and there, her miniature doll fashions became high demand wares. She sold most of what she made to an online doll store. She knew they marked up her clothes by at least fifty percent, but she was happy to have the steady work.

Her husband brought home no money. He left early each morning, but she did not know where he went. Every day, she wondered. One morning, she decided to pack the youngest two children into the minivan and follow his truck. She kept her distance, following him into the parking lot of a diner in a neighboring town, careful not to let him see her. Through the window, she watched as he slid into a booth by himself.

Almost instantly, a round-faced waitress brought a pot of coffee to his table. They exchanged words as she poured, then she disappeared. He wrapped his hands around the mug of coffee and lifted it to his face. Up. Down. Up. Down. The waitress returned with a large plate. She set it in front of him then filled his mug again. He began slicing through the food heaped on the plate.

From the minivan, she watched as he forked the food into his mouth, wiping a napkin across his face with unabashed pleasure. She thought about how she had skipped breakfast again that morning, how she’d given the children one Pop-Tart each, refusing their pleas for another, how she had rationed the food in their brown bag lunches. Two cookies instead of three.

She watched as he drank several more cups of coffee before slapping money on the table and standing to leave. Anger rose up inside her like a white flash of heat, red blotches spreading across her chest.

After staying a few cars behind him for several blocks, she decided to turn toward Walmart instead of following him any further. It was Wednesday, the day she usually shopped for the things they needed in the house.

Snaking through the aisles of the store, she picked things up then put them back then picked them up again. Each time she held something in her hand, she systematically catalogued its significance. Soap. Shampoo. Napkins. Cereal. She knew need must always outweigh want. Tissues. Trash bags. Cough syrup. She envied so many of the women she passed, their hands free of coupons, their shopping carts overloaded with toys and soda and cookies, frivolous items she longed to buy for her own kids; the youngest two who accompanied her each week had learned not to ask anymore.

After putting over a hundred dollar’s worth of necessities on her credit card, she thought once again of her husband and the breakfast he’d shoveled into his mouth. Her stomach growled. She pushed her cart out the automatic door, holding one arm across the precariously piled bags as she maneuvered the cart down a ramp. Her two children clung to either side of her coat.

A man in a blue smock approached her. “Let me help you,” he said.

She read his Walmart nametag: Ezekiel. It made her think of a folksong she’d learned in fourth grade. She recalled the lines from the song, something about Ezekiel seeing a wheel in a wheel way up in the middle of the air. The words and the melody replayed in her head.

The man took control of the cart, nudging her out of the way. She pointed him toward her minivan. Her children had nearly climbed beneath her coat, its slippery fabric clenched inside their fists.

She unlocked the doors to the van and Ezekiel lifted the bags into the back, setting them on top of the soccer gear and collapsed stroller. She thanked him, hurrying to situate the kids in their seats.

“Karma,” he said, walking away with her empty cart.

As she lowered the back door of the van, she heard him speak again, though he never turned to address her directly. “You are the architect of your own fate,” he said.


The next day, she followed her husband again, returning to the diner to watch him eat breakfast in the same booth. She tugged hard on the tight spirals of her hair, watching curiously as though the entire scene was something she was seeing for the first time on a movie screen.

This time when he left, she continued following him. When he turned into a parking lot, she slowed down and pulled up alongside the curb just outside the entrance. It was the small gravel lot beside the soccer field where their sons played on weekends. Empty during the week, he parked there and reclined the seat of his truck to sleep.

As she sat in her van, the motor still running, she tried to reconcile that this was what her husband did; with a family of seven to support, he spent the day sleeping in his truck. Her chest tightened. And, for some reason, she thought again about Ezekiel. The words of the folksong returned to her: the wheel in a wheel. She said it aloud, wondering what it meant, imagining the blur of spokes rotating, the dizzying movement. She thought of pinwheels, whirligigs, and windmills. Tops, ceiling fans, and tornadoes. She thought of the white-robed whirling dervishes she’d seen once on public television.

Driving home, the silver hubcaps of the other cars seemed to spin in reverse while the black rubber around them rolled forward. The wheel in a wheel, she said again and again. Overhead, the clouds rushed by her.

She unlocked the front door of the house and went inside. Sinking into the chair closest to the door, she clutched the threadbare arms and held on as if the house were about to take flight. For hours, she did not release her grip. The older children came home from school. They told her to count to ten as they all scattered to hide. Briefly, in their absence, she listened to the drone of wasps above her. She forgot to seek her children, and they came one by one, joining hands to spin around her. Ring around the rosy. A pocketful of posies. Ashes. Ashes.

At five o’clock, her husband returned home. “Where’s dinner?” he asked. “I really worked up an appetite out there today.” He patted his stomach.

She pushed against the arms of the chair to stand, unsteady at first. Then each step became more solid, the unfinished floor a force propelling her. He followed her into the kitchen. She peeled the silver wrapper from a blueberry Pop-Tart and thrust it into his hand, the cake crumbling to the ground, the thick blue filling sticking to his palm.

At once, the tilting and the twirling and the buzzing and the spinning stopped. And in the stillness of the house, beside the half-painted walls and dust-covered countertops, something quiet and substantial took shape. Right there, within her reach.



Kristina Moriconi is currently enrolled in the Rainier Writing Workshop low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Her fiction has appeared in Big Ugly Review, Flash Me Magazine, and Opium.

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