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Two Stories by Randall Brown


WELL
     
For six months now, her legs ache, a persistent fog, a fever that never rises above 100.2. My daughter calls her the ghost; my son, just “Sick.” She tries to find the trail back to before, but there’s no answer there. I want to tell her that she must believe she will come back to us, as if that’s all it will take.
     There’s no bounce in this house. We glide on socks. My daughter whispers that we cannot wake the undead. Days before she fell ill, my son had been promised a trip to New York, and he talks of his rotten luck. I tell him he needs E.T. to descend upon him and teach him empathy. His sister says it will take more than that, and these fights that once ended with slaps and slammed doors, now fizzle out into whispered hisses.
     Groceries, dishes, laundry, a helmet for horseback riding camp, a tennis racquet to be strung, dogs to feed and walk, rooms to unclutter.
     I bring her matzo ball soup and crackers. My wife once told my daughter that the matzo roamed Israeli deserts, a giant and fierce predator. She told my son, at age three, that he ran on batteries. How they screamed.
     She sips the broth. I am on the edge of the bed, watching the goslings. Some nights, there’s the unending shriek of the babies’ cries. Foxes live in the abandoned well near the pond.
     It isn’t about you, I tell myself again.
     

///

     
WE’LL BE DOING THIS FOREVER
     
Kipper still whirls around our wooded development, unwilling to be called back inside. My wife’s flight home cancelled, she’s instead driving here as if this were her safe-home. But my losing Kipper has the feeling of a last straw. The hurricane has stalled off-shore. Kipper circles around the pond, passes me, eludes my dives. I’ve thrown food, dog toys, my wife’s nightgown. The weather turns, the wind bending trees into dark forms reaching for Kipper. Nothing slows him. Everything in the world has been thrown at him, so instead I try a nothingness, feign a heart attack, fall on the wet ground, and he jumps on my chest, licks my face. I hold him there. He smells, of all things, like lavender soap, a baby smell I don’t want to lose. My wife finds us there, her frantic, pulling us up and inside. Overnight, by flashlight, together we search Kipper’s skin, find tiny tick after tick, dozens, hundreds, tick, tick, tick.
     
–––––––
Randall Brown is on the faculty of Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print, and blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.