Katie walked hand-in-hand with her grandfather along the forest path. Dappled light filtered through the trees. She liked the roughness of his hand in hers and the way his eyes always seemed to smile, even when it didn’t show on his face. Whenever she stumbled over a stone or a root or her own feet, […]
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“The nurse says I can stay long enough for a story,” I say, gripping the edge of the chair next to your bed. The air-conditioning-too cold in these places, it’s ridiculous—keeps blowing a loose strand of hair into your eyelashes. You blink and lift a small hand, so slowly, I can’t believe how slowly, but I grab your fingers and smile. “I’ll take care of it, you just relax.” As I tuck the wayward curl beneath the elastic band holding the mask to your face-too tight, I think, but the nurses swear it’s on right-I can feel your fever creep into my fingertips, feel the sweat beading there. And I can see by your expression that my face changed in that moment, that you glimpsed the deep whirl of rage and fear and sadness I hide from you. All I can do is smile again and tell the story and hope you’re too young to have learned how to worry as much as your parents. I find no comfort in that thought.
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“She’s not in,” I say. “She probably forgot all about it, I told you she’s flaky like that. Come on, let’s go. We can get something to eat on the way home. Pizza would be nice.”
Alan looks at my hand, which is gripping his elbow, and then at his finger, which is still on the doorbell. “It’s usually traditional to wait until the bell stops ringing before you decide nobody’s going to answer it.” […]
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If and I were kicking back in the garage loft, what a lot of people would call a “man cave.” My wife, Dee, used to call it my tree house, ’cause you gotta climb a ladder to get to it. Maybe she still calls it that. I don’t know. […]
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Jack put resin to bow, an absence in his eyes.
The violin’s neck was warm beneath his callused fingers. He had placed it upon the radiator to push back the midwinter frost, the musician within him fighting to preserve his instrument even as all else lay in ruins. Jack maintained it as he did his own body, by force of habit rather than any true effort of will, and in the past few days even the regular grind of sustenance and sleep had fallen away in the pursuit of his goal. […]
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