Ben Pearce is sitting across from his mom in the diner they’ve been going to once or twice a month for like, twenty some odd years. They’ve got these dull-colored paper placemats in front of them, on top of which sit two off-white ceramic cups of coffee. Some of the lightbulbs above them probably should have been replaced awhile ago, too, because everything’s drenched in lighting so dim it feels sketchy.
Posts Categorized: Fiction
I have a memory of us together in the teacup ride at the state fair a block away from my house, where the cups were advertising Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It was freshman year of high school. We grabbed the wheel in the middle and spun, and our macaroni bowl turned and turned, and without a real warning it got fast, fast so that we slid around in our seats and our laughter twisted in the air and our fingers tied knots on the wheel. We slapped each other’s wrists and bumped our knees and pulled our heads—I couldn’t tell whose hair blew in my face or whose hand waved in front of me; it all flatlined, just a mess of limbs and screams. We melted, dripped onto the floor, mixed together, came up and leaked out the sides. There wasn’t a me and a you. It was just us, swirling in the macaroni bowl.
I met you bloody, a year before. You sat in the road, making a noise somewhere between a moan and a scream. What I don’t think I ever told you is that I saw you doing it before you fell. Seated at the window, drinking milk, I watched you glide down the street, standing on the seat of your bike, glinting light into my eyes when you leaned into a turn, smiling—you were smiling—and finally slipping, crashing so the bike toppled and tossed you onto the blacktop.
I found out later you were a talented gymnast, but when I called the ambulance I didn’t know your name. I dragged you and your bike out of the road and I remember the soft whimpers you gave as your ankle bounced along, the achy complaints of heat and pain, of being unable to tell where one stopped and the other began. The ambulance arrived and I hopped in. No one tried to kick me out, so I rode with you to the hospital.
Small enough to pull up in a plastic milk crate by a rope slung across a tree limb, I don’t think you wore those blue-footed pajamas anymore. You insisted on taking the first turn in our makeshift elevator, because I was a girl and the first born, unfair in your baby chauvinist eyes. An old rope and a very tall pecan tree, so my reasoning to test my weight on it seemed appropriate; I was heavier. But I wanted to make you happy.
I can still see your face peeking down at me, as I hoisted you higher and higher into the air, watching me, not smiling but serious, afraid but determined that yours would be the first glory. Read more…
The Blue Light Books partnership between Indiana Review and Indiana University Press has yielded two beautiful books thus far–Andrea Lewis’ What My Last Man Did and Jennifer Givhan’s Girl with Death Mask–and we’re currently deciding which of your short story collections will make our third. Because of the interest in that prize, we’ve expanded the partnership to include a reading period, exclusively for fiction manuscripts. To honor the memory of Don Belton, we named the reading period after him and would like to share with you his story, “The Pentecostal Bridegroom,” first published in Indiana Review 12.1.
Learn more about the Don Belton Fiction Reading Period here. Submissions open April 15, 2018.
The apples taunt her. She can hear them falling to the ground, thud after thud, footsteps moving closer. By now, she should have hired men. She should be putting in ten-hour days, picking the branches clean, sweeping the ground for cider. Instead Grace watches the trees knit together from neglect, snarling like uncombed hair.
“Open the orchard to pickers,” advises Ruth. Her silvery hair is wound into a tight knot on her head that makes her look efficient and smart, like she is storing it up there for the winter. “People are crazy for apples this time of year.”
“I could use the money.” Any money, Grace thinks.
“Paint some signs and see who shows up. You’ll be surprised.” Of course, Ruth is biased. Like everyone else in Rutland, Ruth is in on the apple picking, lending a hand at the Rudnick farm over by the lake.