Pen Howell

Pen hasn’t much money. That was part of the decision to stay out here, after Tree died. Only part. Pen was thinking of his girlfriend, Estelle, a lot. Estelle isn’t good with people. The kids, Marcie and Davenport, baby girl and miracle boy, are homeschooling, some with Estelle, mainly with …

Malachi

Mom’s waiting for me, Lucas thinks, better hurry! He thunders down the back stairs and into the wild back yard, clutching a tattered and faded green book. She is waiting for him, and he throws himself into her lap, making her grunt. Oops, got her with an elbow! When he …

Listen To My Rhythm

“Oye como va, mi ritmo…” Grace sings softly, her contralto counterpoint to a sudden glissando of harp from a distant room. The ancient mp3 player is propped against the kitchen window, a set of tiny, tinny speakers perched atop the scratched and beaten machine. Normally, she’d rather listen to the …

Birdsong

Grace kneels next to her distraught child. “Well, why don’t you set the table? Dinner should be ready in a little bit.” The silverware door sticks a little as she pulls it open and grabs five sets of utensils. Why not be optimistic? she thinks, and grabs another set for …

Croix de Guerre

“You bark those orders good, Lieutenant,” says the little voice, sounding amused. Drin feels a bodiless force push him backwards about three feet. Behind him, someone sucks in a breath. “Don’t,” he says softly. “Don’t.” The little girl smiles. She is missing teeth. Her eyes, chestnut brown, pan past him. …

badagris

The little girl shifts her stance–Drin still can’t see her feet, can’t look at her feet–and then she smiles at him, a tired, companionable, frighteningly adult smile. “Let’s take a look at your scrubs, son,” she says. “Inspection time.” There’s a strangled sound behind him, and Drin turns to see …

born careful

“They caught up with you,” Drin says woodenly. The little girl tosses tangled hair out of her eyes, a gesture Drin does not recognize, a gesture that feels like it must be habit for her, the girl herself. Dance’s word rings in his ears: mudang. Emma, he thinks, might know …