To 2016-2017


  1. Untitled
    By Allison Rothrock

“Lights off, please.”

“But Dad --”

“I said lights off!”

With a half-stifled huff, she left him and made her way to the lamp.

He tipped his whiskey to his lips and studied her through the warped gold. With the back of one rawboned hand, he wiped the residue from his rambling mustache, and the room blackened.

She returned and took her place on the cracked leather chair just to his front. Her two fingers tapped like raven’s lips.

“Every time.”

He was silent and just watched her through the veiling darkness, eyes fixed like still glass marbles.

In turn, she, too, was wordless, but tightened her lips and tipped back into the thick, ancient furs of her mother’s coat. The brindle was dark, almost new, in the dense shadow.

As his eyes adjusted and the room paled, his transfixion eased.

She seemed to sense the fading moment and took the opportunity to distance herself, approaching the bookcase. Thin sunbleached sea shells and tiny white-old snail shells glowed like vague embers on the shelves. A few scattered, sounding hollowly, as she selected an old scrapbook from the dust and yew and tugged it free of its resting place.

“This used to be Mom’s, didn’t it?”

“You look just like her, you know.”

He smiled, yellow and wistful.

“Just like her.”

She exhaled deeply and rested the book back on the shelf.

“When are you going to start getting rid of this stuff?”

He fingered his whiskey glass for a moment, but then he lost interest and furrowed his brow in hard remembrance. Twice he tapped the glass’s pale infinite rim.

His lips parted slightly, and he drew back air through his teeth as though beginning a word; then his mouth closed up again like a crypt.

One of the shells hit the floor as she pulled an old Bible from the shelf. It was the same frayed color as his beard, and the pages cracked like cicada husks as she flitted through them.

“Why do you even need this stuff? It’s in Latin, Dad, you can’t even read it.”

She pinched the bridge of her nose and gave her head the slightest shake.

“If you would just let me turn on a goddamn light.”

His furrowed brow finally came undone as he caught sight of his wedding ring. It was embedded with his middle finger, the others too shrunken to hold it.

He reached for his neck and procured a thin, silvery chain from his beard. It was strung with the ring’s hollow twin, just barely shining, like a waned moon. He gestured to it.

“This one -- this one -- should be yours.”

He twiddled it a bit, and tiny slivers of shine wrapped around and around its fine rim. It held his gaze like a steeltrap parasite.

She was not looking at him. Her fingernails clacked on the bookshelf, and she sighed softly.

“I need to go, Dad.”

He was still watching the ring, following its curve indefinitely.

She picked her way through the loose, shadowy clutter to the door. For a moment her fingers churned emptily in the direction of the light switch. Then she retracted them and stepped out into the dusky hall, half-closing the door behind her.

“Your mother, she -- she’s dead.”

She paused and pulled back, as if to open the door again, but stopped. She wore the wood against her cheek like a veil.

“I know.”

She left the door just slightly ajar and strode down the hallway, her footsteps slowly becoming vague and pale as ghosts. And then there was nothing but the dark.