Three Weeks After the Seizure

1.
The wife could think again, only in shorter sentences. Not that there was much to say. She’d made it past the episode, and her husband was grateful. She knew the words on the tip of his lips before he did. For a while, just after, it was silence all the time. He would glance at her or she at him; no words necessary. A blink, a nod. A kind of shorthand, she thought. Or treason, she heard him think. No one spoke. No one listened. Their new normal.

2.
“You watch too much Forensic Files,” he told his wife. “The Killer You Know.” “Murderous Neighbors.” Yada yada yada. Suspicion invaded her thinking. And she, suffering from cabin fever, her fragile mind so easily swayed. He woke at midnight to see her at their bedroom window, watching their neighbor’s Toyota Hatchback pull into his driveway. The neighbor let it idle for a good ten minutes before he turned off the engine, cut the lights. But still, he sat there, watching the neighbor’s wife’s shadow against the white blind. “I don’t blame him,” the husband thought. He, too, liked the way she moved.

3.
“I’ve always wondered how it will end for me,” the wife admitted. Now she thought she knew. He would fight for her, while she would slide into death as she had into most things. She’d learned the futility of effort-ing. She dreamt of heaven, reunited with dead beloveds—her son, her best friend. Generations of family. How stupid! she thought. Living with an atheist for twenty years had dissuaded her belief in an afterlife. She’d tried, but her son’s death at twenty-six knocked all the God right out of her.

4.
Now when the husband and wife made love they kept their eyes wide, focused on each other. “If I knew it was the last time,” her son’s lover had shared. “I would have paid more attention.” Haunted by her words, the wife paid attention. Made each time feel as if it were the last. The weight of his body, the soap scent of his skin. His hard cock a pleasure between her thighs. How well she slept after orgasm, the husband thought. La petit mort. The little death. “I want to die first,” the wife often said to him. Now it looked like she wo

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The Honorable Ophelia Ferguson Winkle

Black ice surrounded Ophelia’s Volvo SUV. Six inches of fresh snow had fallen within 24 hours on top of the 10 inches laid down two days before that; not unusual for the middle of February. She faltered as she stepped from the driver’s seat out into the darkness. The crunch of her boots on the frozen snow sounded loud in the quiet night. The wind was up and she had to reach down to the slippery ice to snatch up her wool scarf. Her courthouse badge had also fallen to the ground. She reached inside the vehicle to grab a flashlight from the seat pocket, slammed the door shut, and pointed the beam of light on the parking lot.

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Cougar

That night, Mad Martha slept fitfully as the wind began to blow down canyon. She listened to the yapping coyotes get closer, knowing they were telling her something. Mad felt the cougar, and even smelled it before the distinctive chirping and rough purr could be heard. At first she was afraid and pulled her covers around her. Then she slipped out of bed and pulled aside the curtain.

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Trap

Gregory looks not-too-closely at the babysitter in her tight jeans with her tiny teeth and tries to remember his age. When did kids get so brash with their elders? He would never have asked his friends’ parents how old they were.

“Forty-three or forty-two,” he answers. “I forget which.”

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Twilight Loons

You and your wife are driving across Canada, along a lake you don’t know the name of with the windows down just as the sky is twilighting in the warm early autumn when you hear a bird crying. Your wife says “Pull over,” and you do. From here, you can see the wind setting up a rippling across the water, and you start to speak, but she places a palm on your chest and says, “Wait, I’ve heard this before.”

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VP

There was a stretcher waiting for me, the freakin’ brake already disengaged, I’m sure. The OB hovered over me, practically breathing up my vulva, sharpening his cesarean scalpel. The baby’s blood pressure was falling. No longer Mrs. Nice-Guy, the midwife blocked him with her hippy little body, yelling, “Push!” in my face. I looked at my husband. He was texting. The spirit to push swirled out of my body like the soul of a heaven-bound cartoon character.

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Not a Sin

He turned his back to her, not in a mean way, but a natural one, because the machine beeped and he loved his coffee fresh-brewed. He loved his wife, too, but on days when she woke up cranky, and he reckoned she wanted to take it out on him—whatever it was—he put into use what he’d learned over the many years: it often pays to be a little deaf.

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The Shells on the Moon

The latest real astronauts found a collection of sea shells on the moon’s surface. They didn’t have to dig far. It was near the place where the first lunar landing was and they were gathered in a way that signaled a greeting or a gift and the astronauts wondered if the first astronauts had somehow missed this collection or if the shells had found their way to this place after that momentous visit all those years ago.

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