Flash: Joseph Koehl


La Vita Nuova

We were really going this time. Dan’s F-350 was packed with U-Haul boxes of clothes, plates, taken-apart Wal-Mart furniture, a stereo with only the left speaker, with my dead gecko’s Rubbermaid.

Dan came up with the flat-screen. He put it in the back and climbed inside.

“I can’t leave Hog Hammer,” he said.

“Yes you can.”

“I can’t.”

“There’s not room.”

He opened the door with a loud creak and slammed it shut.

I sat there. After a while I imagined the chinaberry trees I couldn’t see, how they climbed the low hills and stopped, how beyond them was the bland gray lake, the empty farm roads. Then I pictured what San Antonio was going to be like. They have the River Walk and there’s Joe’s Crab Shack and Fuddrucker’s. There’re people and noises everywhere.

I thought of the girls at the store. It’s all right, I guess, not telling them. They knew. They said, “You’re always looking past everything.”
I lowered the mirror and checked my lipstick. There was just a faint darkness now. It had been like walking through fire. Standing at the self-checkout with my eye like that. You talk about humiliation.

Before long I saw Dan coming up the hill; I saw the groping beam of his flashlight.

“Where’s Hog Hammer gonna sit?” I said.

He held the dog close to him. “He’ll fit in my lap.”

“Dan, he’s too big.”

“He’ll fit in my lap.”

“Goddamn it.”

“Shut up.”


“Shut up.”

Then we heard someone coming through the dark. Dan flashed his light. It was Mom. She was wearing her housedress and she didn’t have shoes on.

“Don’t leave,” Mom said. “Don’t leave.”

“Miss Elsham–” Dan said.

“Don’t leave,” Mom said.

“Miss Elsham–” Dan said.

“Tell him not to talk to me,” Mom said.

“Don’t talk to her,” I said.

“Don’t leave,” Mom said.

When she started unpacking things, I got out and helped her. But Dan looked off into the blackness. He lit a cigarette. After a while Mom and I listened to the soft thud of his boots, to the jingling of Hog Hammer’s collar. Then it was us just us and the crickets.

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