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The Sun Magazine

Fiction

Not A Scratch

The first time he takes a shower after coming home, he looks himself over: Ten fingers. Ten toes. No scars beyond the ones he collected in childhood. The first day or two with his wife is awkward, each of them watching to see how the other may have changed during his deployment. Her hair is longer. Otherwise she seems the same. He doesn’t feel that different either.

Past The Breakers

Part of Charlotte’s mystique was her complete lack of fear. Even during rough-surf warnings and undertow advisories, she swam out past the green breakers, avoiding skates and jellyfish and rafts of seaweed. I’d see her head bobbing or her arms doing a demonstrative backstroke in the jade swells. She had learned to swim while growing up near Boston. “Wheatley isn’t afraid of anything,” my mother would say proudly. I never had the guts to go out that far.

Good Night

And even after all that, even after everything I’d said to him earlier, he still came to say good night before he went to bed, the way he had when he was a little boy.

A Kiss For Mrs. Sissle

We did come upon a low cave, ten or so feet to the back, but there was nothing inside except empty beer bottles and a white paper bag shaped like a cat. So we sat like castaways at its entrance, knees touching, and watched the hourglass glitter of the moon on the black surface of the ocean. That was all. It was my first experience of nervous teenage heaven, and I doubted I would ever know anything so fragile and sublime again.

The Full Eighty-Eight

They were living off Floreta’s pay now. Money was tight, but it had always been that way, forty years of never catching up. If they ever did get a little bit ahead, something always happened: a recession, a car crash, a broken bone, an illness.

Mother’s Helper

Our mother never threatened and then hit us. It was always either/or. Plus, she struck us only when we were at home. It helped define the place. We could not have told you why she hit us at all — beatings, rash and random, born of a fury we could neither comprehend nor forecast — but we knew we were safe at Erma’s house.

Step Nine

I knew early on that Max was special. She was a taut-bodied pit-bull mix but without the meanness, even in appearance, that her breed is known for. She must have been the kind of dog who rolls over as soon as she sees you so you can pet her belly, like in the photograph on your flier.