SmokeLong Quarterly

Share This f l Translate this page


Story by Amy Stuber (Read author interview) September 18, 2023

Art by SmokeLong Quarterly

A lot of things happen that week: trees, their roots gone nonporous from drought, thunder down all over California. David Crosby dies. My son tells me about Mongol warriors, unaffected by plague, flinging plagued human bodies, well past caring, over the high stone surrounds of small cities that wouldn’t look so unfamiliar to us now as we might think. The paper of record publishes another article wherein a white woman complains about wokeness and censorship when she is already inside the stone walls, sitting stuffed on velum in a room lit by fire. Shut up, lady, I say to a room full of plants.

All of it was NOISE, but it got in.

Everybody I love you. This is David Crosby, not me.

My sister in Sacramento sent me a picture of an old-lady tree, roots out, horizontal in her yard and said, “why didn’t the neighbors cut them down, they’re going to hit the house,” and what if we pruned away everything that was beautiful but might also hurt us.

Flaming pigs were jettisoned by Greek soldiers toward war elephants who went running, thinking, perhaps, we weren’t made for this battle.

Good things are coming is my mantra during these winter weeks, in this in-between land where pigs and plague bodies are afire in my eyeline, where I talk myself into thinking geese honking in the sky is a good luck charm, telling me of some unknown thing, arrow tipped and headed my way.

On a Wednesday, a squirrel falls from a tree in my front yard in Kansas, jumping, maybe habitually, glee, rhythm, without thinking, to the spot where the sister tree once was, the tree, blighted by insects, removed a few months before by the city. I watched from the windowglass while the squirrel twitched, dragged itself a few inches, and then died. Can you I said to my husband who shuffled the squirrel under leaves in a cardboard box, and I hated myself for being someone unable to handle the hard things right in front of me. We’ll take care of it tomorrow, he said, but the next day it was gone. Dragged by a coyote or a fox, my husband said. Maybe, though, maybe it revived in the box, unburied itself from leaves, and ran back into the world thinking, Okay. Again.

We walk at night when everyone else is indoors and feel braced by it, steely. The holiday lights are mainly gone. My daughter recites Plath in the dark as practice for a class: “I have fallen a long way/ clouds are flowering.” Her breath pillows cushion her face from whatever is coming. My son and husband, ahead of us, stop in the triangle of a streetlight, turn around like they know something we don’t, like love or a warning.

About the Author

Amy Stuber’s work has appeared most recently in Missouri Review, Flash Fiction America, and CRAFT. She’s Flash Fiction Editor at Split Lip Magazine.

This story appeared in Issue Eighty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-One

Support SmokeLong Quarterly

Your donation helps writers and artists get paid for their work. If you’re enjoying what you read here, please consider donating to SmokeLong Quarterly today.

SmokeLong Fitness--The Community Workshop

Book Now!

Included in the price of SmokeLong Fitness:

The Community Workshop in small groups
One live Zoom webinar each month with killer workshop leaders (recorded for participants unable to attend).
One open-mic party each month (or other live Zoom events)
Discounts on intensive workshops
Discounts on senior editor feedback
Surprises (good ones)