SmokeLong Quarterly

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Left Standing

Story by Susan Henderson (Read author interview) June 15, 2004

My brother slips through the kid-size hole in the fence and watches construction of the new ballpark. Tommy’s got a thing for bugs and that’s where he finds the good ones. He’s gone there every day since Frank moved. Says he’s bored, and what’s there to do anymore. Frank’s house was knocked down to make room for the parking lot. His folks got paid too much to fight it. Our house might go, too, but we haven’t gotten word.

I wait in the front yard, like I’m supposed to, until Mom gets home from work. She says girls have to be careful with all the workmen around, but I don’t mind. I’ve always stayed home anyway.

Tommy’s back and forth with the bugs. He’s got a bee in a Dixie cup covered with foil, sticks it in the freezer. Soon, my brother’s heading back to the ballpark with the bee tied to a string and beginning to thaw.

Frank likes that kind of thing and he’d have joined in, but he hasn’t called yet. Mom says our life sucks to pieces now. I don’t know.

Every time a neighbor moves out, there’s a leveling. You go by Frank’s now and it’s not just the house that’s gone. The hill they used to jump their bikes off of—it’s been flattened, too—even the bike that was always on its side. All you notice is what’s standing.

Tommy’s back to drop off a jar and get another. He stops to shake a pair of flies in his fist and roll them like dice. He usually ignores me but this time says to come see. I stand next to him and we watch the flies stagger around on the walkway.

Mom says baseballs might land in our yard. More and more I imagine us being the only ones left standing when everything else has come down. Just the three of us in a yard filled with stray balls. Inside I feel like Tommy’s jar of firefly butts. You think they’ve lost their glow and then there’s another pop of light.

About the Author

Susan Henderson is a recipient of an Academy of American Poets award, and the Managing Editor of Night Train. Her work has appeared in Oakland Review‘s 25th Anniversary Anthology, Zoetrope: All-Story Extra (December 2000 and September 2001), Today’s Parent, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Eyeshot, Alsop Review, Happy, Opium (January 2003 and April 2004), Carve Magazine, Monkeybicycle, Hobart, The MacGuffin, Zacatecas: A Review of Contemporary Word, Word Riot, Pig Iron Malt, Mid-South Review, Eleven Bulls, Insolent Rudder, Ink Pot (January 2004 and July 2004), Moondance (December 2003 and April 2004), North Dakota Quarterly, The Edward Society, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Bellevue Literary Review, South Dakota Review, Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies, SmokeLong Quarterly (June 2004 and August 2004), Avatar Review, as well as in a number of pamphlets and training manuals used at Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. She recently helped to judge the “20-Minute Stories” contest at McSweeney’s.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Four

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