SmokeLong Quarterly

Share This f l Translate this page


Story by Susannah Felts (Read author interview) March 29, 2015

art by Alexander C. Kafka

I was the girl who climbed in the truck. Who said: I’m in.

You clean up real nice, he said.

My legs, bending into the pickup.

My legs, crossed bare.

Those legs need boots, he said.


A place for everything and everything in its place—is what my mama always said.


How old is your daughter, I said.


Mine too.


First, there were our bodies—arm skimming arm. Then, on a road called Curlicue, first steps down worn paths.

Next, there were our words—typed, instant, not intimate.

I adore my wife, my life. Is your husband a good man?

Yes, he is.

Again against the truck, red clay beneath our feet, September sun above, we plotted the future.

If one of us has to stop, there will be no hard feelings.


Ha was what I did not say. And: You mean to tell me you believe that?

The first and second of so many silences. Imagined as dashed lines like lane dividers. We traveled toward collision in predetermined spaces.

Interstates fool; they look so straight, the shortest distance between here and there.


Mine, a life of almosts:

Everything left in the place it belonged, in the place it was left.

Beside my childhood home, a dead woman’s cottage in tall grass.

A ruined factory in a sleepy Southern city. I wanted to jump the fence.

The shuttered school where I shot stills of graffiti-scarred blackboards, chairs confined in permanent skirmish, rotted floors.

An abandoned mill where I put an ankle through—a knee bloodied—while the man who would become my husband urged me out. Before something worse.


But there had been bars I wasn’t supposed to drink in.

There had been neighborhoods I wasn’t scared to live in.

Now there were our arms, hands, words, the miles between us, our silence. Our network connection.


We told lies, we texted exits. We found our ways.

Never the same bed twice. Cheap spreads wadded at the foot. Three hours at best.

Bleached spots on bad carpet, a legend I chose not to read.

It was like that. It was exactly like that.


I was surprised to find myself in these places.

I had not been into many forbidden places.

But I had always been into forbidden places.

You know: into and into, like sleep and sleep.


Intimacy in bubbles, until—

You go on with your life and I’ll go on with mine.


And where are we now?

Our homes, of sturdy floors and walls.

Slipping daughters’ freed teeth from beneath pillows, acting our parts.

Separated—by the lifted tips of our fingers.

We hammer out other lines.

But there’s the place I go, behind the red of my eyes.

You want me to tell you I’m better. You want a lesson learned.

I’ll tell you only this: I hear the hiss. One should stay where one belongs.

About the Author

Susannah Felts’ work has appeared in Wigleaf, Quick Fiction, The Sun, the Oxford American, Quarterly West, Five Chapters, and elsewhere. She is the author of one novel, This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record (Featherproof Books). She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

About the Artist

Alexander C. Kafka is a journalist, photographer, and composer in Bethesda, Maryland. He created the cover image for Lost Addresses: New and Selected Poems by Diann Blakely (Salmon Poetry, 2017). His work has also been published at All Things Fashion DC, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Juked, Vice, The Washington Post, The Writing Disorder, and many other periodicals. He has been on the documentation team for the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo and is a contributing concert photographer for DMNDR. Kafka studied fine-art figure photography with Missy Loewe at the Washington School of Photography and portrait photography with Sora DeVore at Glen Echo Photoworks.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Seven

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)