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Story by Dhyanna Raffi-David (Read author interview) December 18, 2023

Art by Philipp Pilz

If your dad died in Switzerland blowing an alpine horn, if his anterior cerebral artery burst, and your mom said his last breath rang through the hills, past deer, past goats, beyond trees, if you knew this was exculpatory — you’d told her 3x times He’s too old for that trip, stop insisting he go, but she did insist, if she carried him back to California in an urn, and you met her at LAX — one a.m. — drove her up the coast home, poured her a scotch, put her to bed, if the next day you waded into the Pacific Ocean scattering your father’s ashes, but they refused to descend — they flew up when you opened your fingers, up when you released them — if you cried on the sand while your mother said I want to sell the house, move in with my bridge group — if you begged NO, but she insisted — if you helped her pack, and so discovered your father’s old horn — you’d never heard him play, it was just a closet-creature you’d stumbled over as a kid playing hide-and-seek — if you opened the case, fingered the valves, but your mother snatched it away Don’t touch! — if you asked her why he didn’t play anymore, and she said because it woke the baby, you, you were the baby — if you suddenly felt wrong for hugging your Bambi and falling asleep staring at the stars while your father played guitar-Nocturno instead of trumpet-Nocturno, if, now, with the furniture gone, your mother said, You could sleep with me in my bed, but you said No, you blew up the air mattress, lay down by the floor-to-ceiling windows, once more a kid watching stars — if you awoke, your eyes peeking out from under the comforter, and a stag with antlers walked by, nibbling the threads of grass between the acorns, if you didn’t think he could see you, but he came to the window, his horn touching the glass — ting-ting — and you held your breath because you didn’t want him to leave, please don’t leave ting-ting  — and the light all around his horns, and the light emanating from his eyes — then in that moment you would bawl like a baby, you would crawl up the stairs, beg your mom one last time not to sell the house, but she would insist, and everything would pass through your fingers like ashes anyway.


A longer version of “Passing” first appeared in Lunch Ticket. “Passing” was a finalist in the 2023 SmokeLong Grand Micro Competition.

About the Author

Dhyanna Raffi-David lives in Southern California with her three children, a vegetable garden, and a shimmer of hummingbirds. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her work has appeared in the Bridport Prize Anthology, Lunch Ticket, and Jelly Bucket. She is currently at work on a short story collection.

About the Artist

Philipp Pilz is a photographer from Bielefeld, Germany.

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

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