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Story by Sandra Carlson Khalil (Read author interview) June 17, 2024

Art by Joshua Earle

In the car, my son says he’s sad about the volcano, and I say what volcano, and he says the one in Europe, and I say there hasn’t been a volcano this week, and I change lanes and remember we need to pick up dog food, then remember about the volcano, and look at him in the rearview mirror, the basketball uniform that pulls across his chest, the eyes that stare out from behind the fringe that he refuses to have cut, but he’s not looking at the cars that flick by, he’s thinking about the volcano, and I’m thinking about the damn dog food, and then he says the one where all the people died, and there’s the summer sun on my back again, hot as breath, and he is pressed against my hip, the soft orb of his cheek swiveling this way and that, wearing the onesie with the Peter Pan collar, the one with three red buttons running down the front, his sticky hands looped around my neck, too heavy to hold but still too young to know that what we’re looking at through the plexiglass is a mother and son, too young to know that the blank scoops are their eyes and mouths, too young to know that the dusty shapes are their arms and legs, their feet and hands in the same position they were when the ash came down, when the world ended, when they reached out for each other, as if a mother could save a son from that, and in the rearview mirror he is looking out, the cars still flicking by, and I say, I’m sad about the volcano, too.

About the Author

Sandra Carlson Khalil is from Minnesota, but has called the Middle East her home for over a decade. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Camas MagazineFive on the Fifth, and The Stonecoast Review. She studied literature at Middlebury College and received her MBA from Northwestern University. You can find her work at www.sandracarlsonkhalil.com.

About the Artist

Joshua Earle is an award-winning travel and landscape photographer based in Scotland. Find him on Instagram @explorewithjoshua

This story appeared in Issue Eighty-Four — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-Four — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

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