SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Alec Niedenthal (Read author interview) December 21, 2009

art by Robinson Accola

I stayed with her until she fell into her winter moods, and her ears burst.

I lit fires, though we did not have a fireplace to speak of, and played songs so that she could hear them, though she could not. I fed the animals she kept close—a hungry dog, an iguana, a small girl, a dog. My father always said, “Listen to the things and such that are smaller than you.” My father was uncompact, lonely. To this day he remains categorically blind. My mother lives off-stage, to the west.

“Will I hear the child?” my wife said. She had learned to project her voice. The dogs immediately barked, and set themselves on some kind of journey.

I’d bet you could safely guess the names of those animals—I won’t ask you to; I don’t belong in large crowds—Stephen, Edward, Galgatua, and Jean-Francois. “Jean Francois,” my wife calls, cupping her ears with the hands that could once praise or tighten, wrap into fists. She flaps the yards of bedspread, searching for some lost remote. “It’s not remotely findable,” I say. I laugh. She laughs even though she cannot hear me.

Winters are all like this. I stack all of our hands—mine, Stephen’s, Edward’s, Galgatua’s, and Jean-Francois—and proclaim them my final wedding gift. We pump them up and down like champions. “That’s all you get,” I tell her. I laugh. I am crying into what I guess are her breasts. Possibly they are elbows tucked very close.

“Will your mother visit me?” my wife said.

“My mother lives way out west,” I said.

About the Author

Alec Niedenthal has work forthcoming in Agriculture Reader and Sleepingfish, and online at THE2NDHAND and Everyday Genius. He current lives in Sarasota, Florida, where it mostly is hot.

About the Artist

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.

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

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Steve Edwards is author of the memoir BREAKING INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY, the story of his seven months as caretaker of a 95-acre backcountry homestead along federally protected Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Oregon. His work has appeared in Orion MagazineThe Sun MagazineLiterary HubElectric LiteratureThe Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives outside Boston with his wife and son.