This excerpt is from the story “Where Will I Go in Search of Your Safety?” in Kirsten Clodfelter’s fiction chapbook, Casualties.
When he calls, Daniel tells me he’s still having that dream almost
every night, that we’re down at Otter Creek, skipping rocks on the
grassy bank that backed up against his family farm’s property line
in Terre Haute, where he grew up. He says it with a bit of wonder
edging into his voice, as if throughout these four months of his first
deployment I’ve had something to do with where his subconscious
mind takes him.
As he talks, his faint, uneasy laughter is swallowed by the
crackling static, and I’m reminded that what’s binding us together
in this moment is fragile—an electromagnetic transmission
carrying our voices through a distant satellite to cover the six
thousand miles between us—and the science of this feels so unreal
that it’s like magic. I try to picture that old farmhouse and the
creek from my husband’s childhood, but it’s too much like an
Edward Hopper painting no one remembers the name of, too
easy and idyllic for him to really dream us there night after night;
and I, ungrateful little ass that I am, feel sure that he’s lying, that
something so tender must be untrue.
But as he goes on, I hear the pitch of something dangerous start to
creep in, a flicker that hints at how close he might be to falling apart.
He won’t really talk to me about losing Carter last week in a firefight
outside of Mosul, or about how, only a few days after his company
first arrived at FOB Marez, while going through a checkpoint at
Kisik with his platoon, three PFCs in the armored Humvee in front
of his own suddenly disappeared, the instantaneous shattering of
bones accompanied by the loud explosion of an RPG, the twisted,
smoking shell of their split-apart vehicle coming to rest just outside
of the crater made by mortar fire.
“They were there, and then they weren’t,” he had said to me,
days later, when he could finally call. “There was nothing to even
look for.” His voice sounded lost somewhere inside his own body,
and that was the last time he spoke of it.
Kirsten Clodfelter’s writing has been previously published in The Iowa Review, Brevity, Narrative Magazine, Green Mountains Review, and The Good Men Project, among others, and is forthcoming in storySouth. Her chapbook of war-impact stories, Casualties, was published last October by RopeWalk Press. A regular contributor to As It Ought to Be and Series Editor of the small-press review series, At the Margins, Clodfelter lives in Southern Indiana with her partner and young daughter.
Meagan Cass is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, independent publishing, and composition, curates the Shelterbelt reading series, and advises the campus literary journal, the Alchemist Review. Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Hobart Web, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other journals. Magic Helicopter Press will publish her first fiction chapbook, Range of Motion, in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.