The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Kirsten Clodfelter’s “Casualties”


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.

This selection is from Kirsten Clodfelter’s fiction chapbook, Casualties, available from RopeWalk Press. Purchase your copy here!

Kirsten Clodfelter’s writing has been previously published in The Iowa ReviewBrevityNarrative MagazineGreen 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.


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