This excerpt is from the story “The Silence Here Owns Everything”, from Kirsten Clodfelter’s chapbook, Casualties.
I. A Lesson for the Young Cartographer
After the final bell, Kendra and I walk the mile from Bloomington
High North to our neighborhood. Even with a breeze it’s too hot
for May, and underneath my backpack my tank top is damp and
sticks to my skin, a heaviness waiting to be peeled. Wind tangles
Kendra’s straight, blonde hair until she looks like one of the wolf
girls Miss Collington told us about this morning in world history.
I picture the grainy, black-and-white images she showed on the
overhead projector, of the little girl found in a forest in Ukraine,
running naked on all fours with a pack of wild dogs, growling and
clawing to protect her own—a girl and not a girl without even
I step over a crack in the sidewalk and tell Kendra, “You pretty
much look feral right now,” and she sweeps her messy hair behind
her shoulders and laughs a big laugh. I turn to watch her face and
see the pink of her tongue like a treasure.
She came in late to homeroom this morning with bruises
around her mouth like she’d been kissing too hard or back-talking
her dad or eating plums. I’ve wanted all day to ask, and when I do
she grabs my hand and squeezes my fingers hard together so I won’t
leave, but I’m not leaving, and I want to say that but I can’t find my
voice anywhere in the warm that rushes up from my stomach and
rises and rises until it blooms behind my ribs, stretching my body
from inside until I’m sure it will leave whispery lines of proof in
my skin. I want to lick the purpled marks from her mouth like a
stain. Kendra’s waiting or maybe not waiting for me to speak, but
instead I stay quiet and am careful to look down at nothing but
the pattern of triangles on my skirt, to keep everything as still as
possible. My fingers tingle against her palm and I don’t move them
and she doesn’t move them, and when the silence finally presses
too heavy between us, I trace my thumb slowly over and over the
pale-blue veins on the back of her hand like I’m reading our map
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.