Mark Hurtubise. During the 1970s, numerous works were accepted for publication. Then family, teaching, two college presidencies and for 12 years president of an Inland Northwest community foundation. Recapturing the euphoria from the authors/artists he experienced decades ago, he is attempting to create again by balancing on a twig like a pregnant bird. Within the past two years, his pieces have appeared in Apricity Magazine (Texas), Adelaide Literary Magazine (New York), Bones Journal (Denmark), Modern Haiku (Rhode Island), Ink In Thirds (Alabama), Atlas Poetica (Maryland), The SpokesmanReview (Washington), Frogpond Journal (New York), Stanford Social Innovation Review and Alliance (London).
I never met my great-aunt Mary. She died in 1929 at the age of six when she caught a bad cold at her friend Rosie’s birthday party. They buried the girl in a blue dress beneath six feet of red clay dirt in hard winter. “Dig her up in 50 years and she’ll look the same as the day you put her in the ground,” the vault man Henry Rose told her parents as snowflakes bit their cheeks. My father dragged me to the graveyard when I was 16. I’d been to the graveyard plenty of times, but I just hung around by the fence and poked sticks in the dirt. He stuck some fake yellow tulips into the dry, cracked ground and said to me, “We wouldn’t be here if Mary lived, you know.” I looked around the graveyard with my hands jammed in my jean shorts, bored stiff. My phone buzzed, but I ignored it. Danny Kline kept texting me to hook up in his treehouse, but I told him no way. Jerk. He blew me off freshman year, now he just wanted a quickie because Rachel dumped him on Tuesday. I told him to go screw himself behind the dugout, and then call me back later. I didn’t pay any attention as my father kept talking, just spotted a little girl in a blue dress playing by an oak tree beside an unmarked stone. She lifted her head, brown curls dangling around her pretty face, and then disappeared. I stood there staring for a long time until my father told me we needed to get moving because the clouds looked like rain and the road turned to a sloppy mess. I spent the summer standing by the graveyard fence waiting for the little girl to come back. She never did.
Rebecca Buller is a native Oklahoman and a lover of the written word. She’s been published in the quarterly issue 84 of Burningword Literary Journal, October 2017, Star 82 Review, A3 Review & Press, and is a three-time Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition award winner.
Mostly the problem was that I kept disappearing. I’d be gulping a glass of water or roving through a revolving door or chatting with a man in a crowded bar and then I’d be gone. Just for a moment really, but long enough. I had to keep checking my reflection to make sure I was still there.
It was unclear what exactly had brought this on. It could have been a number of things. There were the superstitious possibilities — your black cats, your stepping on cracks — but more likely it was some fading sense of assumption. Who could assume anything anymore?
It was those hesitant moments that seemed the worst. Where I didn’t just disappear for other people, I disappeared for me too.
When I was gone other girls appeared in my place. Younger girls, girls who knew things. Girls who presumed to know things. Girls who didn’t have any problems with assumptions. Girls who didn’t hesitate.
They said “I” a lot. They asserted that they were there. They wore floral dresses and midrift tops and heels that were higher than mine. I’d never even worn a midrift top. I couldn’t pull that off. My clothing was all regular length. It was “office appropriate” or “business casual.”
My hesitations had gotten worse. Did I ever really know anything? Did my face and voice and hair and skin ever exist at all?
The seasons came and went and only old ladies at the park talked to me. But did they even want to talk to me? They seemed preoccupied with their pigeons and their romance novels. Maybe even they were just trying to be nice.
The younger girls went out. They danced. They ordered drinks. They said things like “I know how to take care of myself.” They insisted. They found men who simply praised their being. They did not think about the old ladies with the pigeons. They didn’t even see them.
Occasionally I’d meet a man and he’d tell me that he’d seen me somewhere before. He was sure he’d seen me. But maybe that had been an illusion, or maybe this was an illusion. And maybe he’d go off with someone else, someone who really existed. Who fully existed. A girl who never worried about the unknown or what happens next because the future was something they could think about later. In the future. A girl who would assume there would be a future. A girl who would assume anything at all.
Nicole Beckley is a writer and performer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Fiction Southeast, New Limestone Review, Litro UK, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, 7×7, Tribeza, and The A.V. Club, as well as in many small theaters and on at least one public access channel. She’s at work on a linked story collection titled Perfect Miss. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies and Communications from Stanford University.
Issue 98, published April 2021, features works of poetry, flash fiction, short nonfiction, and photography by Tobi Alfier, Carter Ayles, Daisy Bassen, Hannah Story Brown, James Butcher, Michelle Cacho-Negrete, Robin B. Carey, Juan David Cruz-Duarte, Pernille AEgidius Dake, John Dorroh, Connor Doyle, Kim Farleigh, E Laura Golberg, Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, Chris Innes, Zeina Lee, Laney Lenox, S Frederic Liss, Alice Lowe, Elizabeth Mayer, James McKee, Seojin Moon, Susan Notar, Colette Parris, Andrew Posner, Danny Rebb, Jim Ross, Eugene Shin, Julie Sonnek, Lesley Stanley, Richard Weaver, Kelley Jean White, Jean Wolff, John J. Zywar.
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