Dotted Line Dotted Line

Fiction Summer 2019    poetry    all issues


Cover Antoine Petitteville

Gregory Jeffers

Bill Pippin
A Brother Offended

Edward DeFranco

M.J. Schmid
Start Over

Margaret Hrencher
The Professor and Doña Eleanor

Miranda Williams
The Gardener's Son

Mark Sutz
Squeaky Balloons

Nathan Buckingham

Noreen Graf
Out of Water

Erin M. Chavis
The Gift of Glory

David Grubb
Ninety on Jackknife

G. Bernhard Smith

Bill Pippin

A Brother Offended

When Dad called that Saturday morning in July, I was at the computer in my upstairs office translating a redundantly overwritten R&D report on the HPLC separation of amino acids into a readable technical bulletin.

Dad used our land line instead of our cell phone, which usually meant he wanted to talk to Jeanne and me together. When I told him Jeanne was grocery shopping and had taken Damien along to get new sneakers, the line appeared to go dead. At last I heard a squeaky sound on the other end like a rubber bath toy makes.

“Is anything wrong, Dad?” I asked.

“I’m afraid so,” he said.

I took a deep breath. “Mom?”

“No . . . no. . . .” And then he began to sob.

I’d never heard my dad cry. He’s a big, rugged man, a hard-nosed history professor I’d thought incapable of crying, and the sounds he made were heartbreaking. That’s when I thought of my brother, then on his third tour in Afghanistan.

“Has something happened to Tyler?”

“Y-yes,” Dad said with a kind of whispery breathlessness.

“Is he dead? Has Tyler been killed, Dad?”

“No, Derek. Tyler’s still alive.”

“But he’s been wounded?”

I heard him clear his throat. “He stepped on . . . Tyler stepped on one of those IEDs.”

“Can you be more specific?”


“His injuries?”

“Oh . . . . Not his face. Not his head, some, but his eyes are okay. Thank God, no brain damage. His hearing, they say, should return. . . .”

“Good. That’s good.” Again I sensed his reluctance to continue. “Well then . . . how bad is it?”

“I’m afraid . . . his legs . . .”

I shifted the phone to my other ear. “Legs . . . plural?”

“Both legs . . . above the knees.”


Another moment of silence. “His arms . . .”

Both arms?”

“Both arms.”

I sat back in my chair. “Tyler lost both arms and both legs, Dad?”

“Right arm . . . near the shoulder. Left arm . . . just above the elbow.”

“Both arms and both legs?”

“Gone, Derek. Gone. Both arms and both legs. Blown away . . . blown away . . .”

Silence again. Dad’s voice had taken on a dreamlike quality. I swivelled around to look at the books on my shelves, then up at the revolving ceiling fan. And when I tried to picture Tyler armless and legless I found myself struggling with, of all things, the outrageous compulsion to giggle.

What had triggered such an impulse? What the hell was wrong with me?

“Anything else, Dad?” I asked, straining to keep my voice normal. “Injuries I mean?”

“Here . . . I’ll let you talk to your mother.”

My mom is the realist in our family, the strong one who faces up to facts. Her voice was resolute, honed with a fine edge of resignation that seemed to say what happened has happened, a tragic reality, now we need to get on with the business of dealing with it. I pictured her standing up rather than sitting down, mouth set, every muscle and tendon taut, right eyelid pulsating the way it did when she was under stress.

I fumbled a pen out of the mayonnaise jar on my desk and scribbled details on a pad. Tyler was on patrol. Helmand Province. Another Marine was killed in the explosion. A medic had tended to Tyler right away, saving his life. He’d been airlifted to the military hospital at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Now he was being flown to the National Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

“The Marine Corps will fly us there too—your dad and me. We hope you and Jeanne can meet us.”

“For sure, Mom. Are you okay?”

“As okay as I can be, hon . . . under the circumstances. We’ll keep you informed as information comes our way. The hospital will let us know. Unless you have questions . . . I need to be with your dad right now. He’s not okay.”

“No. No questions, Mom.”

“We love you, Derek. We love Jeanne and Damien.”

“Love you too, Mom.”

I tossed down the remains of my lukewarm coffee and went downstairs and set the cup in the kitchen sink. I stepped out the sliding glass door and eased into a plastic lawn chair on the deck. I gazed out past the forsythia bushes, at the picnic table, at the swing-and-slide set I’d recently assembled for Damien. The noon sun glared hot and high in a deep blue cloudless sky. A chattering squirrel hurled insults from the oak tree at the far corner of our fenced-in backyard. I grew aware of my right foot tapping.

And then, spontaneously, I erupted into a fit of giggling. Like a seizure. Rather than try to stifle it, I gave it its head, hoping to purge my system of this sickness. Shock? Had to be shock. Somewhere I’d read that severe shock can cause freaky behavior.

No one else could ever know about this. No one.

I loved Tyler. Why wouldn’t I love my own brother? I’m not sure I liked him, though. We ‘d never been close, not like some brothers. We had nothing in common. I was into sports and Tyler was crazy about engines. I enjoyed fishing and Tyler hunted. I loved books and Tyler thought only candy asses sat around reading. We had nothing in common except blood.

As the older brother I had to look after Tyler when we were kids, often when I’d rather be with my friends. Everybody thought Tyler was the cutest thing and I got tired of hearing it. I’d taunt him, tickling him under the chin, cooing, “Kootchy-kootchy koo.” When he grew old enough to recognize my derision, he got back at me by singing, “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog,” while playing an imaginary guitar and doing an Elvis wiggle. Other kids picked up on “Hound Dog” and it became a nickname I hated. One day I asked Mom if it was true, did I honestly looked like some floppy-eared hound dog?

“Of course not,” she said. “Tyler’s only teasing you, Derek. It’s not your ears, it’s your eyes. You have sad eyes, that’s all.”

I couldn’t trust Tyler. One day when I was eleven or twelve we were in the Music Shop downtown and I saw the latest Dylan CD on display. Being low on funds, I slipped it under my shirt. I’d never stolen anything before, but I just had to have that CD. I wasn’t aware that Tyler had even seen me, but when we got home he told Mom. She marched me back to the Music Shop and made me return the CD and apologize to the manager, Mrs. Phelps. Then Dad grounded me for a week.

“Why’d you rat on me?” I asked Tyler as soon as I got him alone.

“Because stealing is wrong,” he said, giving me this infuriating angelic look.

“You’re a snake in the grass—that’s what’s wrong, man.”

“Woof-woof!” Tyler barked.

The muted drone of the garage door brought me to my feet. By the time I reached the van, Damien was out of his car seat. He ran to me and pointed at his new red and blue sneakers. I lifted him up and gave him a kiss. His lips were smeared with chocolate, his chubby hands sticky.

“Wow!” I said. “Those are so awesome. Why don’t you trot outside to play while I help Mommy with the groceries.”

I shepherded him to the back door of the garage and watched through the window until he settled into his swing. Jeanne was pulling cloth bags out of the van, setting them on the concrete floor. Grabbing a couple, I went on ahead. I put the ice-cream in the freezer, the milk in the fridge.

“Anything else need refrigerating?” I asked.

“That’s it.” Jeanne sat the last bag down on the kitchen floor and stood studying me.

“Dad called,” I said.

“Oh? How is he?”

“Not good.”

She waited, visibly holding her breath.

“It’s not him. Not Dad. It’s Tyler.”

I told her Tyler had been badly wounded, monitoring myself for the slightest inclination to giggle. When Jeanne wanted to know how bad, I didn’t mince words. She started rocking on her heels, then she lurched to the nearest chair and collapsed, leaning forward with both eyes shut, hands cupping her ears.

“Okay,” she said at last. “That’s the fucked-up deal then.”

“He’s a combat Marine,” I said lamely.

“Oh fuck—fuck fuck fuck!”

“Dad took it hard.”

She jumped up and grabbed my face with both hands, digging her nails into my cheeks. “How are you doing?”

I was reluctant to admit how well I was doing. Confessing to Jeanne about my weird compulsion was out of the question. “Dad’s the one I’m worried about. They want us to meet them in Bethesda. Can you take off work on short notice?”

“Of course I can.”

“We can drive it in two days. We can leave Damien with the Cornelisons.”

“No.” She jerked her hands back. “Damien should come too.”

“You really think so?”

Her brow crimped. “Why would I not think so?”

“Well . . . we don’t know Tyler’s emotional state. Dad’s a wreck. I’d rather Damien not see Tyler—even Mom and Dad—until we know how everyone’s faring.”

“Honey, we need to think about Tyler,” Jeanne said. “Seeing Damien might be some comfort, they’re so close.”


“He doesn’t need to see his uncle until we know Tyler’s state of mind. But he should be there.”

I dreaded the thought of describing Tyler’s horrific injuries to our son. How do you make a five-year-old understand something as senseless as war?

I went out to the swings to tell Damien we’d be traveling to see Grandpa and Grandma. I made it sound like a holiday. Jeanne and I called our bosses to arrange time off. We packed and went to bed early.

But thinking about Tyler kept me awake. Tyler and Mary Ann Ridenour.

By the time he was thirteen, Tyler was attracting girls. Lots of girls. I was jealous, even though I only wanted one girl for myself—Mary Ann. Our families were close friends and I’d been in love with Mary Ann since sixth grade. Tyler was the only other person who knew. He’d sneaked a peep at the notebook I scribbled my private thoughts in.

I saw Mary Ann frequently at family affairs, though I’d never asked her out on a date. She seemed more interested in sports than boys. I was three years older and she was in middle school when I was at Lake Valley High. I was leery of being accused of robbing the cradle.

By the time I became a freshman at our local college, Mary Ann was a junior at Lake Valley. She was on the track team, the softball team, and she excelled at basketball. She wasn’t our top scorer—that was Laura Robb—but she was our best defensive player. She played point and could throw a basketball the length of the court. Her long legs were muscular without being mannish. She could be clumsy, laughing at herself when she dribbled the ball off her foot. She had a cackling laugh and a funny way of wrinkling her nose when she thought someone was full of shit. I loved it. I loved everything about Mary Ann Ridenour.

Nearing season’s end, the girls’ basketball team was tied for first place with Springerville, our closest rival, half an hour away. Our whole town must’ve driven to Springerville the night of the final game. Even Tyler went, riding the Harley he’d just bought after getting his driver’s license, paying cash he earned working part-time as a mechanic’s helper at Gordino’s Garage.

The gym was packed to the rafters. Mary Ann fouled out of the nip-and-tuck game with three minutes to go. She sat on the bench in tears as Springerville chiseled away at our seven-point lead. We lost by a point when Laura Robb’s desperation shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

We were a small school in a small town and the loss was crushing. We looked like a funeral procession leaving the gym. All I could think about was comforting Mary Ann. I stood around beside my car long enough for the coach to deliver his spiel, and for Mary Ann to shower, before I headed back to the gym door. My intent was to drive Mary Ann home, stop for something to eat, look for an opportunity to tell her how I felt about her.

But she didn’t come out of the gym with the rest of the team. Disappointed, I started back to my car. When I heard the gym door open behind me, I turned to see Tyler and Mary Ann. Mary Ann’s blond hair was still wet, her eyes red and puffy. Tyler grinned at me as he took her hand. They hurried to his Harley, parked nearby. The sight of Mary Ann sitting snug behind Tyler, skirt hiked up, knees spread, arms clasping my brother’s chest as they roared off, twisted my gut into a knot.

Fifteen minutes later, Mary Ann was dead.

It happened on a sharp curve on the narrow road leading out of Springerville. Deep woods on the right blocked visibility; on the left lay a pasture. Some cattle had escaped through the fence—hunters left the farmer’s gate open—and one cow chose to stand in the middle of the road. Tyler hit the hefty animal dead center.

There was no evidence Tyler was speeding, though I’m sure he was. Tyler loved speed. No alcohol was found in his blood. No one accused Tyler of breaking any law. Perhaps the only person in the county who thought Tyler killed Mary Ann Ridenour was me. Tyler suffered a skull fracture, two broken legs, internal injuries. What good would’ve come from punishing him more than that? Drawing and quartering Tyler wouldn’t bring back Mary Ann.

But how could I forgive him? I loved Mary Ann. Loved her since we were kids. Loved her with a longing that at times made me want to rip out my heart. If I could’ve driven her home that night, held her in my arms, comforted her, I would’ve found some way to tell her how I felt.

Tyler robbed me of that chance.

Jeanne and I rose before dawn on Sunday morning. Traffic was light as we drove out of Orlando toward the coast. I set the cruise control just over the speed limit. For hours we rode in silence, while Damien played in the backseat with his LeapFrog Leapster. We stopped only for pee breaks and at a McDonald’s for lunch.

Around five we pulled into a motel in North Carolina. I called my parents and my mom answered. In that same controlled voice she told me their flight from Oklahoma City was scheduled for tomorrow morning. They expected to see Tyler right away.

I put Damien on the line and both grandparents managed to say a few words. Jeanne took the phone and muttered something inaudible. No one mentioned Tyler.

We’d spotted a steakhouse just down the access road from the motel. We needed to stretch our legs after the long drive and we each held one of Damien’s hands as he skipped along between us, humming tunelessly.

While we were looking over the menu, two young soldiers wearing camouflage fatigues, sporting GI haircuts, came in, likely from the nearby Army base. Their manner was jaunty, their faces ruddy with health. They ordered beer with their meal and the middle-aged waitress, a plump woman with a caring face, asked for their IDs. They produced them with exaggerated groans.

We finished eating before they did. When the waitress brought our check, I asked Mona—the name on her name tag—to give me the soldiers’ checks. She went over to them and whatever she said prompted them to look our way. One snapped a smart salute. Jeanne made an effort to smile, then crushed a napkin to her mouth. When we got up to leave she hurried on ahead.

“What’s wrong with Mommy?” Damien asked.

“Just tired, Sweetie.”

“Me too,” he said. “Traveling sure wears me out.”

Back at the motel, Jeanne and I sat propped on bed pillows watching CNN. Thankfully, there was nothing about Afghanistan or Iraq. Once the lights were out, I lay listening to the air conditioner, an occasional truck growling past on the interstate, a drunk couple arguing briefly just outside our window.

At last it grew quiet. The outside lights encroached around the edges of the window drapes, casting the room in gloom. I couldn’t sleep. I rolled onto my other side to gaze over at the next bed, at Damien’s Roman nose and cherubic mouth, at his palm cradling his cheek.

When I hired Jeanne Hunt as a proofreader in the technical publications department I manage for a company that makes chromatography products, she was right out of college. She was just getting over this guy she’d been seeing since her junior year, a guy she’d planned on marrying until she found out he hated kids. When Jeanne and I started dating it crossed my mind that catching her on the rebound, and being her boss, was a likely recipe for disaster, but I didn’t let that stop me.

A quick-witted blonde with a guileless smile and cheekbones that suggested royalty, Jeanne was the same age as Mary Ann Ridenour would’ve been. I told myself it was mere coincidence that they looked something alike, that in some ways Jeanne reminded me of Mary Ann.

One night after we’d made love I asked Jeanne to marry me. She lay on her back, staring at the ceiling, not saying a word, until I began to feel sick to my stomach.

“Bad idea,” I said at last. “Forget I mentioned it.”

“I really like working for you,” she said.

“Uh huh. But you wouldn’t like being married to me.”

“I didn’t say that. It’s just . . . the company has this policy against married couples working in the same department. You know that. I’d have to quit my job.”

“One of us would,” I said.

“You wouldn’t give up your job just so I could keep mine.”

“I’d do whatever it took.”

She rolled onto her side. Tears glistened in her eyes as she ran her hand through my hair and tapped the tip of my nose with one finger. “God, that is so sweet.”

After we were married, Jeanne quickly found a better-paying job as a technical writer for a software company. For several years nothing came of our efforts to have children. When we decided to get tested, Jeanne tested okay; I was told I had a fifty-fifty chance of making a baby, maybe less. After a tense, discouraging year failing at everything we tried, we discussed adoption. Then one day—eureka—and in due time our precious son was born.

Our life was bliss. Until I began dredging up reasons to suspect things weren’t going as well as I imagined. And one day, sitting in the barber shop watching Damien get his blond hair cut, it struck me that I was seeing Tyler at that age.

My own hair is dark brown. I look nothing like my brother. Rationally I knew that didn’t matter, but from then on every time I saw Tyler and Damien together—tossing a ball, flying a kite, playing horsey—I felt sure any observant stranger would assume Tyler was Damien’s father, pegging me for some distant relative or family friend.

Jeanne has one of those expressive faces that mirrors her deeper feelings. I began to observe that face more closely: the way it sometimes looked at Damien, the way it sometimes looked at me, the way it sometimes looked at Tyler. Some days I told myself I was making something out of nothing. Some days I believed this. Some days I believed the opposite. On my worst days I believed my brother had fucked my wife and Damien had been his doing.

I remember little from my Bible school lessons growing up in Oklahoma, but somewhere in scripture is a warning about the dire consequences of a brother offended. I identified with this. My brother had offended me by killing Mary Ann Ridenour. Had he compounded that offense with Jeanne? What would be the consequence?

Tyler had dropped out of college to join the Marines. He prospered in the military, developing proficiency with a variety of lethal weapons, adding muscle to his tall, skinny frame, learning to suck in his gut, square his shoulders, carry himself with pride. How stalwart he looked at our family gatherings, showing off those classy dress blues.

When stationed in the states he was usually close enough to Orlando to visit us. He chose not to announce his visits ahead of time, he just showed up. I think he liked seeing the surprise on our faces—in Jeanne’s case a beaming surprise. I knew it wasn’t me he came to see.

Sometimes he dropped in while I was traveling on business. Oftentimes he stayed overnight. Once I asked Jeanne if the way Tyler made himself at home made her uncomfortable, hoping she’d say yes, then I could decide what to do about it. But she laughed and said she wouldn’t think of sending my brother to a motel.

That didn’t make me any less uneasy. Uneasy isn’t even the right word—I agonized over Tyler’s visits during my absence. Did he use the guest room, or did he snuggle with Jeanne in our king-sized bed? Once, after returning from a week-long seminar, I caught myself actually sniffing the sheets. And if I was feeling especially masochistic I could conjure up a porno parade of Kamasutra-like images.

In Jeanne’s defense she did nothing to suggest her love for me had diminished in the least. If she loved Tyler, she must still love me as well. Had she turned to Tyler to satisfy her longing for a child? Did I really want to know? Because what was I willing to do about it? Have some sort of showdown? Leave her? Without Jeanne and Damien, my life would hardly be worth living. Did I want to risk losing them over what might be pure paranoia?

Just before Tyler left for another tour in Afghanistan we had a backyard barbecue in his honor. Tyler had ridden his current Harley from Camp Lejeune down to Orlando the day before, a Friday. He and Jeanne played tennis on Saturday morning. I’d wrecked my knee playing high school football and couldn’t offer much competition on the court. I was surprised that Tyler could, given his disinterest in sports, but Jeanne said they matched up well. They returned around noon, showered, and joined me on the deck.

Stretched out in a recliner with a beer, Tyler was barefoot, face stubbled, sinewy body tan as a lifeguard’s. He wore sunglasses, a gray T-shirt bearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem, ragged denim shorts. Jeanne sat across from him on a redwood bench.

While I grilled burgers I listened to Tyler tell my wife war stories. He’d developed a paradoxical affection for Afghanistan. He spoke warmly of the Nomads and their tents; the dark-eyed children; the lean taciturn leathery men; the secretive shifty-eyed women peering out of burkas. His description of an assault breacher nicknamed The Joker, a huge, multi-ton vehicle fitted with a plow on skis, captivated Jeanne. The Joker looked, Tyler said, like a monstrous tank with a cannon. It was used to dig safety lanes through minefields laid by the Taliban; exploding IEDs apparently didn’t faze it. If numerous mines littered an area, The Joker could fire rockets packed with C-4 explosives to detonate them at a safe distance.

“That big bastard will save some lives,” Tyler vowed.

Jeanne’s back was to the picnic table, elbows on knees, hands clasping a bottle of beer. She’d tied her hair in a ponytail. She looked delicious, her long legs slender and brown in white shorts. She’d left the top two buttons of her white blouse undone. I was sure Tyler had a full view of her braless breasts.

Next morning when we left the motel, Jeanne came around to the driver’s side.

“How about if I take a turn,” she said. “Need to keep my mind occupied.”

Just before we reached the Maryland line my cell phone chimed. Mom told me they were at Bethesda Naval Hospital; they’d seen Tyler and he was holding his own. I relayed the information to Jeanne.

I slipped off my sneakers and reclined in the leather seat. An itch at the base of my left big toe compelled me to reach over and scratch it through my sock with my right big toenail. It occurred to me that Tyler could no longer indulge in this innocuous pleasure.

I’ve heard the prostheses they make these days are quite advanced, their development driven by the growing need, but still. Tyler would surely miss being able to open a stubborn jar of pickles. Tying his shoestrings, walking barefoot in the surf, running his hands over a woman’s body, even picking his nose.

We passed a rest area sign and Jeanne flipped the turn signal.

I sat in the van and watched my wife walk to the restrooms. Damien was busy with his LeapFrog Leapster. When something swelled inside my chest until I felt ready to explode, I got out and walked across a grassy area to a picnic table. A large woman in halter and shorts, trailing a black cocker spaniel on a leash, eyed me as I circled the table like a robot. When I stopped to stare back at her she hurried off like she’d been assaulted.

At last Jeanne emerged from the restroom and came over to join me. “They say those air dryers are loaded with germs,” she said. “But what can you do?”

“Talk to me.” My sharp tone brought her to a halt. She stood there rubbing her hands on her slacks, looking confused. “Tell me the truth about Tyler.”

She glanced after the woman with the dog, making sure she was beyond earshot. Looking back at me, she said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you do.”

She crossed her arms and turned her head, staring into the distance. She held this pose for what seemed like a full minute. When she looked at me again her face had turned to stone.

“Whatever you’re thinking,” she said, “you should stop.”

“I have to know.”

“Know what?

The anger in her voice caught me by surprise. I shrugged my shoulders.

“All right, I do know what you’re talking about. I’ve seen it in your face enough times. And there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“You can tell me.”

“Tell you what, Derek?”

“What I just said.”

“What you—look—why should I have to defend myself?”

“I just want the truth.”

“The truth?” She shook her head slowly. “Think about that. What you want—what you think you want—is for me to confirm what you suspect.”

“I’ll believe whatever you tell me.”

“No you won’t. The only thing you’ll believe is a confession, because you’ve already made up your mind. But here’s the thing . . . even if I was guilty I’d never admit it. And do you know why?”

I shook my head.

“Because I love you too goddamned much. And I love Damien. I love what we’ve made of our lives. I don’t want things to get any more complicated than they are. If you can’t handle that, if that keeps you from loving me or loving Damien, if that keeps you from wanting to go on living the life we’re living . . . .”

“You’d rather I just keep wondering?”

“I don’t see any other way, sweetheart. I just explained why.”

I had to think about that, and for a long time I did. Jeanne stood there with her jaw clenched, watching the woman with the cocker spaniel returning.

And then I started to giggle. It came on like a storm, like an Oklahoma twister swooping out of nowhere. I tried to stifle it, but it was like trying to stifle a sneezing fit.

Jeanne uncrossed her arms and backed away in alarm.

It lasted maybe half a minute. Then it morphed into something similar to what I’d heard come out of my dad. A storm of a different kind. No way could I staunch the flood of tears, those heaving keening yowls that sounded like a wounded animal. It was less than manly. I don’t know what I was ashamed of most, the giggling or the sobbing.

Jeanne made matters worse when she came over and put her arms around me.

We walked back to the van in silence. Damien was still engrossed in his game. I took the wheel and we drove on.

Traffic grew heavier, bunching up as we neared Bethesda. Now and then I glanced over to find Jeanne staring straight ahead, lips drawn taut against her teeth. I kept thinking about everything she’d said. Even if I got the truth I’d asked for, would I actually know it? And what would I do with the truth? How would the truth serve me? If it came to it, who would benefit from my throwing down the gauntlet? Who would win? Who would lose? What would be the prize?

The truth isn’t always a good thing.

Call it weakness if you like, even cowardice, I’d stopped caring. One thing I’d learned from my mom was to just press on once you know a thing is beyond rectifying. And having made that decision, I found myself letting go and rejoicing in my own good fortune. Shamelessly rejoicing. If I was a coward, I was a live coward. I not only had Jeanne and Damien, I had my arms and legs. I could walk and run and dance. I could pick my nose. I had so much more than I deserved.

Compared to Tyler, I had everything.

And that was where I left it as we reached the hospital and stepped out of the air-conditioned van into the mugginess of a Maryland summer afternoon, the gritty reek of frying asphalt washing over us like a wildfire. Jeanne held one of Damien’s hands and I held the other. Our son hummed tunelessly as we went inside to welcome his father home from Afghanistan.

Bill Pippin was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize. His short story “Century” won first prize in the Summer 2014 edition of Sixfold. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, also The MacGuffin, Black Fox, Sixfold, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and elsewhere. His nonfiction has been published in Newsweek, Field & Stream, Writer’s Digest, Philadelphia Magazine, and many other publications. He lives in New Mexico with his wife Zona.

Dotted Line