Today's Reading

1

Henry Keen

It's like a caterpillar in a jar, this idea he's got in his head.

Sometimes Henry imagines he's watching it through the glass: It's alive in there. It's growing. If you gave it long enough, he thinks, you could watch it evolve. If you left it for a while and came back, you'd have a butterfly.

It starts out as this thing he needs to do, and he wants to do it without leaving a mess behind. Because he'd like to believe he's not the kind of person who leaves a mess behind.

So he won't do it at home. He'll drive out, someplace far, where it's green. He can picture the spot. There's a field and an unpaved road, and he can see himself pulling over to the side and getting out of the car.

There's a hill with grass, and a tree at the top. He walks up until he's in the shade of the tree. He looks around at the grass and the blue sky.

He's in a high place and it's windy, and he's wearing a black wool coat. There's a gun in the right-hand pocket. A pistol with fifteen bullets, even though he'll only need one.

He'll go out on his feet, standing in the shade. He'll hold the gun to his temple. He has practiced at home in a mirror. He'll pull the trigger and his body will crumple to the ground. His blood will end up on the grass.

That's the idea.

But the idea evolves.


2

Sean Tennant

Morning. The windows in the bedroom face south. There's sunlight falling on the white sheets and on the pale-gray blanket that's been thrown aside.

Sean is half-tangled in the top sheet. His eyes are closed, but he's awake. He hears Molly come in from the kitchen. She has coffee. He can smell it.

She sets a glass on the bedside table. Orange juice. For him. He never developed a taste for coffee.

"I know how this goes," she says.

Sean opens his eyes. Molly is perched on the edge of the bed now, holding her mug. She's wearing one of his shirts. Her legs are bare.

"How does this go?" Sean asks.

She takes a drink of coffee before she answers.

"I'm gonna take a shower now and wash my hair. Then I'll dry it and put on makeup. And you'll be in here, all lazy. But eventually you'll remember you're not gonna see me for five days. And then... we both know what will happen then."

"What will happen?"

"You'll make a move. I'll resist at first, but then I'll give in. Because I'm a good sport."

Sean smiles. "That's true."

"Afterward I'll have to shower again and redo my makeup," Molly says. "And we'll be late getting to the airport. I don't mind being late, but I know it makes you nervous, even if you're not the one catching a flight."

"That's true too."

"So if you're gonna make a move, you need to do it now."

Sean sits up and reaches for the orange juice. He takes a sip and puts on a face as if he's thinking.

"All right," he says. "If that's the way it's got to be."
...

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