Along the Six

The longest night of the year. The heat cranked as high as it can go, but there’s only so much the pitiful baseboard heaters can do against the killing wind clawing at the single pane windows. Three feet out from the wall and it’s still there, the cold, sinking its teeth into your aching bones. The swarms of Japanese beetles have died at last, their brittle, hollow bodies a crackling carpet in the corners and an inch deep in the dish of the floor lamp. Wrap yourself in every blanket you own, drag the mattress to the center of the room, pray you make it through till dawn.

Wind cold enough to freeze the breath in your nostrils. Wait, steaming, just inside the doors, for your glasses to defrost, the icicles crowding your nose, your mouth to melt. Bodies left in the snow will stay fresh for spring; the grass, brown and bitter, waits for the first rains. Once they burned these plains in summer to keep them fertile, to keep them growing, but those centuries of human care and cultivation have been swallowed by time and cold and genocide, paved over and mucked under with hog farms, corn fields, nazis.

In the town they spit at you; it rattles against the thick padding of your coat, just one more piece of windblown ice.


Four days out of Seattle and she’s tired of rest stops, mountains, hostile gas station attendants in Montana. Her back and hips are in agony from sleeping doubled in the car but she can’t afford anything else and it’s too cold to sleep outside. Gut burns with road food, the passenger seat well is choked with snack wrappers and empty pop cans; she’d happily stab a man for so much as a glimpse at a fresh tomato or an avocado.

Every dime goes to gas and by the evening of the fourth day she’s praying she has enough to get her to Chicago at least. Amanda’ll put her up for a few days, long enough to shower at least, and maybe let her have a couple of bucks in exchange for a hobo tattoo; she did Amanda’s last tattoo, an only slightly wobbly map of the L, but that was a while ago and they’ve added a couple of stations since then. Maybe a hundred bucks to update it? She should be so lucky.

The last day she skips eating, drives empty and hollow, lets the highway hypnosis take her through Minnesota and Wisconsin. What she’ll do when she hits the ocean or the gas runs out she leaves to the gods of the road; there’s nothing behind her but a decade of bad decisions.


She’d crashed on the planet, gosh, almost twenty years ago now, and the couple whose hog waller she’d crawled out of had been nice enough to take her in, teach her the language, adopt her, like. They didn’t talk much about the past, but she got the feeling that they’d lost at least one kid before she came around, maybe more. They certainly treated her like family, but there was always just a little bit of distance there, a little bit of an expectation that, old as they were, they’d live to bury her yet.

Maybe so.

By the standards of her previous life this didn’t qualify. Nights they froze, winters they half-starved, there was too much work to do for the three of them and not nearly enough food to go around. They slept when it was dark, ate boiled grass some years; there wasn’t a book in the house and she wasn’t sure they could have read if there’d been anything to read.

Still. She wasn’t idle, and she wasn’t useless, and if they kept her just a bit at arm’s length, well, it was the rare summer night that she didn’t go out to the flat rock at the edge of the woods and pick out the star she’d come from, or scan the sky for a sign, any sign, that someone was looking for her, that there was life beyond this field, this county, this country, this land, this world.

But she wasn’t unhappy. Things could definitely be worse.

Elevator Pitch

One’s a swinging bachelor! One’s a hard-driving executive! One’s an irresponsible stoner! They’re all roommates, and they’ve all been dating the same woman! Can they raise a baby together?


She’s a hard-bitten private investigator that no one takes seriously! He’s the cowardly actor she hired to serve as the face of the agency. Can they work together to solve a murder?


He’s an out of work actor coasting on a show three decades out of style, she’s a college dropout hiding from her parents in her aunt’s unfinished apartment, he’s a broke Broadway producer desperately trying to grift enough to keep the illusion of relevancy alive, can they launch a successful podcast?


Casualties continue to mount in Ukraine as winter sets in. Power failures are common, as the invading army cuts power to the country’s largest cities. Meanwhile in Somalia, the drought enters its fifth year, and starvation grips the once-powerful nation; a victim of increasingly violent climate change, which continues to fall most heavily on formerly colonized nations. We enter our third year of a global pandemic, with no end in sight; less than one in eight Americans have received the latest booster. Here at home, the former President has called for the suspension of the US Constitution, and demanded a return to power and control of what remains the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.


Confused? You won’t be, after this episode of Soap!


Clover leaned back in his chair and lit a cigarette, stared out over the city without seeing it. Uncounted poems had been written about the way the morning sun struck the hills overlooking the bay, but it was just visual noise to him. He picked unhappily at the remains of his breakfast, the scrambled eggs, black coffee, and currant jam on rye toast that he started each day with. He had been camping out in this hotel room for over a week, and the waiting was beginning to get to him. The city’s charms were wasted on someone who couldn’t leave their room.

With nothing better to do, he went to clean the high powered rifle yet again, methodically disassembling it, inspecting and oiling each component part, then methodically reassembling the gun. When it was back together, he broke it down again; rebuilt it and broke it down again. The ritual soothed him, replaced the cacophony of his thoughts with a peaceful white noise.

The sun has swung from morning to late afternoon when the ringing of the phone broke him from his trance. He stretched muscles only slightly tense from disuse, and picked up the phone. He said nothing, but a woman’s voice on the other end of the line said, “It’s time,” and a smile broke the surface of his face for the first time in a week.