Herb-Woman

Rose hips grow by the wooden gate, red fruit already wrinkling in the late-summer sun. I pause with my hand on the latch, gathering a few and storing them away in my apron pockets before I go inside. They smell of hot wind and dust, but brewed into a syrup, they’ll cure cough and treat…

Where Peace Abounds

He throws me out after the fifth beer. My mother will follow me in an hour or so. She offends him less, I think, because she doesn’t answer back when he swears at her. She’s everything I’m not and wish I could have been. Soft and gentle, kinder than one of God’s angels, with mouse-brown…

How I Will Probably Die

I find the bookshop on 47th and Willow, sandwiched between a pawn shop with a broken lamp in the window and a jewelry store selling fake pearls. The windows are shuttered, and a black cat is lying on the doorstep. She arches against my hand when I reach down and pet her, and when I…

Glass Butterflies

They live in the greenhouse at the base of the cliffs. The blackened crags rise above it, glistening and wet with the spray of the sea, and the cry of the gulls fills the air. The greenhouse is abandoned, has been for as long as I can remember. No one goes there. Not anymore. No…

Our Father

Our Father, who art in heaven… I hear the door of the nave creak as he comes in. The sanctuary is dark, only the candles around the altar still burning. I stand beside them, my eyes on the cross above the altar, and hold my breath as he comes down the aisle. I can already…

Peanut Butter and Jelly

She always made me a PBJ as soon as we got to work. Eat it slow, she’d tell me, that’s all you get until lunch. Then she’d sit me on a stool in the corner of the kitchen, and I’d watch her cook. No one else came to the kitchen as early as she did….

Empty House

The house is haunted. All of the kids say so. When we pass it after school they throw rocks at the windows and sticks in the yard, but no one ever dares go past the gate and down the gravel drive. The porch is sloped, nearly collapsing under its own weight, and the garden’s long…

Pumpkin Patch

We harvest the pumpkins by candlelight when the moon hangs full over the black trees and the wind is cold. The goblins steal them otherwise. The stories say they see where we take them if we harvest during the day, and any other night they’d be in the fields themselves, stealing them anyway. So we…

Mother

We go to the bath houses after the healers leave us. She always likes to go to the bath houses first, to get the smell of their herbs off her skin. She’s never liked healers. Their prodding fingers, their clucking tongues. Their remedies that have never really taken away any of her pain. I’ve spent…

Merchant

Her booth is in an alley, back behind the dumpsters. She doesn’t like me to come very often, especially since she knows I only buy once a week. I don’t have money for more, but it’s hard to stay away. I don’t have anywhere else to go. The streets around her are gray, gray as…