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And You’re Not

It’s dark at 2:30 in the morning when there’s a smell of smoke in the house and your husband’s in Holland and you’re not.

You think you’d hear crackling of flames if there were a true fire: the carpet and cabinets burning merrily, popping bright little sparks into the air, but everything is still. The bedroom and upstairs hallway drowse, draped in shadows.

A small nightlight downstairs is no comfort. There are three floors to prowl, groggy and cold-footed, sniffing like a wary animal stumbling out of the cave of sleep.

Nose lifted, scalp prickling, you mince down each step, waiting for the onslaught of ash, the rush of heat. The back hallway chills you and there is no fire, no arsonist, at least not here. But this isn’t all.

To the basement, then, that place of hidden thoughts and things, of cobwebby memories and corners and no curtains on the windows. Your nose is worn out, can find nothing, not a trace of danger or fire and you trudge back to bed, missing his soft snore, his slender back.

You curl into your black bed, still cold-footed and naked, wishing that smoke didn’t scuttle into your dreams when your husband is in Holland. And you’re not.


Jane Banning lives in Oregon, Wisconsin with her husband and son.  She has received honorable mentions in the 2008 Micro Fiction Contest and the 2009 Glass Woman Prize Contest.  Her work has appeared in the University of Iowa Daily Palette, Six Sentences, Long Story Short, Boston Literary Magazine, Lyrical Passion Poetry and 52250 Flash.  She is pretty certain that this story is fictional.

Read more stories by Jane Banning


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