Rumpus Original Fiction: Hatch


The river boiled with trout. Alan Blake was beside himself. Guides reported monster fish from River Junction all the way through the box canyon. All day Friday in surgery, the doctor spoke of his plans to float the river, dismissing talk that the water was too high. Patients were wheeled in and Alan ordered the volume up on his jazz station, put his head down, and got to work. He wasn’t short with anyone. He hardly minded when a nurse dropped the retractors and the autoclave was empty; another pair only had to be fetched from down the hall. What did it matter? It was June and the salmonfly hatch had begun.

In between cases, Alan buzzed with energy. His boat was already packed, his shuttle set up. He had chosen a less popular section of water, with lots of snags and curves. This was Father’s Day weekend and the banks would be swarmed with waders. He didn’t like crowds. Higher water meant fewer boats. Besides, bugs didn’t care about snags and curves. If the reports were correct, he would see willow branches, shore sedges, even marsh grasses bending under the weight of salmonfly clusters.

The salmonfly was a slim bug, beetle-like, with long antenna. A mature female could be as long as a man’s middle finger. The sole purpose of its short adult life was to mate. Heavy with cargo, the females would skim the river surface and pump a dark, pea-sized egg sac into the water. Clumsy, exhausted, knocked by the wind, the females most often ended up in the river. A fisherman could sink his fly, imitating nymphs swimming towards metamorphosis, but Alan preferred dry fly fishing. It took more skill. He could lay his fly on the water with profound gentleness, a perfect simulation of the doomed female’s erratic flight after delivering her egg bomb. Once she hit the surface, the struggle didn’t last long. As if she knew her work was done, she would tuck in her wings and become still, waiting to be consumed.

The last case of the day ran late, a hardware removal that turned into a stringy mess: tissue over metal, metal in bone. Afterwards, Chloe untied his gown for him.

“Friday night, Dr. B,” she said. “What’s for dinner? Sweet Chili’s Pad Thai? Or Larry’s Tacos?”

The other two nurses were listening, peeling off their gloves. Years ago, he’d told them that his wife did not cook. Smiling, Alan pulled off his gown and tossed it in the bin.

“We’ll see, ladies,” he said. “We shall see.”

While it was true that Merrit didn’t cook, it was also true that for years dinner in the Blake house had been yogurt and fruit, often in different rooms. This wasn’t Merrit’s fault. She wasn’t the type to bake a chicken and keep it warm. But Merrit Blake was at the top of his nurses’ shit list, up there with people who left children unattended in the waiting room. Merrit was a history professor who never visited and rarely called. The Professor’s on the phone, was how they paged him when she did. Her academic life was proof of her self-absorption. Anybody could study for years, write a dissertation, and teach, Chloe said once, her colleagues smirking, nodding in agreement. “The rest of us have to get real jobs.”

Though he loved their devotion to him, Alan disagreed. He respected academics. The life of the mind. But Merrit was remote. She had published a book, was working on a second. Always reading, thinking, writing or preparing lectures and papers. She wanted to divorce him, she had announced eight weeks ago. Had moved into their grown daughter’s bedroom. They were “played out,” she had said. “Gray divorce,” she called it, something she’d heard on NPR about older couples who decided to call it quits. Two of Alan’s colleagues had split with their wives. One of Merrit’s good friends was also going through a divorce. Alan understood this could happen, but he did not believe it was a thing that could happen to them.

His commute took thirty minutes, a drive that used to take fifteen but the town was growing. When he pulled into his driveway, he was shocked to see their daughter’s car. Ashley and her son Ollie lived three hours south, yet here they were in his living room. Ollie was in front of the television, entranced.

“Hi, Dad,” Ash said, barely looking up from her phone.

Alan paused, suddenly worried that this was a visit he’d forgotten. Years ago, Father’s Day—in fact, the entire weekend—had become his. Most often he went fishing. Sometimes Ash sent a card; usually she didn’t. He came in to kiss her head, then Ollie’s.

Merrit was in the kitchen boiling water. She had unearthed ravioli and opened a bottle of wine. No, she did not know they were coming. They were staying the weekend, she said. Ashley had something to do in town tomorrow. She wanted them to watch Ollie.

Alan felt his chest tighten. Merrit probably expected him to go anyway. “Sacrifice all for the almighty hatch,” he could hear her say. But in their current situation, he felt a cloud of guilt descend, the sort of thing that could ruin the whole outing. “What’s she got to do all day?” he asked, stepping closer to pour himself a glass of merlot.

“Didn’t say.”

The truth was that they hardly knew their grandson. They saw him once a summer and at the holidays. Sometimes, spring break. Ash and Ollie had lived with them for three months after he was born, then moved away. She had friends in Bozeman, got a job, found daycare. The house without her was the first peace they’d known in years.

Alan and Merrit admitted long ago that they weren’t cut out to be parents. As early as age seven, Ashley would ball her fists, throw shoes at her parents, punch them, pull their hair. By age thirteen she wore nothing but black clothing and tied a dark ribbon around her throat. When she was seventeen, she vanished for three months and reappeared with her belly tight as a drum. She moved back into her room, saying she wanted to give birth at the same hospital where she was born. They hadn’t known there was a boyfriend. “There isn’t,” she smirked, and no more was said about it.

Ash told Alan he was a terrible listener. She must have said it every day of her pregnancy. He was a bull-headed, emotionally bankrupt, spoiled white man. His response was to shrug, smile and say, “Okay, but I love you.” This enraged her. She had her mother’s pale skin that showed every hint of emotion. Her face turned the shade of legs on a de-feathered pheasant when she screamed: “Fuck you, Dad! Fuck everything about you!”


In the kitchen, Alan and Merrit stood close to one another, unusually close for them these last few months. They were nearly the same height, both tall. People thought of them as a handsome couple. Dignified, Alan had always thought. Her dark hair was mostly silver now. She had a scholar’s skin, unblemished by the sun. He could hug her. They were not an affectionate couple, yet now that they were sharing this parental shame, he could imagine her in his arms. Their daughter had always done this for them. Ash was the operational crisis that united them, the mail bomb they had both survived.

“I put them in the guest room,” Merrit said.

A lump formed in Alan’s throat and he turned away. He knew what she meant. She could not put them in Ashley’s old room because she herself was living there.

A month ago she had asked him, “Why won’t you divorce me?” His answer: “Because I love you.” As soon as he’d said it, he felt the words separate from the feeling. He had delivered a line. Is this why Ash exploded in a rage when he had said he loved her all those years ago? If he felt wooden saying it, how must Merrit feel hearing it? Yet how else was he to express his feelings? Paint a picture? He painted fish. He was quite good at painting trout, had earned several ribbons in local art festivals. But fish did not express feelings. Not even well-painted fish. He was not an idiot.

He didn’t want a divorce. He admitted that they didn’t spend much time together, had few common interests. Merrit did not fly fish, for instance, while he’d spent thousands on a drift boat. He lived for his boat, did a hundred pushups a night and could maneuver it like it was an appendage, even at age fifty-eight. He had a bad habit of drifting straight past his take out. He would float till dark, pull over, sleep in his boat, and hitchhike back to his truck in the morning. The first time he did this, years ago, Merrit had called Search and Rescue. He returned to find the neighbors over, drinking coffee, huddled around the dining room holding Merrit’s hand and keeping Ashley distracted. These days when he didn’t come home, his wife hardly noticed.

“Let’s quit while we’re still friends,” Merrit had said. Was she being ironic? He wasn’t sure they’d ever been friends. They were a couple, always. When they were young their common interest had been each other. Friendship came from outside the marriage. In recent years, he often caught her looking at him with an intense expression, imploring him to understand something about her. Not infrequently he woke in the night to find her sitting in the dark, gazing out the window like an animal listening for the call of its own kind.

“Maybe this is good,” she said to him now. “We can tell Ashley.”

“I don’t want to tell her,” he said, facing her.

Merrit crossed to the stove without looking at him. Alan gulped his wine, emptying the glass. He had not eaten anything but trail mix between cases and could feel the alcohol buzz through him.

“We can take Ollie to the museum,” Merrit said, changing the subject. “Maybe visit the library.”

Though this was probably a good idea, Alan knew Merrit didn’t want to spend a June day inside any more than he did. Merrit liked hours-long walks. Non-teaching days were writing-at-home days for her. But what do you say to your daughter, a twenty-year-old single mother, when she asks for help? You say yes. Yes is what you say.

“I know what we’ll do,” Alan said, setting his glass on the counter. He crossed the room to stand near her and waited for her to turn. When she did, there was sorrow in her expression. He had expected defiance. Merrit didn’t like being told what to do, not even suggestions.

“We’ll take him fishing,” he said.


Alan was up at dawn to switch out his pickup for the Suburban, telling himself this was no big deal, only a matter of unhooking the boat from one and attaching it to the other. He didn’t protest at breakfast when Ash commandeered the stove to make gluten-free oatmeal for herself and Ollie. He was on his third cup of coffee when Ash announced that she and Ollie were moving back to Deaton. Alan could hear his own sawing breath. He seemed detached from his body, watching his hand from afar as it lowered the mug to the tabletop. Was this a good thing? Should they ask her to move in with them? Did she want that?

“Don’t everybody start clapping at once,” Ash said with a wry smile.

Merrit’s spoon fell off the side of her plate. Her hand snapped over it to stop the clatter.

“A friend is opening a deli downtown and wants me to manage it. Today I’m looking at rentals.”

“Well, wonderful!” Merrit said, smiling over her surprise. “Good luck! Yes, take as long as you need!”

Merrit appeared genuinely positive about the idea. Ashley moved on to the subject of what Ollie could and could not eat, and what activities were acceptable. Floating the Blackfoot was not on the list, Alan noted. Ash thought he was going alone, he understood. She was speaking to Merrit about Ollie, not him. He wondered if Ash knew about the divorce, if Merrit had told her. He decided immediately that he wasn’t going to mention fishing. He waited for Merrit to confess. When she didn’t, when they had all moved out to the driveway to wave goodbye and she still hadn’t said anything, Alan felt a little giddy, as if they had a secret plan.

But once Ashley sped away and Alan took the booster seat to the Suburban, Merrit came rushing over. “Alan,” she said, “we can’t take him in the boat!”

He turned, deflated. There was no secret plan. “You thought we were wading?”

“We can’t take a three-year-old in a boat!”

“People take kids all the time! I’m a master at this, Merrit.”

“We should tell Ash.”

“She’ll say no.” Alan opened the back door. He went to lift the booster onto the seat and jumped when the back fell off. It hit the driveway and lay there like a severed limb.

“Did I just break it?” he asked, looking at Merrit.

“I think you did.”

Merrit pursed her lips, suppressing a smile. Giddiness rose in him again. He never broke things. He wasn’t clumsy with objects or people, and he rarely goofed off. But now he gave the booster back a small kick. Merrit snorted, something close to a laugh. She picked up the back, tried and failed to reattach it. They switched and Alan tried. When he couldn’t figure it out, he flung it in the far back of the Suburban and said, “We’ll just buckle him in.”

They both looked at the boy crouched in the driveway, studying the gravel.

“Come on,” Alan said. “We’ll keep the float short.”


Halfway to the put in they stopped for gas. Merrit bought Ollie a chocolate milk. He thanked her politely, then asked if it was organic. Alan glanced at her in disbelief. A few miles down the road, Ollie leaned forward, pulling against the seat belt. “Where’s the back of my chair?” he whined. “I’m supposed to have a back!”

This was what Alan remembered about being a parent: the steady erosion of optimism.

“My god, is he serious?” he asked Merrit.

“He’s three,” she said. “Irony is beyond him.”

She turned to explain that since Ollie had made it more than halfway without a back to his seat, he would probably be all right for another ten minutes.

“Do you know what a trout is, Ollie?” Alan asked, turning the rearview mirror to see him.

The boy’s face was distorted by a worried frown, but his eyes lit up at his grandfather’s question. “Of course I know a trout,” he said.

“Is it a bird?” asked Merrit.

Alan watched a grin spread across the boy’s face. “No Grandma,” Ollie said. “It’s not a bird.”

Another mile passed. Now the boy was kicking his feet. “Oh,” he cried, looking out his window. “An eagle!”

“Where?” asked Merrit, leaning against her window to see the sky above them.

Crouching over the steering wheel, Alan saw the bird arcing over the river, the white fan of its tail and pale head. It was an eagle.

“Okay!” Alan grinned. “He knows the national bird!”

At the boat ramp the air was heavy with bugs. They covered the windshields of the parked vehicles. They landed on Merrit’s hat as she struggled into her waders. Alan moved with bursts of energy. In his waders, he jumped back in the truck to launch the boat. He had hired a shuttle driver to leave the rig at the take out for them. When the driver had gone, Alan pulled his boat along the short pier and tied it. He sprinted back to help Merrit with the cooler. She stood watching Ollie pick salmonflies off the tall sedge stalks. He had a bug in each hand. Three more crawled up his vest. Alan had a distinct memory of Ashley at age ten, screaming from the back of the boat, her body rigid with disgust. She had found a salmonfly in her hair.

Looking up, Ollie said, “A trout is a fish, Grandpa. Not a bird.”

For the first time in months, the Blakes smiled at each other.


Alan rowed from the center bench and Merrit sat in the bow. Ollie stayed in the bottom of the boat between them. The water was faster than it looked; Merrit wouldn’t be able to row. If he wanted to fish, they’d have to stop. He was thinking of places they might do this when Merrit turned in her seat, grinning and pointing. They had come to Arrowhead Flats. Later in the year it would be a sandy beach, but in June it wasn’t much more than a wide spot with slower current. That Merrit recognized the place thrilled Alan. They used to anchor here when Ashley was small, when they still did things like this. The girls would pick mint bouquets while Alan cast from the shore.

“Let’s stop!” Merrit cried. “You two wait in the boat. I’ll pick Ollie some mint!”

Alan steered them to the shallows and jumped out, holding the boat while Merrit got out. “I won’t be a minute,” she said and headed for the grass.

No bugs here. The hatch could be spotty; you’d have a swarm in one stretch, then move thirty feet downriver and see nothing. Alan decided against fishing. He felt a loosening in his gut from too much coffee. There was a stand of aspens twenty yards up in the tall grass. He hauled the boat further up the bank, wedged the anchor between two big rocks, told Ollie to stay put and called to Merrit that he was making a pit stop. With his first step the situation became dire; he had to run and lower his waders behind the first tree he came to. The whole of this action couldn’t have taken five minutes. He was certain of this, went over and over it later, trying to form a timeline from when he felt the lowering in his bowels, to the moment he heard a shout. Merrit had been right there, not ten feet from the boat. The current must have surged, moving the rocks, freeing the anchor. He should have pulled it further up, beached it or tied the bow line to something.

He had just yanked up his long johns when he heard her cry. What he was seeing did not fully register: the unmoored boat circling in slow water, headed for the real current; Ollie’s blond head just visible over the gunwales; Merrit running and stumbling in her waders, headed right into the water.

Alan leapt into motion, kicking off his waders as he ran, shouting at her to stop. Her waders would fill and she’d drop like a cinder block. He stopped to hop-kick out of the neoprene booties, still shouting as he sprinted over the rocks in his socks and thermals. In that split second, Merrit had vanished. The boat was a hundred yards downstream, stuck in a logjam. Not thinking, barely taking a breath, Alan plunged in.

The current’s muscle snuffed out the world. His lungs seized; his skull pounded. The water was liquid snow. Hypothermia wouldn’t take long. He kicked, got his arms moving and curled his knees to his chest to send his feet downstream, trying to protect his skull. But the current unrolled him like a blanket, dragging his legs along the rocky bed. His torso was pushed under and his face smeared the gravel bottom.

He clawed the riverbed with his hands and knees, dragging himself like an anchor. The fingernail of his right middle finger peeled back and dislodged. For a moment, dug in, he was able to push back and gulp air. He glimpsed the boat, still immobile, before the water took him again, dragging his body through a rocky chute like pinball bumpers.

If he collided with the boat, it would all be over. If he missed the boat, he’d never get back upstream. He was about to launch himself up for a mad grab when his body slammed into a downed tree. A vacuum sucked him deeper into the river and his mind went blank. He lost Merrit, Ollie, and all sense of his life. Later, this would feel stunningly cruel and animal, to forget everything that mattered to him.

His eyes were open as he rolled and twisted with unimaginable violence. He could see nothing but a yellowish bubbling swirl, couldn’t tell the surface from the bottom. A dark ceiling closed over him, the tree surely. Or a boulder, a meteorite, a troll. He rolled and kicked against the water’s vicious pull. He felt but could not see the pale flutter of his own scrabbling hands. His diaphragm was cracking. Time stopped. And sound. He understood he was going to have to draw a breath. If he did, he would drown. Resisting, bursting, he felt water sneak into his sinuses. The doctor didn’t make it, Alan heard a voice say, and this terrified him.

Writhing, surrendering, actively drowning, Alan’s legs scissor-kicked in a mad refusal that saved his life. His hands shot upward and, miraculously, touched air, found the slick bark of the fallen tree. Clawing, pulling, ripping himself upward, the doctor freed not his head, not even his forehead, but the tip of his nose. He sucked in a desperate breath half full of water. Then another and another. Far, far above he saw blue. He was looking up through the water to the sky. Clawing the submerged log, he pulled his eyes out of the water, then his mouth. Gasping, coughing, he wrapped his hands, then his arms around the log until his head and shoulders were up. Hundreds of pounds of water pressure still pulled at his legs, folding him around the tree like fabric in a gale.

His first real awareness was that of insect feet. Salmonflies on his scalp, even on his face. One touched his lip and he almost inhaled it, he was breathing so hard. Inching himself free, he collapsed every few seconds to rest against the log. This went on maybe an hour, maybe ten minutes. When he could lift his head, he saw his boat stuck in the logjam, the stern caught on the same half-submerged log he was fighting. The sight inspired another surge of adrenaline. He freed a leg, skinning his knee against the bark. He got it up and over the tree, then lay there straddling it. His face hung inches above a small, ridiculously tranquil pool on the other side of the strainer. A half dozen water striders skated over its surface, their bodies creating a five-point star that struck him as exquisite. Snowflakes in summer.

He lifted himself on shaking arms. The boat was close enough to touch. Out towards the end of the snag, caught in the branches, was a foreign object. His eyes fixed on it and his heart sank. Merrit’s hat.

Water came up his throat and fell straight down his front. He gagged up more, blinking fiercely in the brightness, watching his vomit hit the pool and scatter the striders. He turned away from the hat, leaning forward to draw his feet up underneath him in a wobbling squat. Gazing at his bloodied finger, he marveled that he could not feel it. He looked over and saw Ollie safe in the boat’s bottom, distracted by the salmonflies crawling over his legs. Alan sobbed. Snot and tears leaked from his face.

He had no strength left to make the jump from log to boat, made a terrible mess of it. His knees hit the gunwale and he fell inside, knocking the boy sideways. The boat rocked violently but held. Alan saw it was the anchor pinning them, tangled in brush. He pulled it but it wouldn’t budge. Leaning over the crying boy, he flipped open his tackle box and grabbed his knife. Bracing his legs, using everything he had left in his arms to saw back and forth with the blade, he ignored Ollie’s god-awful noise and focused on each nylon fiber as it snapped. When it finally gave, the boat lurched forward, knocking Ollie sideways again, nearly throwing Alan out of the boat. The knife was lost. Alan scrambled to the bench and grabbed the oars. Shocked by how fast they were shot downstream, he understood he had grossly miscalculated the river.

Ollie was howling now, his face a caricature of misery, the sad clown mouth, eyes leaking like a hose. Alan felt what he had never felt before, not even for his own child. A wish to gather him up, hold him tight. The feeling was associated with his boyhood, an impulse towards his blanket or a stuffed bear. Alan did what was not natural to him. He began to speak. His blustering, full voice filled his throat and vibrated his skull as he listed the most common species of trout found on the Blackfoot: westslope, rainbow, brown, bull. Birds seen on the Blackfoot: herons, sandhills, buffleheads. Hawks: swainson, red tail, shirred. He recalled the mnemonic from medical school, the bones of the hand: Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle. Scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, hamate.

“You’re bleeding,” Ollie said.

Alan looked at the boy, only then realizing his crying had stopped. He glanced down at his legs. His long johns rode up to his knees and both shins were scratched raw and purple with bruising. An idiotic laughter leapt out of him. “So I am!”

“Where’s Grandma?”

Alan’s chest tightened. “Grandma hates fishing,” he said with false cheer. “I think she went home.”

Ollie looked down at the bugs in his fists, then up at the passing bank. He pointed. Two waders stared in wonder at the half-naked man in the boat. There must be a parking area nearby. He could pull over. He imagined what he’d say, how he’d explain what happened. He might ask them if they’d seen a body. That would not be an unreasonable question.

Around the next bend the bugs were thick again. There were more fishermen. One waved. Astonishing. Men having a great day. Even Ollie grinned. His teeth small square pearls. The boy looked back upstream, saw something and dropped the bugs. He stood.

“Sit down!” Alan shouted, panicked, planting both his feet to counteract the sway.

The boy dropped as if he’d been hit. His lower lip began to quiver.

“Oh now,” said Alan. “You scared me is all!” He exaggerated a smile, sure he looked like a lunatic.

“I saw Grandma,” Ollie sniffed.

“Where?” Alan cried, turning his head. He leaned on the oars, almost standing against the current. “Where Ollie? Where!”

The boy pointed. Alan saw nothing but rowed them closer to shore. Impossible. He would not get his hopes up. He would not. The boat scraped the bottom. They were in a slow shallow similar to Arrowhead Flats. Alan pulled the oars in and jumped out.

Holding on to the bow, he pulled it out of the water. He didn’t stop until it was entirely beached on a long gravel flat. This had to be Rocky Point, he realized; they were further downstream than he thought. He could see fishermen in the distance. Between here and there was a boulder field with several rocks as big as cars. In June and July, floaters knew to avoid this side of the river or risk their boat being dashed. In late summer, sunbathers draped themselves on the rocks, dipping themselves in the pools that formed once the water was low.

“Come on,” Alan said, reaching for the boy. “Let’s go look.”

He took two steps and knew he couldn’t carry Ollie over the rocks. He put him down and they walked slowly, Ollie in his sandals and Alan tender-footing his way over the rocks towards the boulders. If a body was going to turn up, it would be here. When they got to the first of the large boulders, Alan felt his dread grow. What in God’s name was he going to say to Ashley?

He used the smaller rocks as stairs, pulling Ollie up behind him. The anglers were no longer visible below the boulders. He saw Merrit before Ollie did. Stripped of waders and long johns, her pale body stood out like a surrender flag, naked, wedged upright in a split rock. He couldn’t imagine how the river had put her there. An animal wail came out of his throat and his breath was short.

Pulling Ollie behind him, he navigated the safest route he could find, heading back inland and then out again. Had she fought at all, he wondered. Or did she tuck in her wings and surrender, like an insect when her work is done. He hoped it was quick. From ten paces he saw salmonflies on top of her head, even one on her face. He began to blubber. He ought to protect Ollie from the sight, but he couldn’t stop now. He lifted the boy and stepped over the last crevice. The rock was long and flat on top, easy going until you got to the edge where it had split and held her in its jaws. Snot spouted from his nose and he shook his head, unable to speak or turn away.

Alan released the boy, who watched as he stooped over her to brush the bugs from her face. When Merrit’s eyes opened, Alan jumped back, scared silent. She blinked and he clapped his hands. He went to embrace her, but she cried out. He pulled back, assessing. Something broken, probably the clavicle. He noticed the way she pinned her left hand in her right armpit. Possibly the wrist, too. She turned her head slightly to see Ollie. A sound came from her lips. Alan got to his feet and wrapped his arms around her, ignoring her cries of pain, pulling her from the fissure. He took two shaky steps and felt his legs giving way, so set her on her feet as gently as he could. She slid out of his hands and slunk to her bottom, leaning back against the rock. He watched, horrified, as she again turned towards Ollie.

“Yes, he’s fine! We’re fine!” Alan crouched next to her, touching her face. Black debris had pooled in her ear. He used his pinky finger to remove a speck from the corner of her eye. He was going to need help. He could not get them out of here on his own. An abrupt memory of the water’s dark, the river trying to swallow him. He had the sense he had fought something and survived, was alive, kneeling next to his wife. Yet he was not at all sure he had won the fight. His body began to shake. Cold spread over him. He watched Merrit’s unfocused eyes and sensed her far from him, as far away as those nights he caught her sitting awake. There was no imploring in her now, nothing she wanted from him. He grasped her good hand and leaned close to her face.

“I’m sorry,” he said, choking. “I’m so sorry.”

Her eyes never left Ollie. Slowly, she slipped her fingers from Alan’s grasp and reached out for the boy. Ollie took her hand.

“Here is Grandma,” the boy said, turning to look at Alan. “She did not go home.”

Placing the palm of his hand on the boy’s skull, Alan closed his eyes.


Rumpus original art by Ciera Dudley.

Christy Stillwell's first novel, The Wolf Tone, won the 2017 Elixir Press Fiction Prize. Her poetry chapbook, Amnesia, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008. Stillwell holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College, an MA from University of Wyoming and a BA from University of Georgia. Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Literary Mama, The Tishman Review, Hypertext, Salon, and others. She has received a residency at Vermont Studio Center and is a Wyoming Arts Council Literary Fellow. She lives in Montana. Learn more at More from this author →