The house is too silent. Garland stands at the screen door staring across the dry, fallow front field. It’s hot outside. Hot enough for old thirsts to tempt him. But there is no beer in the fridge now. None for nearly two years. But, boy, this is a day made for beer, Garland thinks. He lets his eyes drift close and remembers the wonderfully cold bite in his throat after the first sip, so familiar back then. Garland swallows reflexively from the muscle memory earned after so many years, so many drinks.

A cooling breeze pushes across the porch, strong enough to cause the swing to begin swaying, drawing Garland’s attention. The fond memory of cold beer suddenly sours and he fights not to vomit. He squeezes his eyes against the burning in his gullet, in his stomach. In his heart.

When he opens his eyes again, he’s unable to keep from watching the chipped and peeling swing, hazed through the fine mesh of the screen, slowing and slowing but never settling. Behind him the house is still and silent. Too silent to keep out the sounds in Garland’s head—the rattle of the swing’s chains, the loud crack that followed, his wife’s screams as he carried the baby into the house.

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Ray Morrison

About Ray Morrison

Ray Morrison spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn, NY and Washington, DC but headed south after college to earn his degree in veterinary medicine and he hasn’t looked north since. He has happily settled in Winston-Salem, NC with his wife and three children where, when he is not writing short stories, he ministers to the needs of dogs, cats and rodents. His debut collection of short stories, “In a World of Small Truths” (Press 53), was released in November, 2012. His fiction has appeared in Ecotone, Beloit Fiction Journal, StorySouth, FictionSoutheast, Carve Magazine, Night Train, Word Riot, and others. He can be reached at rmorrison4@triad.rr.com.