Flash fiction by
Kim Steutermann Rogers
Thursday Afternoon, Ruby Ridge Road, Homer, AK 99603
The shots will start mid-afternoon as Sylvie reads about sharks with watermelon-sized hearts that live 500 years, continually repairing damaged DNA. Sylvie will stand—neuropathy in her feet making her stumble—and split her living room curtain but won’t see anything except the broken washing machine her husband left before heading out for five months on a long-liner, fishing. When she hears the second shot, Sylvie will recall Alaska doesn’t require firearms permits—concealed or not—and will think of the school down the hill. She’ll think of souls lost too soon, and she’ll pour herself two fingers of whiskey.
“There goes the momma moose,” Sam will say when the first shot circles their unincorporated cul-de-sac where not even swing sets stop the hunting. “Bet they take the baby, too,” Sam will say to Sue, his wife. Sue, from outside—Denver—could barely handle Alaska’s winters. Not the cold but the gray—Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sue always had her head stuck in one of those special lamps, but the lamps will have stopped working and Sue won’t be home. She’ll be taking a long walk on Bishop’s Beach that started when the tide was out but now makes its return.
The shots will encircle Sarah as she’s emptying kitchen scraps into the backyard compost bin. Sarah served in Baghdad during the embassy attack, and she’ll hit the ground. She’ll feel the cold penetrate her too-light jacket, and she’ll know from experience her body won’t be mobile again for, at least, 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Stanley, her 90-pound Malamute, will be pummeling his way through her back door, clawing his way to her. She’ll hope Stanley doesn’t lodge another splinter in his gums, another trip to Dr. Jen the vet. Sarah’s therapist will suggest Sarah move. But Alaska has always been home.
“You take after your dad,” Sawyer, his blue eyes beaming, says to his son when the moose goes down, kill shot to the heart. “Got my first at eight, too.”
“Got your genes,” Sonny says, his chest practically protruding through his hand-me-down Carhartt jacket as the two walk to claim the animal that will fill their freezer and keep their bellies full through winter.
But when they find her, a calf stands near.
“You have to, son,” Sawyer says, hating that this lesson comes so soon after Sonny’s first harvest, after the loss of his own mother. “He won’t survive.”
Every night long after the sun sets in this place called Missouri in the middle of the New World, I walk. You chose this farm settlement for its fecundity, because it evokes images of our home halfway across a continent and the whole of the Atlantic Ocean, and I admit this place is beautiful. I walk a dirt trail lined with box elders and flattened by our horses, Dolly and Lucky. You took Dolly for her smooth gait and willing head. While you and Dolly trot into the pioneering west after some man who owes us money, I walk.
I walk alongside a trickle of creek flowing on limestone embedded with long-ago creatures and where a pair of geese come every spring to raise their goslings. It’s dead of winter now. The box elders are skeletons. The geese have long migrated. You, my dutiful husband, have not returned, so I walk.
I walk after our five children have been tucked into bed. I walk, one step anger, one step fear. I walk and think about the family we left behind, my sister Elise and her kids. Elise who is counting on us to send money home for her family’s passage. I walk up and down the fallow rows of our garden, the acre we cleared to plant corn, beans, tomatoes, and potatoes. But the cellar’s storage bins are nearly empty as is the purse you left me. I look to the stars for a sign. I say a prayer.
I walk in the light of the full moon and darkness of the new. I walk in rain. I walk when rain turns to sleet. I walk in snow, my footprints pressed hard into the frozen mud. I walk winter into spring, under the rain of the dogwood’s white petals. I walk into the light pink scent of the redbud. I walk until a single Canada goose returns. I hear the far-off sound of a tinny church bell and know it’s time to walk into town tomorrow, my heart heavy, my basket empty, my hand open, and a word on my lips–help. Now, I turn and walk up the hill to the cabin we built our first summer where five hungry mouths await breakfast. The cottonwood drops its seed packets while the lone goose emits soft short grunts, its webbed footprints covering mine in spring’s mud.
Kim Steutermann Rogers lives with her husband and 16-year-old dog Lulu in Hawaii. Her essay, “Following the Albatross Home” was recognized as notable in Best American Travel Writing. Her journalism has published in National Geographic, Audubon, and Smithsonian; and her prose in Gone Lawn, The Citron Review, Atticus Review, CHEAP POP, Hippocampus, and elsewhere. She was awarded residencies at Storyknife Writers Retreat in Alaska in 2016 and 2021 and Dorland Mountain Arts in 2022. Find her @kimsrogers.
2 thoughts on “The Shots Will Start at Mid-Afternoon”
exquisite writing – most especially in that stunningly lyrical “Migrations.” Thanks for the read.
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I love the repetition, used quite differently, in these two stories. Good work.