by Dina Greenberg
Lacey’s headlights slide their chalky gaze along the ridgeline, the bristlecone pines slashing raggedy arms through the dark like runaways. She downshifts, slowing the truck just enough, as the bull elk emerges from the mist as if to dare her. So close, tilting his head even higher. Ice crystals glimmer on the bull’s felted antlers, his eyes wide and drilling straight through Lacey’s.
She skids and the brakes hold this time. Not like last autumn, when she’d chickened out—both feet stomping on the pedal—but rolled anyway and woke up in the ER, Austin and his father sulking in the hallway. Perhaps she’d imagined Austin, bending to kiss her bloodied, purpled face, smoothing sweaty strands of thin, finger paint-yellow hair from her forehead. Telling her (too late) he’d changed his mind; they’d keep it.
Weeks later—at his father’s—she and Austin curled again in damp sheets that smelled of mold and wood smoke, cuts and bruises nearly healed. Something stirred her and she needed to pee. Her feet found the stairs in velvet darkness, her hands waving through open-door emptiness, crossing the bathroom threshold like someone blinded.
His hands found her this way, too, clamped her mouth shut. Lacey felt his pounding, fish-flipping heart. His arm angled across her chest, her throat, weighting Lacey to the mattress. Austin’s father spat into the can on the floor and she felt the gooey-thick thud spreading inside her. When he covered her mouth with his, the rank wad churned in Lacey’s gut. In rutting season, bull elks scream. Beneath Austin’s father, their high-pitched shrieks carried clear across the mesa, cut through Lacey until she could no longer be certain the noise was not her own.
Now Lacey stares back at the bull—through him—each of them solitary, silent.
Dina Greenberg’s writing has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Gemini Magazine, The Warwick Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and Barely South, among others. Her flash fiction “Guinevere Tries a New Kind of In-vitro” was nominated for 2017 Best Small Fictions and Vestal Review’s Vera Award.
Visit www.dinagreenberg.com for more.