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Flatland - Sample Story & Photograph

Sample Photo/Fiction


Shining On for No Good Reason

When I look at the sky, no matter what I see, I see you. You and I swimming in the black water of the lake south of town. Nothing more than a mudhole, but isn't everything bigger when you're a kid? And we were kids: old enough to drive, but that was all. So you drove me to the only place where we could do whatever we wanted. The lake. A pond, really. A reservoir for someone's rainwater, a place of circumstantial existence. We climbed the dead tree that tilted over the water, hung from it, dove from it, laughing, oblivious to the possibility that the bottom was too close. That we could have died, or worse. That it was a stupid thing to do. But at that age, nothing seemed stupid. Thoughtlessness was the same as bravery.

You and I were necessary. You dunked me under the water, and even though I yelled then, I thank you for it now. You taught me the folly of trust, the danger inherent in even the sweetest of moments, the fear of boys and girls together. It was like you said when we broke up after graduation, when you were going to Eastern and cheated on me with that blonde who worked the baton and god knows what else. "Things happen," you said, and even though you were on the phone, I could tell you were shrugging your thick shoulders. And you were right.

You weren't the only one I went to the lake with, but you're the one I think of when I think of the lake. You were the first, the one that made the memory, and that means something. I find myself thinking of that lake a lot these days, when I look up at the night sky while sitting on my porch. Sometimes I can't be me anymore, can't be the woman in that house. So I go outside, where I can look up, and forget myself. Inside, my two girls sleep in their beds, and my bed is empty once again. Because things happen, you know, on both sides. Mistakes are made. There are things from which you can't recover, not in the same skin.

You and I are a constellation. My girls are up there too, and so is my soon-to-be-ex, and the family dog he took. We're the stars that look like they're right next to each other, look like they've come together purposefully to make a pretty picture. But that's an illusion, just pretty story. We're millions of miles away from each other, alone, whole galaxies unto ourselves, moving through the sky like we have a place to go, shifting around in our broken ways, shining on for no good reason.



Flatland: Stories & Photography by Teague von Bohlen & Britten Leigh Traughber. (Decatur, IL.: Bronze Man Books, 2019). 68 pages, 10 x 8 inches, perfect bound. ISBN 9-780-990992110. $25.00 and $3.00 postage from the publisher at <> or by mail from: Bronze Man Books, Millikin University, 1184 W. Main, Decatur, IL 62522.

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