Temperatures reached 129 in Death Valley this week, yet the grackle survives. Whatever that means. Naturalists and scientists find it beguiling; the birds have adapted. The Death Valley grackles swipe smashed insects from license plates boasting 10,000 lakes, oranges, and enchanted lands, and steal breakfast from the frying frenzy of tourists cooking eggs on hissing asphalt.

And then there are our grackles. Today, I found the last of four stiff and dry. The desert sun and stripped air had reduced it to a husk. No ants ate it. . . no parts were taken by feral cats. Less than nine hours after I saw it chase its parents across the lawn, wings flapping, beak gaping, full of hunger, full of fight, the bird was flipped on its side, eyes collapsed, a puckered gray.

As I prod the dead bird into the dustpan, Venita tells me, “Next time we’re going to put them out of their misery.” I squint at her, a little stunned. “Bashing their heads in with a rock would be better than this,” she says. I don’t ask her how she will assess that they are on the edge of death.

After all, all four of them were sturdy, quick, popping from bush to bush, running, head thrust forward, wings vibrating…all of them, and then one after the other chose a different spot in the yard to stop, hold still, and evaporate. I suppose if they can’t dart away from her with a rock in her hand she’d have her answer. Maybe. Sometimes she can be good at cornering, though.

I know what Venita does. I’m not stupid. She doesn’t know I know, the fragrances of her leaving and the taste of her returning. There are two perfumes, two smells she brings home. Sometimes I miss the shift, that moment she rolls away from me and out of our bed and creeps to her jeans and sneakers, carefully placed so that she doesn’t stumble in the shadows. Sometimes, it isn’t until I hear the click of the door and the short grind of her truck engine that I stir. Other times I experience it all, the slow, calculating moves—a shush to Tick as his head thrusts up from the sheets, a thump of Banjo’s tail as she steps over him (always in her way, as she has said too many times), the pad of bare feet to the dresser, the hiss of the zipper on her jeans, and the fast retreat. All of it. All of it. 

I know what Venita does. I’m not stupid. She doesn’t know I know, the fragrances of her leaving and the taste of her returning.

Each time I wait, awake, afraid to switch on lights or the television or computer because I feel strangely compelled to keep her secret, to leave the end in her hands. Even during our worst fights she says, “I won’t leave you.”

As I carry the bird through the gate to the trash, she adds, “Or we’ll let the dogs get them.”

“Banjo’s too slow, and Tick is too stupid,” I tell her, dropping the bird on top of the kitchen bags. Venita doesn’t like either dog. She isn’t a pet person, but I think most of the reason she resents the dogs is because Banjo was a gift from my first serious girlfriend. Tanya stayed for three years. The other dog is the by-product of Karen. She stayed less than a year. Tick was hers, but she claimed that keeping him would be cruel; he’d grown too attached to Banjo. I think it’s more likely her new lover didn’t want Tick. She also left a bed. That’s pretty much the story. Lucky I wasn’t in love with Tanya or Karen.

I’ve gone through a lot of beds. New lovers won’t put up with a mattress or frame once shared by someone else. I don’t have enough experience with men to know what they usually do.

Venita isn’t any different than the other women I’ve known. I anticipate that now I will have another king bed to deal with. I’ll be able to keep it, though, because I’m done. And when I sleep alone, I’ll decide which side, or I’ll be in the middle and Banjo will be back at my side permanently if I can lift him. Besides, I don’t mind that the bed will bring memories of her hands, her lips, and her strong thighs. I’ll work hard not to imagine the sheets and the woman she will move on to. 

If she hasn’t already. 

Karen’s bed was a rickety queen. I wasn’t attached. Two days before Venita moved in, she paused in the doorway of the bedroom, almost too disgusted to step in. It was odd because when we first met she’d made love to me on that mattress in a way that felt like she took it all in, my bed, my room, my house, my life, me. I was wrong.

“This is where it happened. You and her,” she said. “Not very often.” It was true. Distance came quickly. Karen felt tricked by the mess of my life.

“It doesn’t matter. It happened.”

I didn’t ask Venita if she planned to bring her bed, the one that she had shared with Jessica and the others. I don’t feel the same way she or the other women do. Most of them brought their beds and their history: objects, pictures, jewelry, and memories. Lots of memories. Stories of places they went, countries they traveled.

The pang doesn’t come from the past they carried into my home, but the fact that I let them strip me of my own. All of them. Even baby pictures of Michael were placed in zip-lock bags and packed in two boxes I simply labeled “Lisa.” As if I were in them.

“And when we’re in your bed,” I said, aiming for a reasonable perspective, “that’s where it happened, you and them.” I felt like I had to apologize again for having lived before knowing her.

“Them. That’s the point,” she said then, as if the difference should be perfectly clear. “With me, they never moved in. With you, they always do. This is it. I’m here to stay.”

That queen went, and so did hers. She insisted that we start with our own, new, with high thread-count sheets (I didn’t know about the different thread counts until I met her) and a hard mattress because of her back. We, I, deserved the best. I suppose in a decade or so the mattress will start to soften beneath my weight and fit my form perfectly. After she’s gone. 

Grackles were prized by Aztec kings, their jet-black feathers and their violet-blue sheen, but in Houston, they are noisy, deafening: a nuisance. Canons boom, oaks and sycamores explode into black. In flight, they flick back and forth like thick smoke. Sometimes, if they’re really stubborn, falconers fly hawks into their trees, pluck a few with a scream. The rest leave.

Here, in the Phoenix desert, days before they die, they pop up onto the water fountain, drink. Their look is austere, heads lifted, wings pulled back, unaware that their feathers are too new, too uneven.

“You’re not going to bag it?” she asks.

“It’s dried out. Besides, I don’t want it to get smelly in a bag. We have four days before trash.” I drop the lid. Venita hovers, seems on the edge of movement. “What?” I ask her. “How would you do it?”

“I’d put it in the freezer and put it out Friday morning. That way we’ll keep the stink down.”

“That works,” I tell her, but I’m not about to scoop the dead grackle out. Besides, there really isn’t any flesh left. Nothing to smell. I walk away before I find myself giving in.

This conversation has the same impact as when she talks about Banjo. She tells me, “He’s twelve, and he’s a big dog. We’ll be able to replace the doggie door with something smaller soon.” She’s always the pragmatist. She doesn’t count to ten before she speaks. I count to a hundred, and then I sometimes lose count and start over again, and again, until I decide not to speak at all. On the other side of that deep thud that comes with the thought of losing Banjo, there is always a tang of hope, a strange flutter around the belief that Venita and I will still be together after he is gone.

She talks about the doggie door because Michael slips through it. Even though he’s nineteen, he’s small. I’ve only seen him do it once, narrow shoulders folding in, slick and fast, toes like crab legs shuffling, propelling him forward until emerging on the other side. I watched, stunned, not quite processing what I saw until he stood outside the sliding glass door and rocked, agitated—startled, too—to be out on the patio. I know, without seeing this, that he’s done it many times. I’ve found him pacing the perimeter of  the yard and wondered. Before, when I had patio furniture and a bench, he’d shove them to the block fence and scale over into the neighbor’s yard, sometimes wandering to the  next and the next, once to an unlocked car where he sat in the passenger seat, door shut, the heat dangerous. Luckily, the owner saw him from her living-room window. She called the police when she couldn’t talk him out of the car. She was a little scared of him, his grunting and his flapping hands.

Now the yard is practically stripped of furniture except for a picnic table on the patio. It’s too heavy to lift and impossible to drag. I keep the trash bins out front at the side of the yard, and I lock the tool-shed just in case. He piled pots once, building a teetering tower to clamber over the fence. It’s a shame that the yard has been reduced to this. When he was younger and shorter, I could keep him safe. Now, we don’t spend much time outside between the birdseed he likes to eat and the rocks he likes to throw. The marigolds have taken over in our absence. The grass, the poor grass, not mowed, is shaggy and ragged and patchy. I guess the good news about the heat is that more and more of the grass has crumbled into dust. Less maintenance, says Venita.

I used to love to have my coffee on the bench near the garden in the morning or sip a beer or two at night. Right now, in the sizzle, the loss isn’t as palpable. Still, when the wind is blowing and we’re on the edge of that rare storm, I would like to plop down in the shade for a moment.

It’s not like I hear his grunting. It’s more like I notice its absence. Even with the door shut. That’s when I hurry. Besides, Venita doesn’t like me to have a beer by myself.

She says it’s a sign I’m not coping. There are times to drink, and there are times not to. Of course when she’s watching football by herself in the garage, her woman cave, that’s a different scenario. Lately, I find myself wanting to drink a lot when she’s around, particularly since her office is in the house. We converted the dining room into her space. It’s all patchwork right now—French doors installed but priming and painting not done; the seam between carpet and tile uneven; boxes of dishes I bought because “you need more color in your life” (Karen) and a displaced dining room hutch in the hallway (George, Michael’s father).

I haven’t told Venita the hutch was from those two short married years, a purchase I made at an estate sale. That would be too much. We’re still recovering from the incident when George helped me drag the toilet out to the curb for big pickup. Venita said I should have waited, that accepting his help was an act of intimacy. I didn’t see it that way. I wanted it out of the house.

We’re still recovering from the incident when George helped me drag the toilet out to the curb for big pickup. Venita said I should have waited, that accepting his help was an act of intimacy. I didn’t see it that way. I wanted it out of the house.

She doesn’t like George. Her dislike is even more intense for him than for Banjo and Tick. She says it’s because there is a daily reminder of us being together— Michael. He steps all over me, Venita tells me all the time. The asshole should take on more responsibility with Mike. I’m not sure what she’s talking about. George and I figured it out years ago; we do the best we can.

But Venita thinks she knows better. She’s looked into institutions. There are top quality places. And there are day programs, services I’m not utilizing.

When she starts about this, I no longer get defensive. Once, I pulled three notebooks full of flyers, phone numbers, and print-outs of program information from a box in the bedroom closet. I opened them on our bed. I told her I’d done my homework. When she’s relentless about it, I just tell her I’d welcome any ideas or information. That usually ends the conversation.

Her anger toward George is doubly loaded because I made the mistake of telling her that we tried for a second baby. That comes up too often, usually when she doubts that I know how to run my life, that I know what I’m doing.

“After Mike?” she said, shock popping, no attempt to hide it behind what might be interpreted as empathy or understanding. “Were you crazy?” She went on to say that it was obvious we were a catastrophic gene pool. I didn’t tell her that I’d been excited. After all, she didn’t like to hear that life with George wasn’t awful. He’s a decent person. Limited, but decent. He wasn’t abusive or unfaithful. We were mediocre in every way. But we didn’t have a mediocre baby. We had Michael.

For a while the mystery of Michael, the worry of Michael, it consumed George and me. Then the anger came. The fatigue. The helplessness.

“That would have been irresponsible,” she said. “Irresponsible.” She repeated the word for effect.

All I could say was, “I heard you the first time.” I didn’t go on to explain that we didn’t know Michael was severe on the spectrum. He was a baby. He seemed normal. We didn’t know we weren’t going to make it.

Later, in bed, when she pulled me to her, thighs squeezing my hips, she back-pedaled a little bit in the face of the hard day. “I just meant that it’s not like Mike has much of a life.”

“I know what you meant.” I did. She has strong feelings around having children. I actually share most of those feelings. Too many ill-equipped and stupid people have babies. It’s just hard to accept that I’ve been placed in that category.

When we made love that night, I imagined we’d just met. We’d been kissing outside The Cash in the parking lot like crazed teenagers, and we were two bodies aligned for a moment in desire. That worked for me. Keep it separate, I told myself. Keep it compartmentalized. She doesn’t respect you, she doesn’t understand you, but you really don’t need that. That kind of intimacy always complicates desire. Besides, whenever we do work at understanding each other, meeting eye to eye, we are left off kilter, too shaky to open our legs to each other in abandon. Either it’s about the sex, or it’s about total trust and vulnerability. In both places I think I could be a good lover, but I haven’t had a chance to find out.

When we made love that night, I imagined we’d just met. We’d been kissing outside The Cash in the parking lot like crazed teenagers, and we were two bodies aligned for a moment in desire. That worked for me. Keep it separate, I told myself. Keep it compartmentalized.

In the middle, that gray area, I’m shy and always afraid. The next day she moved into the makeshift office that used to be the dining room. She said I was cold, that it was clear that we weren’t on the “same page.” I was afraid she didn’t want me anymore, but she was back in our bed the next night. I asked her why she thought she could just pop in any time she felt like it. That was when she was crass. She told me she wanted my ass and my lips and the jut of my hip. I wanted to cry and to fuck, both, at the same time.

Venita’s never been with a man. I hear about this often, how she knows who she is and that she’s not convinced I know what I want. When we were dating and asking each other questions, ravenous to know everything about each other, I was stupid. I told her about my high school boyfriend. I also described my early sexual experiences with a girl in her parents’ “sex room” in the basement. It was equipped with waterbed, mirrors, and movies. I don’t bring it up anymore as proof that I am hardwired to be with a woman. Somehow it comes back to haunt me.

It’s funny, but she says she likes looking at men more than women. She finds naked men more aesthetically appealing. We’re awkward, she tells me, with breasts and folds and the propensity to get spongy thighs and bellies. “That is, except for you,” she says. “You have a beautiful body. I’m usually not with people I like and am attracted to. I can’t imagine not wanting you.”

She’s repulsed by my life but can still climb into bed and slip her hand between my legs. Sometimes we sleep like that, her palm cupping my crotch. It’s both sweet and startling.

It’s stupid, but I’m crying right now. A sharp sting in my eyes and a snotty nose, not enough for her to notice. What’s the big deal? Another dead bird. Seriously, there must have been something wrong with them on a cellular level

There’s water, food, shade, safety. What more could they ask for? The adult grackles circled them, fed them, swooped down at us and the dogs every time we entered the yard.

They should have made it.

In Austin, tin buckets are strewn with Black Cats Fireworks ready to crack the sky and shake the trees. In New Mexico, grape seed extract is smeared on the trunks of trees, driving the grackles away with its smell and texture. They come back, though, to roost, thousands strong. They call, wheeze, clatter and creak, so loud people on the street have to yell their conversations.

I can’t let Venita see me like this. My crying makes her mad now. There was a time when she liked that I was kind. That’s what she said. She liked that I had feelings. 

The problem is that when I used to hold her tight I could feel and hear beyond her frustration to the core. That’s not true anymore. I don’t always hear her. I don’t always feel her. My body wraps around her with fierceness, but then in the strain of it all, I get paralyzed. I drift. I circle above. Sometimes I listen past the noise of us both to the other room where Michael is quiet except for the occasional grunt. His hands twitch at times; his knuckles tap the wall.

I don’t always hear her. I don’t always feel her. My body wraps around her with fierceness, but then in the strain of it all, I get paralyzed. I drift. I circle above.

Michael isn’t here today. I have Respite. The van picked him up this morning. I still hear him, though, when he’s away. I glance constantly toward the family room, half expecting to find him working at the window frames or snapping pictures. He likes the flash and the sound of the camera. I take out the sim card periodically and sort through what he’s shot. He’s caught us many times. She likes to rest her hands on my hips, cup them, as she walks behind or stands leaning into me as I do the dishes. We fit. That’s the last image he captured, Venita cradling my hips, body pressed into my spine, face jutting forward to share a smile with me. I was smiling back. We were tilted, though, slanting to the left as if the floor were being lifted by a swell. The lines weren’t sharp. The edges were grainy.

Another day he managed to shoot pictures of Tick and Banjo, one after the other, where they sprawled in front of the sliding glass door. Banjo large and black, nose to nose with Tick, tiny and tan. Behind the dogs, through the glass, was their food bowl, and the black backs of two grackles stealing kibble. One bird had its shoulders hunched. The other, neck stretched, had its beak to the sky.

Michael also likes to play the keyboard. He isn’t a savant, but he surprises me a lot, what he knows and what he can do. When it’s a good day, the sounds are almost a song—almost. Usually they’re a series of chords played in quick succession but without music. It’s hard to explain. He loves doing it. I’m not sure I always like the discordance, but playing makes him happy.

I can’t always leave the keyboard in the room, though. It’s heavy, and when he gets agitated and throws it, he takes chunks out of the wall or breaks windows.

I don’t give him the keyboard unless I know we’ll be alone for a while. The near hits of good music drive Venita crazy; she says it’s like watching a perfect throw into a fumble.

Almost always I take advantage of Respite to get his room cleaned and organized and my homework done, a middle-aged woman back in school. It’s crazy, but I’ve got to get it together. I’m not getting by in sales, and I hate it. Everything takes me longer today. I’m anxious. I don’t know if it’s the birds, Venita, the day, or me.

“If you’re going in,” she calls to me from the gate, “will you get me a bag?”

I’m at the sliding glass door, broom and dustpan in my hand. I want to say to her, “Then I might as well do it, put the damn bird in the bag.” I don’t answer. I’m not mad, but I’m not about to go into the kitchen, get a bag, and bring it all the way back outside. What’s the point?

As I step over Banjo in the threshold, I pause, straddling him, one foot on the patio, the other in the family room. I crouch over him. Study him. I tell myself lately that Banjo may not wake up tomorrow morning. He’s getting tiny. For a big dog, he’s being reduced to an annoyance before my eyes, a bulky heap to step over or push away.

I feel badly for him. Whenever a new woman slides into my home and bed, he loses his place. His hair is matted now, and he has that smell that comes with old age. I’d take him to the groomer, but he hurts everywhere—even soft strokes sometimes makes him wince. He still presses into me, though, snout and head. It wasn’t always like that. When he was young, he was at my side, and Michael’s, especially when I had to contain Michael, wrap myself around my son and tense every muscle, creating a taut cocoon to calm him. Once, Michael and I were clutched together like this on the kitchen floor, and Banjo plopped his heavy head on our shoulders and draped his leg over our ribs. We all lay there breathing together for hours. Sometimes I chant nonsense words, little mantras, but that day I just listened to Banjo sigh and shift and snort on top of us but never leave. I said, “It’s going to be okay” over and over again.

To them. To myself.

I touch him gingerly. It’s almost too much, just like it usually is for Michael. He shivers, but he lifts his head to look at me. The white of his left eye eclipses his iris. All I see is white. I tell him, “I know. I know.” His head wags as if the weight of it causes the sway, and then it drops. He huffs, exhales, and his long nails click on the tile as if he’s considering getting up. He doesn’t.

I straighten, reach for the handle to steady myself as I step over him.

Inside, I pull the door closed. It skips and juts on the runner. Venita keeps telling me we need to get it fixed, that she’ll do it, because those little annoyances add up. She’s been good at eradicating many of them—the showerhead that leaked, the toilet that backed up once in a while, the drip system that skipped our new tree out front . . .

She is already heading to the door, bird in hand. With the glass between us, she challenges me. “Really?” she says. “Is it too much trouble?”

I tell her, “I’ll get a bag.”

“Thank you,” she snaps

As I turn for the kitchen, the light hits the glass of the sliding door at a different angle. The marks between us are sharp, clear. Michael’s palm print is stamped in the middle.

Above that, in crisp relief, is the perfect outline of a bird, wings sprawled and beak tucked in. The bird’s startled eye considers me.

I often wake at night listening for Michael, even on days he’s away, especially when she leaves me. He isn’t in his bed, thin legs drawn up, knees peeking out of the sheets nearly pressing into his chin, and head tilted back as if to get in as much air as possible.

On nights he’s home, I stand in his doorway and listen to his breathing. I do this after she has snuck away and I have watched the clock for nearly an hour.

When I think about her leaving, it makes me sad. I don’t quite get why she has to, why it’s not enough to retreat into the make-shift office or her woman cave. Those two rooms are hers. The garage, during the winter, is sacred. She disappears for hours, surrounded by prints of Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers and skulls right next to her posters of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. She likes the bodies of football players even more than firemen, the athleticism— strong and lean.

Most of the time I find her love for the male body strange and cute. Other times I feel too soft for her.

I slide the patio door back a bit and hand her the grocery bag.

Behind, in our yard, a grackle sings, “cheat nots,” bill pointed down, wings shivering. A female droops and answers, “che.” I see them court, scoot across our dirt lawn. It all begins again.

“Thank you,” she says, the edge gone. She slips the bird in the bag, presses it against her chest, and pushes the air out before tying the ends together. “I’ll put it in the freezer in the garage on top so we don’t forget.”

I nod.

Hands up in surrender, bag swinging from her fingers, she grins. “I’d touch you right now, but I think I need to wash my hands.”

I’m smiling, embarrassed. Repulsed. Delighted. Not sure what to say.

Whistling, she heads to the side gate. Away from me. “I’m not about to carry a dead bird through the house!” she calls back, voice light, and then I hear the swing of the gate, the catch of the metal latch, steel against steel. I don’t close the sliding glass door. Instead, I pull the paper towels and glass cleaner from the cupboard. The marks have to go, I tell myself.

I pause though, marveling at each wisp of wing dust delineating the feather shafts, the downy barbs, at the exactness of Michael’s handprint, each swirl in his digits recorded on glass.

He has it hard. I have it hard, but everyone does. We’re lucky, too.

Michael lets me brush his teeth. That’s huge. There’s no fighting. In fact, he hums along with the buzz of the electric toothbrush and rocks just enough that the bristles coast back and forth over his teeth. Keeping his nails short is a problem, however, unless he’s going through a phase of scratching at the wall or floor. Then other than the thumb, the work has been done, except I have to make sure he doesn’t go too far. If he doesn’t stop scratching and move on to something else, he’ll wear his fingertips down. It’s silly, or maybe not, but sometimes I worry about that in a morose way, Michael with no fingerprints.

If he escaped and got hurt, no one would be able to identify him.

That’s why I use permanent marker on his clothes. I put my name, our address, his full name, and my cell number on every item. At this point, I don’t care if the ink bleeds through. It’s not about appearance. It’s about making sure I get him back.

I start at the top of the glass door, spraying, wiping away the wings, the beak, the eye. Four short swipes and then spray again, slowly this time, to erase Michael’s hand. I stop. To do this, I have to lean over Banjo, his chest rising by step and then dropping. I work at the smudges left behind by his nose, the wetness of his breath. The door is almost clean.

I return to Michael’s print, first the palm and then the fingers. His thumb.

Venita is back, hands up this time as if ready to scrub for surgery. 

“Done.” She struts through the door, cocks her head to the side as she moves past me, lips catching my cheek.

Banjo shifts in the doorway. I cross over him to the backyard, my third beer in hand. He lifts his head, right eye watching me. I tell him, “It’s okay.” His head drops. It’s almost a thud. I pause, hand lingering on the fur at his neck. He groans. I’m not sure if it’s with appreciation or pain. I tell him again, “It’s okay,” but my voice sounds strange.

He puffs and shudders as he straightens his legs, nails tapping the tile. Tick stands in the corner of the kitchen, watchful, a little suspicious. This is out of the ordinary. It’s late. It’s dark outside. I’m in my pajamas. I’m not in bed.

I step down from the short cement patio into the grass and dust and the dust of grass. In the back corner is a single ceramic planting pot turned upside down. As I sit on it, I feel like I’m on the edge of something. I’m not sure what. I imagine the mark of her lips on my cheek, the grooves defined, unique to her. My skin is slick from the hot air, but I wait to wash.

I imagine Michael at his father’s house, sleeping in his other bedroom, tapping a different wall.

Tonight, when Venita left, I locked the chain behind her. My hand shook. My fingers had their own life, but I did it. She’ll have to knock, ring the bell, or call out to me. She’ll have to ask to come in. I’ll stand on the other side, say in a steady voice that I’m in love with her. I face the house, dark except for the kitchen. Banjo’s shoulders shake. He’s thinking about getting up, abandoning the doorway and joining me. I don’t call him. I don’t want him to feel obligated, because it’s a lot of work for him. Tick darts forward, then stops, peering over old Banjo, nose moving, seeking me out in the shadowed yard. I look straight back at him. I’m sure he can’t see me clearly, but I feel like our gaze locks. His ears sharpen, rotate. He pops over Banjo with ease and charges to the end of the short patio, tail humming.

My hand shook. My fingers had their own life, but I did it.

“It’s okay,” I say, to Tick this time.

Above, the great tree is still. I know, though, inside, grackles roost, waiting for the morning and their early call. Across the city, multiple deterrents are in place, netting made of ultra-violet twine cast across a garden, surfaces slick with taste aversions, and electronic devices emitting distress calls. Here, I fill the fountain full of fresh water and time the sprinklers so that bugs are drawn to the grass blades before the sun is brutal.

A killdeer doesn’t rest. It calls from several yards away, a bubbling trill. Then there’s nothing but a snort from Banjo and a sharp whine from Tick, tethered to the end of what might happen next. The shuffle of my feet.

I gulp at my beer and look at the sky, stars snuffed out by the gauze of heat.

I’ll tell Venita we need to talk, really talk, that there are no more pretenses about who is leaving whom. This is what I’ll do. In this moment, I imagine my bravery.

If she agrees, we’ll shake it all down, knock it off balance. As the world tilts, maybe we’ll be eye-to-eye. And then I’ll decide.

“Multiple Deterrents” by Laura White Gray appeared in Issue 38 of Berkeley Fiction Review.

Laura White Gray’s work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Northwest Review, Pennsylvania English, Women Behaving Badly, Original Sin: The Seven Deadlies Come Home to Roost, Event, Confrontation, Kaleidoscope, Calyx, Xavier Review, Potomac Review, Southern California Review, and elsewhere. She also is a recipient of the Academy of American Poets University Prize, the Kuehn Award, and the Arizona Commission of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. She lives in Glendale, Arizona, and teaches at Glendale Community College.

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