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December 2018 Winner: Prison Seems Likely by Courtney Harler

Prison Seems Likely

By Courtney Harler

            I met you in the barn on the pretense of feeding the pigs. You slapped the slop bucket from my hands and pulled me to your chest. You kissed me, with hard lips—more like goodbye than hello. Then you loped across the pasture like a deer, jumping and clearing the barbed wire.

            I don’t know why I should remember, after all these years, that particular moment. I don’t know why that one afternoon scene should flash like a film in my mind whenever I think of you. It wasn’t our first secret meeting, nor our last. It wasn’t even our first stolen kiss, nor our last. It wasn’t an ending, or a beginning—nothing so prosaic. It was just, or you were just—an image I can’t forget. 

            Perhaps it’s because my heart tells me you are dead at last, these twenty-five years later, or at least somewhere where I can no longer feel you working in the world. Prison seems likely. You had that feckless nature. You thought yourself an honest rebel, a breaker of the unjust law.

            Maybe you are somewhere where I could write you a letter. I’d tell you about my life—college, marriage, kids, divorce. You’d write back and poke fun at me, the way you always did. I’d laugh at first and then feel a little burn, the same controlled burn that kept us both together, and apart, way back when. I’d begin to wonder what landed you prison, but I wouldn’t ask you. I’d just stop writing.

            Then I’d think of you dead again, in some obscure grave mourned only by your mother. And maybe your wife. Maybe she’d go there and marvel at the trinkets left atop your tombstone: a pig carved in quartz; or a tiny glass deer, mid-leap.

Courtney Harler lives, writes, and teaches in Las Vegas, Nevada. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Sierra Nevada College, where she received the Two Pines Award for Outstanding Creative Work in 2017. She has been honored to receive additional support for her work from Writing By Writers, the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and the Nevada Arts Council. Courtney’s flash piece “Wild Turkeys” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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