FICTION ISSUE #27

"At Ray & Judy's Bookstore, Study 2" by Onelio Marrero, 10" x 8​"​ Oil On Canvas Board
*Image: “At Ray & Judy’s Bookstore, Study 2” by Onelio Marrero, 10″ x 8​”​ Oil On Canvas Board

 

The Waiting Moon

By Thomas Benz

 

 

Jarrett wakes with the disorienting sense that he has missed something, that there has been some lapse and he must try to figure out what’s gone wrong. Passengers are wearily lining up in the aisle, jostled by the accustomed roughness of the old rails. The street and buildings out the window are upscale, mildly forbidding and unfamiliar, especially when compared to the ones he has headed past a thousand times. Dusk is shading the sky, and the whole thing has the feeling of a hoax, as in the movies when the villain slips a tranquilizer into the detective’s drink. The train is slowing down, clamoring into some anonymous depot.

This hasn’t happened since he was a young man, when sleep would come upon him like an irresistible temptress, even with the prospect that he would keep going and going into terra incognita. He wonders if he has been snoring—or worse, muttering nonsense with the demeanor of someone completely lucid, which Blair insists he sometimes does. Somehow he has hurtled four or five stops past his own, straight into the secluded, clubby territory of the North Shore. It is as if he has crossed a border, passed without fanfare into another country. He hurriedly grabs his monthly ticket, raincoat, and valise, and now sees from a small sign he has landed in Kingston.

The station is one of those quaint, square buildings with carved wood benches that was probably erected in the thirties. There is a chalk board listing the cost of snacks in a florid script, along with a drawing of a cup of coffee, its wispy smoke caught in a spiral. There is a framed map of Midwestern routes, an antique clock with Roman numerals, and a rack of faded books that have been offered to pass the time. Everyone who disembarks the 5:49 trudges up from the culvert where the tracks lie, forty or fifty steps to the level of the street, probably rushing straight for home.

Of course, Jarrett is annoyed with himself for having overshot the target. Now he will have to head in the opposite direction, backtrack over the same real estate which has always felt like the most obvious confession of error. If he had not let the syncopated rocking of the car lull him like a hammock, or had he taken out his laptop to check the market returns or the latest global calamity, he would now be pushing the door open to the subdued welcome of his collie, Porter. Blair is out of town at a convention, but he would have his leather chair, his paintings, his comfortable refuge.

Yet there is something vaguely pleasant about being where he doesn’t belong, a spy behind enemy lines. It has been ages since he and Blair have gone somewhere new on vacation, allowed themselves to be surprised. Studying a schedule on the counter, Jarrett sees that the next train into the city, running against the outbound tide, won’t come for another hour. He contemplates a cab, but that would be a sawbuck, and who knows how much sooner it would arrive? Jarrett has always been curious about these affluent suburbs running along the lake—Hillbrook, Indian Grove, Waterside, Newport—but for a long time he has had no real reason to explore them.

There was only the one year right after graduate school when he had serendipitously lived on the edge of all that. He had met a rich girl there and for a while was carried away. There was a certain atmosphere to that string of places on the shore; cloistered almost, cut off from the straight, main roads, with huge lots as if etched out of a forest, cobblestone streets, the feeling that there might be some quaintly preserved ruin underneath. Then he returned to the middle brow places, the surroundings of his youth, as if he had never left. It was like a sabbatical, a rare detour from actual life, though he couldn’t have known that then.

Jarrett heads outside before even realizing he’s decided to do that, perhaps spooked by the station’s sense of abandonment. The town center is prosperous but spare. Though it is almost March, spectral white lights still limn the young trees along the parkway. He strolls past rows of boutique shops for flowers, photography, southwestern artifacts, and trendy clothes. No bar, no oasis of commuters lingering over a drink presents itself. He supposes that the shore crowd doesn’t want riffraff from the city, him included, trekking up here hoping the money might rub off. Even the lake itself seems bluer and more serene the farther north you go. It all fascinates him because he knows it is as out of reach as a mirage, a picture in another dimension.

Finally, Jarrett rounds a corner and spots a bookstore. Its lambent glimmer signals that it has not yet closed. A small bell clangs as the door shuts, and a woman nearly obscured by a stand of titles studies him.

“Welcome, but I must tell you we’re only open another twenty minutes,” she says, halfway between apology and announcement.

“That’s fine. I’m just…” He is about to say “killing time” but then realizes this would too bluntly betray his situation. “If that’s the case, I’ll try to be decisive.”

Jarrett surmises this is the kind of store that relies on a personal touch – no alarm system at the exit, and the woman probably acknowledges every customer. A dying breed. The chains, with branded codes on every piece of merchandise, security guards, and a banal selection of authors have all but taken over.

At first, he feels vaguely like he doesn’t belong, that sense of being in a bar where you don’t know a soul and are under inspection. But the woman’s voice and the pleasant ambience of books quickly dispel this and make the place seem the sort of hideaway he seldom finds. Jarrett’s needed something new for a while but couldn’t say exactly what. He wonders if the shop is just the sort of find that could nudge him out of his recent ennui.

In his 44th year, this has descended on him stealthily, out of nowhere as they say, its source eclipsed—though it seems to have something to do with Blair, with some subtle erasure of life before her, as if he’d lost contact with all that had existed before they met.

Jarrett slants toward a shelf of paperbacks. He knows he will have to buy something now, with these independents slowly edging toward extinction, the woman’s voice a kind of plea. She has retreated to the register to ring up a purchase for two teenage girls who keep giggling over some private reference. Jarrett remembers how that morning, when he went to pay for a croissant, one of the dollar bills had a cramped note written in ballpoint pen that said, “Feast of St. Anthony, patron of lost objects. This is your lucky day. Soon, you will find that elusive…” Then the goddamn space ran out. The cashier had stared as if it were counterfeit but eventually placed the note in the drawer with the rest and that was that.

“Could I help you find something?” the woman asks quietly, almost as if they were in a church. She is only a few feet away now, having crept up so silently he is a bit startled, thrown out of the paragraph he has been trying to follow.

“Oh, maybe,” he says, as he recovers his bearings. He wants to tell her of his predicament but decides it would be too complicated for such a straightforward question. “Do you have any good biographies?”

“Sure, they’re on the other side.” She makes a vague pointing motion but doesn’t finish it before maneuvering around the stacks that rise almost up to the tile ceiling. Her hair is a sandy blonde, styled nicely with the kind of curl that wraps around at the bottom, and her lipstick is almost undetectable, a shade of pink. He can sense her passion for books the way she holds the thick volumes, surveying their covers and the kind of paper inside, running her fingers across where she has randomly opened it—a sort of muted reverence. She is small, ethereal almost, but somehow not delicate. She has a gravity like those celestial objects that have weight without the proportionate mass. Only then does he notice the nametag: Rina.

“There are some good new ones on Samuel Johnson, Whitman, Nelson Mandela, if you fancy any of those,” she says, clearly soft-sell, knowing what an idiosyncratic choice it is. She keeps an arm’s length between them in the tight aisle. When she reaches for the spines of the ones she wants to recommend, she does so without hesitation, as if she has memorized their color and shape. There is a certain roughness in her tone that dismisses any impression of intimacy. She is not distant, merely self-contained, turned inward, as if she were in two places at once.

There is so much in a voice that can captivate or repel him. Beauty has always been his weakness, not wealth or fame or even happiness. Nor does he have to possess it. Just being near beauty is often enough, quietly marveling at it, a spectator. In a flash of uneasiness, Jarrett senses he knows her from somewhere. This seems nonsensical, and he starts to dismiss the impression. Yet, it is like some element in the space around them, not altogether in his power to banish.

She excuses herself with an air of impatience as the phone rings, an old fashioned sound. Jarrett tries to restrain himself to the sort of meandering peeks which would be expected in any such scene, occasionally pausing over some oblique view of her as she leans into the desk—the stylish pleated skirt, the not too pronounced arc of her calves, the unaffected pose. Jarrett is sure he’s never been here, but the store carries a similar echo of reminiscence, not déjà vu exactly but more like an affinity, a homecoming. It’s odd how often this happens recently, some momentary displacement such that he can no longer picture the location of his flat, the vase in the vestibule, the shape of his car.

The walls have elegantly written passages from some novel or other set unobtrusively in the corners. There is a sense he has entered a sea of words which circulate through some imperceptible ether in the room. He passes a man with a leather jacket that has an eagle on the back, perhaps the logo for a brand he’s never heard of, a designer’s idea of what might become fashionable. Its talons, curved like scythes, are poised to grasp something below.

Jarret decides on the Lindbergh bio, picked almost on a whim so he has not wasted Rina’s time. Wandering over to a bulletin board, he sees a notice for a book reading by an author named Charles Severn. After a double take, he recalls that he’d read a novel of his, which for a while had enthralled him. There was something elemental about his work, but as with so many things from back then, he cannot recover the title or even how it ended. It is yet another aspect of his life that has been largely jettisoned in the rush of adulthood. Jarrett decides he must get back here for this.

To Rina, who has again wandered into his area, he says, “I remember him.” He motions toward the tacked up notice. “But what’s his most famous one?”

The Waiting Moon?”

“Yes, that’s it.”

Jarrett is seized with the compulsion to see if he still has it, though he suspects the volume was donated to a church sale long ago. The title alone seems imbued with another era, in that way hearing an old song will catapult you decades back. Rina too has begun to take on the buoyant cast of those days. There is something expectant in her manner, born perhaps from the valence that can form over a mutually treasured book. She seems almost flirtatious for an instant, stretching her arms behind her, suddenly lit from within. They walk back to the computer and, after searching the antiquated machine, Rina finds that the Severn book is out of print. She offers to check if there might be a stray copy floating around. “You never know,” she says, with more hope in the idea than it seems to deserve.

“Sure, when you have a chance. Do you know anything about his new one?”

“The reviews have been so-so, but I’m still eager to hear him.” Perhaps out of some reticence about revealing too much, her grey-green eyes dart to a display of staff favorites with personal comments beneath each selection.

“Yes, I’m going to come back for that. I’ve only seen pictures of him.” As he says this, he drifts toward the entrance, not wanting to delay her closing up shop. For the first time, he senses her appraising him, perhaps to probe if he is sincere, whether he really will return. He reflexively brings a hand to his cheek. A few years ago there had been an accident, and he had required some minor surgery. It had come out well, though everyone knew that some plane of his face had been altered. He’d grown a close cropped beard to mask the change and kept it ever since.

“You should. It will be interesting.”

Just then, there is a commotion, a pounding on the floor which is so exaggerated by the previous silence as to seem like a mortar attack. They both turn to see the man with the flamboyant coat running out with an armload full of picture books. Rina remains frozen while Jarrett lurches after him, a beat too slow, rattling the feeble bell. Jarrett barely gets outside before giving up the chase as hopeless. Slightly winded, he returns to see Rina steadying herself against the counter, not even calling the police. Suddenly, something in that particular version of her profile, the way it seems stripped of emotion, reveals who she reminds him of. Neve. Lovely, haunting Neve. Another thing he has forgotten but not quite. Rina is older of course but in this light almost a replica.

“I’m sorry. If I had seen him sooner…” he tells her, a bit deflated at this exhibition of his physical limits.

“Don’t be. It just caught us off guard.” A bit shaken, she looks up briefly, with a mixture of regret and gratitude for his having been there, if only as a witness. “Every few years that happens. I guess no place is immune.”

He is about to ask if there’s anything else he can do when a man close to her age, late thirties perhaps, enters the store wearing a paddy cap and speaks to her in a familiar way. Jarrett pretends to be tempted by a row of coffee mugs, an excuse to linger. This is simple curiosity, he tells himself, the innate desire to fit pieces of experience together, make them comprehensible. He takes in the man’s shock when she relates what just happened, but the exchange is hushed and Jarrett can only speculate what is said from the body language. There is no embrace, just a brief pat on the shoulder, yet this could still hold a host of meanings.

 

Jarrett avoids the conductor’s eyes on the way back, relying on the fact that he could not possibly keep track of the attire of every passenger that has come aboard. He doesn’t feel he should have to pay an extra fare for travel that he never wanted, even if the result now seems fortuitous. When he succeeds in evading detection, this generates an outsize relief, as if he’s just engineered a heist at Sotheby’s. Jarrett pens a note on his portable calendar for the reading and mentally pledges there must be no excuses, no allowing this to be submerged by the distractions of his usual circuit, no convincing himself later that nothing really happened.

He doesn’t have to call Blair to relieve any worry about his lateness. She acted like it was a nuisance having to go to San Diego for the firm’s glitzy meeting, but it seemed to him that this was for his benefit and there was some part of it beyond the amazing weather that she looked forward to. Before she left, they’d had a small argument, and he wishes now he’d left it alone. Blair had just changed the message on their phone recorder to “anything you say can and will be used against you, but be a sport and leave one anyway.” He took the direct approach and told her that despite the joke, this might be off-putting. “Your attorney friends will like it, but what about everyone else?”

Finally home, he hears Porter whine in gratitude. The air of the condo seems oddly compressed, as if it has been closed up for weeks. Jarrett is happy to have nothing else to do but cook himself a quick omelet, one of the few dishes he can safely manage, and watch the travel show on the public channel. Over the last six months, he has tried a Tai Chi class, a seminar on astronomy at the junior college, and hikes in the nearby forest preserve, but none of this has really intrigued him. He has almost resigned himself to the notion that he’ll never be completely bowled over by anything again, never get that illumination that seems to reconfigure the world.

He sees that Blair has tried to reach him at 6:30 when he would normally have been home. After getting a glass of Malbec, he returns the call and when she answers, he can already hear a rush of disparate sounds—glass, voices, a tangle of instruments—in the background.

“Oh Jarrett, it’s crazy,” she half shouts. “Give me a minute. It’s like a riot in here.” As he hangs on while she steers herself away from the noise, he thinks of the few colleagues she likes, all women except for Ben Stalls, who is portly and not her type. To his knowledge, neither of them has cheated, but she occasionally accuses him of flirting, which he does not deny outright. Jarrett has always considered this fair game, joie de vivre in small doses, as long as it doesn’t go too far. But later, he feels guilty, as if he really did something.

“OK, I can hear myself think now,” Blair says suddenly out of the blankness of the connection.

“Whatever you say can and will be used against you.”

“That’s been my assumption since I was a little girl.…How are you?”

Jarrett considers whether he should tell Blair about his little adventure, eliding the dangerous parts, but lets the urge pass. The bookstore isn’t the kind of place he could bring her, because it is as still as a cathedral. What he finds peaceful she judges to be slack, a sensory deprivation chamber. He is still in love with her, but after twenty years it is a static love, and there is no such love on earth that can compete with an unknown one, the blaze that never goes out. None of this is Blair’s fault, his sense of being hemmed in, the enervating routines. In truth, he also finds great comfort in their meshed lives: rounds of dinner parties, the cocoon of family.

“Fine. There’s something to be said for a little solitude.”

“If that’s the case, maybe I should stay another month or so.” It is hard to tell over such a distance, over the crackle on the line, if she is a little hurt or being playful or both. He understands this to be merely a facet of the usual marital tug of war, the attrition of little disagreements, like a tide eroding a coastline.

“No, please don’t do that. By the time you got back, I’d be muttering to myself, talking to imaginary friends.”

When she cheerfully agrees, he’s again tempted to tell her of his day, but even with the wine he can’t quite get there. It isn’t some dark secret he clandestinely withholds, but it would be hard to convey over the phone. There’s no way he could make her understand, without raising suspicion, that he doesn’t see the lapse now as a blunder at all, something more like fate. He recalls a quote from Joyce, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery,” and feels as if a previously concealed gate has swung open.

Blair begins some vague reply, but the line is abruptly cut off, and Porter looks up suspiciously as if he were the cause.

 

Passing his stop again, Jarrett feels a surge of anticipation, a sense of being flung beyond his customary orbit. As he watches the yards grow larger, the houses more opulent, Jarrett thinks of that scant piece of summer with Neve in this gentile district, how the woman and the landscape seem hopelessly intertwined. He’d sublet an apartment from a buddy who had decided to go into the Peace Corps. It was the best place he had ever lived, maybe because he knew the whole arrangement was ephemeral, due only to a series of fortunate accidents. It was a hundred yards from the train station, the sounds of locomotion during rush hours regular as a watch.

There was a small theatre across the street whose marquee announced art films that were hardly shown anywhere else. The apartment had a diagonal view of an oddly affordable French bistro called “Trois Façons” that hosted eclectic ensembles on weekends. It had a fleur-de-lis motif at the cornices of the building, an elaborate rack of wine behind the bar. Despite the fact that her family was rich, Neve worked there as a waitress.

Jarrett could never forget the long black apron, falling to her knees, over a white shift underneath, that comprised her uniform. There was something about the contrast and fineness of the strings, the perfection of the figure eight loops, like a butterfly almost, tied at the base of her spine. She was slender, feline, dark-haired, olive-skinned, with always a touch of smoky eye shadow. There was a reserve, an uncommon grace about her, some observant, hidden quality. She had even chosen to go by her middle name, her real one remaining a secret he had never been able to pry loose.

It all drifts back in its own languorous way. Neve’s house had twin cupolas, making it seem like a medieval fortress. To be in the spaces they created was almost like being in a separate compartment, floating, disembodied. It was all so new: the sprawling mansions, the country clubs with their long driveways and inner precincts, the jetty near the canted masts in Bishop Harbor, the small dunes near Conner Beach where they would nestle and watch the circling gulls. Jarrett remembers how Neve had been shocked at his thrift store furniture and then charmed, like they were stowing away in a boxcar. The whole affair had only lasted two weeks but, being summer vacation, he had seen her nearly every day, and the episode had left a lasting impression.

When she disappeared, if it was something he said, there was no outward reaction. He eventually heard through the grapevine she had gotten involved with someone named Hugo, a guy she met when she was abroad in Spain. There had been a sweet but terrible note. He thinks now that it was like she had been stolen, like the picture books from the other night, an entirely unforeseen alteration of the way things had been a moment before. The judgment occurred at a remove, in a separate place where reasons need not be given. For a while after, he dated many girls but never for very long; they tended to blur into a montage of dizzying nights. He had kept her in his mind for a year or two, but eventually he could no longer hold vigil for the loss.

 

By the time Jarrett arrives at the bookstore, the reading has already begun, and he gingerly eases himself into a seat in the last row of folding chairs. He scans the room for Rina and at first does not see her—but then does, in a tiny café arranged in an alcove. Her head is tilted, resting against her hand, and she has one long skirted leg wedged against a stool. From that vantage, she doesn’t seem to resemble Neve at all, and he feels momentarily as if he has made it up in some strange vacancy of his heart. Then she shifts and notices him, lifting her eyebrows almost imperceptibly, and the presentiment of Neve suggests itself again, though the whole effect is more equivocal this time, as through some maddening screen.

Severn wears wire glasses, a black pullover sweater, and has a shock of unruly hair falling off to the side. Almost immediately, he does not seem quite right, swaying at the podium as if his balance were impaired, and the cadence of his speech is uneven. By the third paragraph, it’s clear that he’s had too much to drink. Severn reads a few passages of the new book, and they seem good, if not exceptional, though Rina appears to be completely absorbed, pondering every phrase.

After a few minutes more of his erratic performance, Severn acknowledges the thin applause, almost dropping his glasses in the process. Jarrett is determined not to ask him about The Waiting Moon or the long hiatus after, as he supposes that this must be part of what is driving the author to distraction. Yet, a few others are not so circumspect and come right out with it. Severn tries to keep a polite veneer but doesn’t quite manage—a slight shaking of his head, the jaw tight as a violin bow, a flush rising.

“That was so long ago…another life,” he says, deflecting his discomfort with a joke. “I was a different person then. Weren’t we all?” The audience, perhaps sensing some condescension, seems restless. One elderly woman reaches for her purse and discreetly leaves. Probably to ward off the lull, Rina raises her hand and extravagantly praises the excerpt he has chosen before asking about his influences.

After Severn has scribbled his inscriptions in the sold copies and shared a rueful laugh with Rina, he leaves quickly. The store has nearly emptied, and she rubs her eyes as if she is very tired. Jarrett thinks of the other man, the one with the cap who clearly knew her, but there is no trace of him. He sees her take a sip of wine and light a cigarette, though he’s sure there’s a ban in the village. He notices the wine bottle on the counter has a fleur-de-lis emblem and remembers the French restaurant. It comes to him that it also had writing on the walls, though he had never translated the language. Rina scans a sheet of transaction figures with the somber air of someone reading the obituary of a distant relation. The shop must be on its last legs but like her reaction to the theft, she is good at hiding her feelings from a stranger.

“I shouldn’t have gotten into this business for love,” she says. Jarrett wonders if this is a reference to a relationship or the place itself. For the first time, he notices she wears no ring, though this means little anymore.

“Yes, I’m afraid the barbarians are at the gate. It’s not a good time to be anything but gigantic.”

“I have a lead on getting a copy of The Waiting Moon if you’re still interested,” she says, gently stubbing the half smoked cigarette out on a plate.

“Yes, that would be wonderful. Just to see that book again. Like bringing back an extinct species.”

“The source wants to remain anonymous. I hope you understand.”

“Even better. Just a wink and a nod.”

“Do you mind my asking what it is about this particular book? I’m this way myself sometimes, just having to have it, despite everything.” She takes a long sip of her Bordeaux, savoring it, holding it on her tongue as long as she can.

“It’s quite a long story, but I guess the short version is that I’m one of those fatuous people who can’t relinquish his youth. I know the facts, but they don’t seem to matter.”

“So you are like everyone then,” she says with a hint of a sigh.

He thinks to press her if they can continue the conversation somehow, see where it will lead. A few days ago Jarrett never would have thought himself capable of stepping over that line, of creating that kind of havoc. He pauses as if suspended on a wire, considering how he could phrase such a question so that the intent was not so obvious, the suggestion not so clearly drawn. But he  delays a beat too long, and she begins to gather up the papers.

Jarrett has to grab his coat, which he’s left near the makeshift lectern, and after retrieving it, he finds that she is leaving too. There is still another forty-five minutes of light, and with the limpid sky, it feels like darkness is even farther off. After a slight hesitation, they both find themselves heading east, and Jarrett adjusts himself to her more measured pace. They make small talk, but just moving beside her makes everything take on a surreal aura, like this were some scene being reenacted in his mind.

They quickly get beyond the business district and walk past an impressive church whose intricate stained glass window glints like a benediction from the descending arc of the sun. Then it occurs to him that they have taken a different route and are only a block from the place where he had once lived.

“I’m sorry. I must stop here,” he says when they get to the old building, with its ochre brick and marble cornerstone. It takes him a little while to take in the sight, hold the ordinary façade against all the ghostly flashes he has carried around inside.

“Is this where you live?” She says this with a strange inflection as if she already knows the answer. She looks up and then spins around to take in everything that is there and not there anymore on both sides of the intersection.

“No, in the city. But I did live here a long time ago.”

Again, she displays the wrong reaction, not as someone would register a fact but rather confirm a hunch. She seems perplexed, amazed, bemused all at once. “It’s a lovely street,” she whispers, almost to herself.

The French restaurant has been replaced by a series of shops; a realtor, a Yoga center, an investment firm. The theater is still there, though slightly less dilapidated than he remembers. He took Neve to a few movies at the art house because she was a cosmopolitan sort, craving the enigmas of the foreign. From his small den, he watched the marquee change from week to week, the lines become bigger and smaller, the neon streaks tracing a pattern along his mantle when the curtains were pulled away. Sometimes they would go over just before the feature ended and listen to the reviews people gave as they streamed out into the night.

“You should go up,” she says impassively. “It might bring something back.”

When Rina leans forward a little to focus on the upper floor, he spots the smudge of a birthmark at the base of her neck. Though this is merely confirmation of what he already knows, a current rushes through him, seeing this part of Neve that had transfixed him, a kind of fingerprint no two women could have. Rina is the name she would never tell him. Her hair and clothes and make-up have changed but almost nothing else. Jarrett sways a little and can no longer picture where he really lives, how Blair moves nimbly through their comfortable warren, the dim contours of his actual existence. He wonders if it is the same with Neve, one world having to efface the other.

“No, I don’t think they’re home.”

This time she does not deflect him; she looks and looks as if her eyes alone could explain everything, with that expression she has of inevitable retreat, of being drawn toward some inaccessible room. “I really must run. Hugo will kill me if I’m late again.”

He catches a sliver of the lake between the trees a mile down, feeling suspended where no movement, forward or backward, is possible. He wonders why he has never tried to track her down, make contact at least, just to see where things stood. Then he realizes it would have been like searching for a revenant of what she was, of what he was, when everything that mattered had yet to happen.

“I guess I’m like poor Severn, trying to pick up where I left off,” he says, finally allowing himself to regard her again. Jarrett sees the flutter of her scarf, the tossing of curls across her forehead, the way she clasps the belt of her coat, as Neve sometimes did, the images somehow converging.

“It’s an odd feeling,” she says shyly. “There but not there. Gone but not gone.”

“Yes, exactly.”

“Well, goodnight,” she says softly, with her heels already clicking on the sidewalk, then half turning with a wave, a fleeting motion almost over before it begins. Jarrett gazes up at the set of windows and without the glare sees crescent shapes, perhaps some ornament hung from the ceiling like wind chimes. He suddenly recalls what The Waiting Moon had been: some repository for the splits in the road, a place for all the things that never quite had a chance. He remembers the book strewn across Neve’s lap one evening after she had fallen asleep. A streetlight flickers making a strange reflection on the pavement. She is just a blur on the horizon, but Jarrett traces her outline to the point of vanishing. He watches as a lithe young woman ties a narrow, black apron behind her, somehow able to weave the straps where she cannot see them, from memory.

Thomas Benz

Thomas Benz has a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Notre Dame and has had fourteen stories published with magazines such as The Madison Review, William and Mary Review, Pangolin Papers, Timber Creek Review, Blue Penny Quarterly, Beacon Street Review, Willard and Maple, Blue Lake Review, Carve and others. He was a finalist in the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Collection Contest in 2013 and 2015 and a finalist in the New Millennium Short Fiction Contests in 2014, 2015 and 2016. His novel Harraway’s Call was selected as a semi-finalist for the Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize sponsored by Black Balloon Publishing in 2014. He has also been associated with a few writers’ organizations in the Chicago area, including Off Campus Writers Workshop, Northwestern professor Fred Shafer’s novel workshop, Paul McComas’s Advanced Fiction Workshop, and the Writers Workspace. Samples of his fiction can be found at www.indielit.net.

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