Taylor sat in the corner of the bar at the Holiday Inn in Galvin, talking to a man who called himself Sydney. Her pockmarked legs were crossed, her top foot bouncing to the beat of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” A strobe light pulsed in one corner and shot up into a rotating disco ball that covered the empty dance floor with tiny shards of fragmented light.

Sydney was getting drunk fast, gulping doubles of bourbon and working his way through a soft pack of Pall Mall cigarettes, occasionally offering one to Taylor, who would gratefully accept. He was a steel salesman from Texas on his way up to Michigan to visit a plant in development in Kalamazoo; he had a tan line around his finger where his wedding band should have been. When he talked about work, Taylor pretended to listen. The steel industry was constantly in flux—boom years and recessions, peaks and valleys—and all of it fell on sales. Sydney, who looked twice her age, kept calling her Kayla but she didn’t bother to correct him. She just nodded and closed the distance between them in tiny increments, a shift of the legs and she was leaning in, until he was whispering through wet lips into her ear. He rested a heavy paw on the inside of her thigh. His fingers were made for cigarettes to burn in; dry and white like abandoned snake skins.

When she brought his hand up to her lips and selected one finger to put into her mouth, she thought about the pink ridge of her daughter Missy’s soft newborn gums, the curl of muscle that was her tongue, the way she’d searched for her mother’s nipple with her eyes closed, brow furrowed—blind trust.


Taylor had been working as a waitress at Digger’s Café on Main Street when she’d found out she was pregnant. She started feeling nauseous when she woke for work at five a.m. each morning and eight hours of running around a smoky diner became too much for her. She stopped showing up for work and started having nightmares about the baby growing inside of her. In her only reoccurring nightmare, the baby sat at the end of the hospital bed with its back to her, one arm missing—a pale stump at the end of a shoulder. When she awoke, she lay in silence next to Derek, and listened to his breathing. When Derek left for work she would smoke secret cigarettes in the bathroom with the window open and the fan on, blowing the smoke through a cardboard tube stuffed full of drier sheets.

Taylor wasn’t ready to be a mother and she’d told Derek this on several occasions. She was only twenty years old and hoped to attend Danville Community College after she’d saved up enough money. Derek ignored her and came in her whenever he wanted, rolling over in the full-size bed and drifting off to sleep as soon as he finished. Afterwards, Taylor turned on the fan and the shower in the bathroom and cried.

While she was pregnant she watched The Price is Right and Days of Our Lives, and in between, commercials for online degree programs and personal injury attorneys. The announcer’s clean, hurried recitation of advertisements provided the soundtrack to her day. Her mother called occasionally, to alert her to an interesting documentary on A&E or Lifetime or to chat about the pregnancy. Other than that, she had little to fill her days. She had the yellow and orange shawl her mother had knit for her to pull over her shoulders when she was cold. There were the four walls of the apartment, the short hallway, the tiny kitchen with its yellow tile and Trinity Mission dining table and chairs.

Days passed and she stared at the algae in the fish tank and the wide black mouth of the plecostomus that devoured it. There was the cichlid and the catfish, both covered in scars. There was the clock and its slow tick, and the arc of the sun she could trace as it moved from one side of the apartment to the other. On some days, there was the rain.

And one Friday, when Derek didn’t come home on his lunch break, she called an old friend named Daniel, an ex-basketball star who she used to smoke pot with during high school. Daniel was on unemployment, fired from his machine operator position at Clayton Bottling and living in a mobile in the Cottonwood Trailer Courts on the north side of town.

“Can you come get me?” she’d asked.

Daniel had picked her up in a white van and they’d driven past Jiffy Lube. Derek’s truck was gone. They drove around for an hour looking for him, down side streets and alleys, up Highway 31 past KFC and Burger King, past the skating rink and the shuttered brake pad factory. They went past Digger’s and he wasn’t there.

Later that night Taylor poked at a plate of macaroni and cheese. She was wearing one of Derek’s old Dale Earnhardt t-shirts that hung down to the middle of her thighs“I came by Jiffy Lube on your lunch break,” she said. “Truck wasn’t there.”

Derek nodded and chewed a mouthful of food, his jawbones flexing like the muscles in horses’ legs. He had a wide, dry mouth. A cold sore stood out on his upper lip, red and greasy with ointment. He broke out when he was stressed or dipping too much. “I was at KFC with Larry,” he said. He studied a coffee stain on the table and then looked back at his plate.

Taylor shook her head. Her stomach felt like it was full of glue. “I thought you said you were going to come home and watch Days of Our Lives with me.”

“Come on, Taylor, you know I hate that fucking show.”

She wanted to tell him that she’d seen his truck in the driveway of Tabitha Rodgers’ house on the west side of town; that she had walked up to the small ranch house with the black shutters and the picture window where a thick yellow curtain hung. She wanted to tell him that she saw them through a gap in the curtain, fucking on the couch in the living room. Instead, she took her plate to the sink and stared at the chrome neck of the faucet. She had thought she could see her reflection in it, her face twisted to the contour of the pipe, her mouth a sad semicircle.


Sydney passed out a little after midnight and Taylor stayed in Room 221 at the Holiday Inn in Galvin because she had nowhere else to go. She spent the hours before dawn shooting meth and smoking what was left of Sydney’s unfiltered cigarettes, watching television in the blue glow of their motel room. When the first light of morning crept in, she thought about her daughter Missy. She hadn’t seen her in six years.

Her chest was shuddering like a speaker in a dance hall: a frenetic disco heart. She felt scraped out and hollow, like the wind could fill her. She scratched her legs underneath the hotel sheets and concentrated on the stream of smoke that passed beneath her nose and out into the pre-dawn room.

Sydney was slumped in an armchair by the bed in the same wrinkled suit and tired shoes he’d worn the night before. He looked old enough to be a grandfather with his bulbous alcoholic nose all gin-blossomed, purple and bulging. In the sunlight coming through the window his scalp glowed bright pink and flakes of dandruff dusted his shoulders and the tops of his ears. A bottle of Early Times whiskey three fingers full sat on the nightstand next to him and Taylor took the bottle and gulped from it.

Taylor drank and smoked cigarettes and hoped that Sydney had died, that his breathing had slowed and stopped in a brown lagoon of whiskey. She knew this wasn’t the case though, as she could hear him struggle for breath. She would feel the ghost of him on her skin. When she stood in the curtains looking out on the highway, she would feel his nose and smell his sour breath and remember the low drone of his voice beneath the electric crackle of the hotel bar and the jukebox.

She crouched down beside him and fished through his pockets, pulled out a wad of bills held together by a faux-gold money clip with the letter S engraved in its center, and retreated to the bathroom to dress.

Taylor slipped the wad of bills into one of her jean pockets and stepped into the pants. Her legs were long and slender, unshaven. She pulled her pants up over the blades of her hips and the end of her C-section scar, ran her finger along its white ridge and remembered her daughter like she was seeing her through a series of windows, standing on a subway platform looking in on a train as it passed. In one window were Missy’s newborn fingers, opening and closing, in another, her heavy eyes before she slept. Then a lip, a bulging stomach, a ribcage. A diaper. A fat ankle, a wisp of blond hair. Then a highchair and a running bath.

She fixed a cold shot under the shaky florescent light of the bathroom, found the soft lump of her vein in the middle of a green bruise, and got right, her brain like heat lightning, fluttering and white hot.

Taylor left the Holiday Inn with forty-three dollars and a pebble of meth balled up in a piece of tinfoil in the front pocket of her jeans. The radio was dead in her ’91 Cavalier, but she didn’t want music. She rolled down the window and stuck her arm out as she picked up speed heading south on 31 towards downtown. She was tired of motel rooms and bars and the murmur of televisions, tired of laundry mats and bathrooms and walls and the tight, private spaces to which she retreated. She wanted the country that blurred past her window and the road that disappeared beneath the front end of the car—she imagined all of it disappearing into the bleeding hole in her arm. Like a vacuum it would funnel everything in a distorted curve and blur of images into her veins: the low wooden fencerows, the white and red Co-Op grain elevator and its rusted, worm-like silo, the massive fallow fields, the ReMax billboards, the yellow Jesus Saves signs on two-prong metal wires stuck in the ditches on either side of the highway.

Taylor wanted to be part of something that could not be forgotten, something more than a night in a cramped hotel room, a crumb of meth in a sweaty palm. She looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her nose was red and dry and she thought of Sydney’s nose and the cold sores on Derek’s lips. She thought of every man she had ever known and the mornings after, how she always felt like running.

The windows were dark in her mother’s house when Taylor pulled into the gravel driveway of the two-bedroom ranch in Walnut Hills. When Taylor was young the neighborhood had been filled with kids, and in the summer they’d played night tag. She remembered sprinting through their neighbors’ yards at dusk, the orange rectangles of light from the kitchen windows of the houses illuminating patches of grass. There would be twenty kids some nights, running haphazardly in the dark, sometimes crashing into one another and picking themselves up off the streets and driveways, breathless, looking for a shed or garden to hide in. The neighborhood had changed by staying the same; the children left and their parents remained and every once in awhile a young family filled a vacancy. But there was no more night tag, no more crowded streets.

Taylor killed the engine of the Cavalier and made her way up the red brick walkway between the garage and the line of low bushes in the front yard. She slipped a pink scrunchy off her wrist and pulled her hair into a ponytail, rang the doorbell. When there was no answer, Taylor fished her keys out of her purse and unlocked the door, stepped into the living room.

The curtains were drawn, the ancient television sat on the floor like a wooden dinosaur, and the overstuffed couches and chairs filled up what was left of the living room in pink floral patterns that looked grotesque in the sunlight. The house smelled like burnt toast, coffee and cinnamon potpourri. It reminded Taylor of Sunday mornings before church when she was little, her father seated at the table in the kitchen with his morning devotional laid open before him.

Taylor spoke to the empty living room: “Mom?”

The television was muted and on the screen a shaky camera captured two dark-skinned men in cutoff jean shorts and ripped T-shirts, hauling a shark onto the wet wooden deck of a long fishing boat. Taylor scratched her neck and watched. One of the men wrapped his arms around the shark’s flailing tail while his partner removed a machete from a leather sheath hanging from his waist. The man worked quickly with the weapon, lopping off the shark’s side fins and then the dorsal fin. Dark blood jumped from the holes in its body.

Taylor brought her hand up to her mouth.

When all of its fins were removed in this manner, the shark flopped around as sprays of seawater diluted the ribbons of blood that ran on the deck. One of the men braced himself against the helm of the boat and pushed the shark into the ocean with his foot. The shark sank beneath the waves, a white blur.

Taylor turned off the television. Her mouth was dry. “Mom?” she called. She walked into the kitchen, where a stack of envelopes sat on the table alongside a collection of vitamin bottles and a beige container of Metamucil. Beside the Metamucil was a single knit placemat. Taylor fetched a glass from the cabinet, filled it with water and drank until she was short of breath. She remembered coming in from tag when she was little, chugging Diet Coke until her nose and throat burned. She liked the way the ice in the glass felt against her upper lip and she’d hold the drink there and breathe into it, watch her breath fog up the inside of the glass.

A single picture hung on the front of her mother’s refrigerator, held in place by a Jesus Fish magnet. In the picture, Derek was bent at the knees in front of the metallic globe of a jungle gym, shirtless, holding Missy on his shoulder. Taylor constructed the story of the picture. Missy had been playing and had jumped on to his back. Derek had pulled her forward toward the camera, obscuring her face and exposing the top of her head, her long brown hair like a streak of mud, parted down the middle. Who had taken the picture? She wondered. She fingered the wad of tinfoil in her pocket and looked at the clock, 9 a.m. When would her mother return? The picture felt like some kind of warning.

Taylor believed in signs and omens, in angels and ghosts. She felt the ghost of her father in the kitchen. He had died in the garage, hunched over a belt sander, a carving of a tiny Indian girl he’d made on the garage floor behind him. Derek had left him alone for a moment to fetch a couple of beers. When he came back, Jack was dead. Cardiac arrest.

Taylor left the kitchen, glided down the narrow hallway off the living room, until she found herself in her mother’s bedroom, staring at the hospital corners of the comforter and the vacuum lines in the carpet. There was a stack of paperback books on the bedside table Mary Higgins Clark and Danielle Steele. She searched her mother’s dresser drawers for money, parting piles of underwear, unwrapping folded socks. She looked under her mattress and in her nightstand and found nothing. She opened her jewelry box to reveal a five-dollar bill, a pair of earrings and a bracelet. She jammed them all in her pockets. Her hands were shaking.

As she turned to leave, she saw her footprints in the vacuum lines in the carpet. She squatted down and smoothed the tread of the carpet with her palm so it would match the rest. She imagined that each thread was a tree and the carpet itself was a forest and she was a giant, pulling the trees up by their leaves, the way Derek had pulled her up by her hair off the carpet the first time he’d hit her. She remembered the two drops of blood that had fallen out of her nose, how they had landed an inch apart from each other on the carpet, the whole canted plane framed by the tangle of her hair, her field of vision tilting from the carpet to the ceiling to frame Derek’s face and then four knuckles and she was down again, tasting the carpet, hair there also, she felt it on her tongue. He’d hit her again and again, saying “Daniel” and “you fucking bitch” and she couldn’t speak long enough to say that they’d only been out looking for him on his lunch break. She couldn’t catch her breath to say, “What about your baby? It is inside of me.”


Taylor looked up from the carpet to see her mother standing in the bedroom doorway, arms crossed, looking older than she ever had. Fran wore a white, sleeveless blouse and pink capri pants with white shoes. She held a white knit handbag under one freckled arm.

“What are you doing?”

Taylor stood up, straightened her shirt. “I thought I’d come to see you.” She walked over to her mother and hugged her close, smelled White Rain hairspray and makeup. Fran put one arm around Taylor, cupping the ridge of bones that was her back. They pulled away from each other and Fran looked into Taylor’s eyes. “You’re high,” she said.

“No I’m not,” Taylor said.

“You’re high. Did you do it here? Because I don’t want you to do it here,” she said. She set her handbag on the bed.

“Mom, I’m fine.”

Fran grabbed her arm by the elbow and twisted it toward her. Dime-sized green bruises and flecks of dried blood dotted her forearm like small cities on a map, the veins beneath flat and blue through transparent skin. She sighed and let go. “You have to leave, honey.”

“But Mom, please?” She started to cry.

“No, Taylor.” Her mother picked her shirt off of her stomach.

“But, Mom, I’m going to see Missy today.”

Fran caught her breath, then laughed and wiped her lower eyelid, batted her eyelashes. “Honey you can’t do that, not after what you did. You know that.”

Taylor wanted out. She felt the meth and the booze under her skin and in the lining of her stomach like lead, weighing her down, giving her a center, something for her heart to beat into. She tucked a stray piece of hair behind one ear. “Fuck you,” she said to her mother, and she was gliding through the hallway again, through the living room, into her car, all of it aquatic and unbroken, never interrupted by the rise and fall of her feet, and then she was driving with the windows down through tree-lined streets, her cheeks hot. She wondered if her mother was going through her jewelry box, counting her losses, or sitting on the bed, crying. She wondered if she was calling Derek.


Taylor and Missy had spent the first part of that blistering August morning swimming in the public pool at Milligan Park when Taylor received a call on her cell phone from Daniel, who promised her two grams of pure methamphetamine. Taylor strapped ten-month-old Missy into a car seat in the back of her Cavalier and took Highway 31 to Daniel’s trailer on 150 South, the windows up, the air conditioning on full blast. Missy wore a white swimsuit and little black sunglasses with a yellow duck on each earpiece. Her nose was covered with a white blob of sunscreen that she’d started to smear all over her cheeks with the back of her small pink fist. Taylor had reached behind the passenger seat and wiped the lotion from Missy’s face, rubbing the excess into her own sunburned chest above her bikini top. Then she’d killed the engine and stepped out barefoot on to the gravel driveway, slammed the door behind her. She disappeared into the trailer, carrying her purse in one hand and a tube of lipstick in the other, and Missy had stayed in the car, looking up at the sun through her duck sunglasses, through the black lines on the back windshield, a white nickel in the sky.


Her veins danced. She thought about those shots in movies of the freeways at night, where the headlights of cars sped up into a single white blur of movement. She imagined her blood in the same way, moving so fast it had somehow become static. She itched her elbows, the skin flaking off until it became blood beneath her nails.

She bought gas and cigarettes at the Marathon station and shot up in the cramped bathroom like this: pink lighter, flame like a teardrop, old spoon head, syringe, green bruise, veins of white light, sweat on the lip and the eyebrows, sweat on the ears, sweat on the eyelids she blinked away. Then back in the car, sweat under the folds of her buttocks, sweat on her lower back. She thought of old friends: Chris Barbee, dead in his black Dodge with the radio on. She thought of Seth White, facedown in Sugar Creek in the heart of the KOA campground. She thought of Jillian Myers, dancing on a pole at Touch of Class, covering up track marks on her thighs with a brush and powder. She thought about Digger’s and daytime television, about the confinement that was her life and the road that disappeared beneath her. She thought about Missy, and the bloated body they had pulled from the backseat of the very car she drove out of the Marathon parking lot, her hot, dry ten-month-old body in the white-gloved hands of the paramedics like a bag full of wet clothes, the hospital behind them, and Taylor breathing through a green oxygen mask, thinking about the different ways a heart dies.


Taylor had ripped through two bowls of meth with Daniel and then spent the next twenty minutes beneath him on a mattress on the floor of his bedroom. They’d smoked some more and then Taylor had shot up for the first time. Neither Daniel nor Taylor had expected the shaking, the sheet of sweat that covered her, the twitching of her jaw. Then she was unconscious on the floor of the living room next to a coffee table, one strap of her blue bikini top loose, exposing her tan line. Daniel called a friend and told him to meet them in the back lot of St. Catherine’s Hospital just outside of Galvin. He’d carried Taylor to the front yard and propped her up against the car. When he’d opened the passenger side door, he was greeted by a blast of heat. Missy was in the backseat, unconscious—her skin arid and starting to swell, her sunglasses crooked on her face, tongue barely showing between her lips. Daniel had driven them both into town in the Cavalier and left them at the emergency room door, escaping on foot to meet his friend.

Missy’s temperature was 105 and her breathing had slowed to a thin whistle around her swollen tongue. Two paramedics lowered her into a tub of cold water until her chin rested on the surface. They’d set up four fans and pointed them on her from all directions in an attempt to drop her body temperature. Taylor watched the entire procedure through the doorway of an adjacent room. She could hear her own breath, her heartbeat in her ears, the soft blip of the machines, and the prayer of the nurse who had watched it all beside her.


Taylor stood in the parking lot of Waterford Apartments at dusk, smoking Sydney’s last cigarette down to the filter, sweating through her t-shirt and staring at building number four like it would eventually take flight. It was the time of night that they used to gather in the neighborhood for tag, an hour after dinner when the sky was a blue orange smear behind the rows of houses and you could smell the dampness of night settling into the leaves of the trees like a fog. This night was no different, except for the cicadas with their screech and their hum, their endless vibratory song.

The air inside the building smelled of curry, fried food and laundry. She read the names on the row of black mailboxes and none of them made sense but Derek’s. She traced the letters with her fingertips and touched her face and looked around to see if anyone had seen her. The corridor was empty.

It had taken her six years to make the climb, and the cigarette butts and flat discs of crushed bubble gum that littered the concrete stairwell made her sad with their ordinariness. There should have been great shafts of light, she thought, something better than the hollow of her stomach, the high beating in her temples and this dank grey staircase. She remembered hauling groceries up these very steps, how Derek liked to spit brown chew spit from the same landing, how she had held Missy against her and made her way down the same steps, scared of dropping her and watching her slowly roll out of a bundle of pink blankets. That fear, like the dreams that plagued her during her pregnancy, would never match the reality of the heat of the car, which had reached upwards of 140 degrees, or the coma that followed, or the way the machines in Missy’s hospital room seemed to be watching her in her glass bed.


While Taylor had awaited trial, Missy was handed back and forth between Fran and Derek’s parents. Meanwhile, Derek had beaten her around the apartment, punching her in the stomach and in the back, kicking her in the crotch, but ultimately, leaving her face untouched. Taylor knew it was because he did not understand what had happened, had in fact, been blindsided by everything. Sleeping with Daniel had made it worse. Derek had asked her to describe him: the sex, the duration and location, the frequency, the size of Daniel’s penis.

Taylor asked him about Tabitha and the house with the black shutters and the yellow curtains and he’d hit her harder for her knowledge of the affair and her ability to hide it. Derek hadn’t listened to Taylor; he’d just spoken over her with his grunted mantra: “You almost killed our daughter.”

Taylor was charged with negligence and public intoxication. Daniel had taken the stash off of her for his troubles, so she narrowly escaped a possession charge. She ended up doing four years in a women’s prison in Illinois and was released on good behavior, with the agreement that she would never see her daughter again. The judge decided that too much time had passed, and it might be better that Missy didn’t know about her mother at all.


There was movement behind the apartment door and Taylor could hear the springs in the recliner creak as someone rose. She tried to step out of the view of the peephole but the door swung inward and Derek stood shirtless in the yellow light of the living room, holding a can of Diet Pepsi, a wad of chew tucked into his lower lip. His hands were covered in grease and there were dark purple scars on his chest and across his stomach, scars that Taylor had touched and known. The three-inch scar above his left nipple was from falling through a coffee table when he was still a young boy, the two smaller diagonal cuts, from the undercarriage of cars at the garage. He spit into the Diet Pepsi can and shook his head, staring at Taylor as if he were trying to look through her.

“Hi,” she said.

Derek nodded, pulled his shoulders back in a mock stretch and propped himself up against the doorway. She could smell the sour wintergreen chew and she remembered the taste of his lips, mentholated and earthy. “This is a surprise,” he said.

Taylor adjusted her ponytail. “I need to see her.” She looked past him into the apartment. A plastic Fisher Price table covered in coloring books and crayons lined one wall. She tried to swallow but her mouth was too dry.

“She’s asleep. She was swimming today.”

She was a body in the hands of the paramedics like a bag of wet clothes. She was a ribcage, an open mouth. She was being lowered into the water. She was a Fisher Price table, coloring books.

“Can I look at her?”

“According to the court you’re not supposed to be in this apartment complex, let alone her bedroom.”

Taylor stood up on her tiptoes, trying to see more evidence of her daughter. It’s better that she’s asleep, she thought. Words won’t get in the way. “I’ll look at her and then leave. Please Derek.”

He turned his back and walked into the apartment, the open door an apparent invitation to enter.

The apartment hadn’t changed much since she’d seen it six years prior: same thrift shop recliner and sofa they’d yanked off a curb on the south side of town, same fish tank. There were piles of dolls, most of them missing clothing, some of them made up with crooked slashes of green and yellow marker. A pile of plastic dishes sat on one side of the kitchen sink and the refrigerator was covered with pages from coloring books and magnets, glossy 3×5 pictures. Derek stood next to the couch in the living room, spit into the can and nodded towards the hallway.

“Bedroom’s still down on the left,” he said.

Taylor walked down the familiar hallway to the same room in which they’d kept Missy’s crib. She remembered the first few sleepless months after Missy was born; how she’d ease open the door to her room and step towards her crib. She would stand above her in the dark and watch the shadows from the shifting mobile dance across her face. Sometimes she would wake her just to make sure she was still breathing, for she was so still and silent.

The door was slightly ajar and Taylor opened it slowly and entered the room, her back to the wall. She closed the door behind her. A blade of light from the hallway fell onto a pair of bare feet and the satin edge of a blanket. The feet were small and dirty and rested on a sheetless mattress that lay flush with the floor. She made out the rest of her daughter lying motionless beneath a mess of throw blankets. Her curved, sleeping form was impossibly long. Above the bed, a white curtain billowed out and then returned to the frame of an open window. It seemed to move in time with Missy’s breathing, with the slow rise and fall of the blankets.

Missy began to move under the pile and Taylor panicked, suddenly aware of what she was doing. Missy sat up in bed, the light from the hallway falling across her face. Her face was round and flat like Derek’s, her eyes dark and deep set, like her mother’s. Taylor wanted to trace the curve of her mouth and the soft pockets that were her dimples. She wanted to hear her voice.

Taylor stood in silence while her daughter pushed an errant strand of hair behind one ear and yawned. Surely she can see me, Taylor thought, I am not invisible. “Hello,” Missy whispered sleepily.

Taylor swallowed, opened her mouth slightly as if to speak, and then closed it.

“Hello?” she whispered again, inching forward on the bed. She pulled the covers to one side, swung her legs out onto the floor. She was wearing red drawstring pajama pants and a white tank top, a silver heart necklace that shone in the light from the hallway. Missy couldn’t see her face from her spot on the bed with the light in her eyes and the darkness of the room around her. Taylor would be a faceless shadow, filling up the doorway. Missy reached for the lamp on her bedside table and orange light filled the room.

Taylor turned and disappeared into the hallway, gliding past Derek, through the cluttered living room with its fish tanks and plastic tables and dull yellow light. She thought that she could hear her name, not mom or mother, just Taylor, the impersonal, a name that dozens of people had known and forgotten, or never even cared to learn.

Ryan Millbern earned his M.A. in English from Ball State University where he taught composition and fiction writing. His writing has appeared in Notre Dame Magazine, BestSemester and Designer.