Alice Elliott Dark
| Fiction

After dessert, Kay returned to the porch to wait. She picked a spot down the block where the lone street light shone onto the pavement below and watched for her father to pass there on his way from the hotel. The sky was divided into streaks of purple, orange, pink and gray, and the grass had turned from green to black. All the animals in the tangle behind the house were burrowing in, and the flowers gave off a last burst of perfumed effort. Jerome had ridden with Gran to take Elva home. Their mother was upstairs with the littles, tucking them in. Out on the ocean, lights floated on the tips of a few masts. Way above, a single star, maybe a planet.

Taps drifted over from the Coast Guard base. A sad song. Day is done, gone the sun. The real sentinels who stood night watch took their places. From behind the dark of night, the stars moved forward, into view. Kay knew all this; she knew the pattern of night at the shore.

When Gran’s car returned it beamed across the lawn and rabbits froze still, their eyes open and bright. When the doors slammed, they ran.

“Still keeping watch?” Gran asked from below.

“Nope. Just enjoying the night.” She didn’t look down at him, didn’t break her concentration on the pool of light under the street lamp. She was a good sentinel; no one could tell her it wasn’t so.

Alice Elliott Dark is the author of the novel, Think of England, and two collections of short stories, In The Gloaming and Naked to the Waist. Her fiction and essays have appeared in, among others, The New Yorker, Harper’s, Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The New York Times, and many anthologies. She is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers-Newark.

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