Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15



Anne Kilfoyle
| Fiction



The emergency evacuation alert is followed by a serene twenty seconds in which I decide to remove the eggs from their ice bath. It’s the simplest action available to me, and I know I can do it well. Of everything that comes after, all the urgent decisions and physical struggles, I am less sure.
On the kitchen slab, my phone is freaking out. I plunge my hand into cold water, holding the eggs against the bottom of the glass bowl as I pour. It’s a Saturday in late winter. This close to the northern border, our world is bright and thin-edged, hurtfully beautiful. Go outside and the light will soup you.
My husband Jesse comes into the kitchen to have a coughing fit. He looks at what I’m doing, his face particled and grey.
“The water,” he says. “Maybe we shouldn’t be wasting it.”
The blast of fear has already hit him. It occurs to me that he won’t last long; and it’s a dreamy thought, soft as trailing threads. Standing at the sink, one hand shocked numb, I am so surprised by tenderness for him that I want to cluck.
Jesse and I are as prepared for this as we can be, given that we’re both off social media. The president announced the initial threat three days ago, but we didn’t know about it until Jesse’s coworker, Nate, started dry heaving in their collaboration space.
The Safeway shelves were empty within an hour afterward, meaning we got stuck with the bummer of off-brand coconut water and marshmallow hazelnut spread. Even though the president said that hostility is certain, I’m a believe-it-when-I-see-it kinda gal, so I thought it wouldn’t come to anything. I thought it was an overreaction. Between you, me, and the fencepost, I’m still not entirely convinced otherwise, despite the emergency alerts. Anyone can say anything these days.
You want in on something else? The last three days have been good days, some of the best. We have been holding our breath, but also our problems got smaller. We blew off payments, forgot about the bare spackling, the compulsive drinking, the silverfish slipping through the bathroom and the way I sometimes feel when I walk into a room containing Jesse. None of it mattered. Our relief was felt down to the wooden bones of the house. Our biggest fear wasn’t mass annihilation, it was that we’d have to go back to how things were, back to our jobs and our lives; we’d have to do the laundry and put up flyers for the housecat we’d quickly lost track of.
I’m worried this doesn’t sound right. How can I put it? I mean I felt something different.
With Jesse and I, we’re fine. We’ve spent a decade whittling our lives into simplicity. Every year another complication is cut away. This is the opposite of most couples, I gather, but it’s how we have made it work. As a duo, we are slick. We’ll slip through your hands because we have nothing to catch on.
Imminent doom is a complication, no argument, but seen another way, it’s extraordinarily simple. That’s what I mean.

Anne Kilfoyle grew up in Boise, ID. An emerging writer, her work has appeared in Epoch and was recognized in the Top 25 for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers. She holds an MFA from Eastern Washington University and lives in Oregon.

Objects Do Not Fall
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