Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

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



Anne Kilfoyle
| Fiction

Jesse is right that I shouldn’t be running the water. With nothing else to do while we waited for death, we watched YouTube. Every survival video insisted that after a widespread Event of any kind, water would be the most precious resource. One video showed a dead cow floating around in a pond, then panned over to a sunburned white guy drinking from the other end. Jesse minimized the tab to order a $350 water filter on Amazon Prime, one that removes viruses with a hand crank, but so far it hasn’t arrived.
In our kitchen, he’s scrolling the confirmation email again, seeing if the delivery status has updated.
I defend my water waste by saying, “Eggs are a superfood.”
He nods. His neck where it tucks below his jaw has the wiring of an outdoorsman, although we’re mostly living room people. He has a history of making things look easy.
“I’ll guess I’ll get the bags,” he says, and slowly shuffles down the hall to the mud room, where our roller bags are filled with socks and Nutella.
Jesse is many things that I’m not: a person who clears the lint screen and opens the door for the cat. Jesse knows exactly when to walk out on an argument. And he can still surprise me: yesterday, I squirmed my fingers into in his armpits to cheer him up, and he laughed once, almost a cough, and said, “Keera, I’m not ticklish.”


Another alert comes in. We are supposed to have evacuated from the population centers by now. I don’t know if our city qualifies, but the neighbors seem to think so. From the kitchen window, I see traffic backing up on our street, a parade of compact SUVs with pale men at the wheel looking overboiled and risky. The Fosters are idling around the end of our driveway. Their grade-school kiddo, Bryson, has rolled down the rear window and stuck his arm out, wielding a small wooden bat.
He brandishes the bat, which is more like a club, thick and short, takes zero aim, and whams it down on the outside of the car door. His parents, Lydia and Darin, both sweethearts, jump in their seats.
I scoff. I don’t ever want a Bryson, but I gotta admit, he’s a good character. He’d be a loss.
Jamie has returned with our bags, one in either hand. I love it when his wrists are tense like they are. But his face right now isn’t my favorite. He doesn’t even look familiar.
“Are you laughing?” He sounds like he has the flu, meaning there’s some emotion he’s trying to downplay.
“Oh, no,” I say, “It’s just Bryson being a little shit.” I motion out the window and see that Bryson has dropped his bat onto the street. He’s crying now, which is somehow not what I expected. It’s further disconcerting to look from his face back to Jesse’s, where the same locked-in fear makes me feel shrink-wrapped.
“Maybe you’re right that we should hustle,” I say, trying to regain good footing. I nestle the wet eggs in a paper towel.
Jesse’s shoulders are moving a little. Actually, he’s swaying side to side.
“What do you mean?” he says. “Why? What happened?”
I see that I’ve upset him further.
“Nothing,” I say.
“Well,” I correct, “I mean nothing apart from the global attack.”

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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