Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

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



Anne Kilfoyle
| Fiction

Jesse is from the next state, where the dried-up hills are brushy with grass if they’re not crumbling away. The prize of his hometown is its rodeo, and even though Jesse grew up riding horses, he will forever feel inferior to men who wear cowboy hats professionally. He claims this to be true despite my feelings about men in cowboy hats, and I have to respect him for saying so. His parents still live there, and that’s our goal, to make the 200-mile journey to Jesse’s childhood home on LuLark Road, where his mom is waiting with a glass of iced chardonnay and his dad is napping with his work boots on. We’re going there because it’s not a population center and it’s the last place we really felt good.
My parents live at a distance that is inconvenient for travel. His parents both smile in a way that makes their eyes disappear. I heard that couples who look similar have a stronger bond because it means they mirror each other’s expressions, which is something you do with people you like. I’ve been looking hard at Jesse and me, our reflections as we brush our teeth over the splashed sink every night, waiting for the similarities to emerge, but I guess we’re young yet.
In the kitchen, Jesse’s panic is escalating. “Keera, will you please talk to me? We need to do something. We need to act!”
His fear has tripped us into a new script and now Jesse is a soft scroll in my hand, a knitting. The last time he looked at me like this was in the very beginning, when we put ourselves at stake. I think, if we survive, I will transform into someone better. Change is always scary, they say, and they say that fear is excitement without the breath. That’s how I feel, breathless as the start of a movie.
What we need to do is say goodbye to our lives here, but I try to relax my jaw.
I say, “Fine. Put on your heavy socks and find your shoes. Let’s blow this joint.”
He huffs but I know he’s grateful because he holds my eye for a moment for the first time in a while, a small moment in which it’s just the two of us, nobody honking on the street, no shrieks from Bryson, no whistling air high above our heads. Just us, like we’re proud of the work we’ve done here.
Of course it has occurred to me that where we’re going on LuLark Road has no trees, little water. We could have made better plans. We will need food—more than eggs—and water tablets, better shoes than my slip-ons, and probably weapons. We will need a thousand items that we’ve not yet ordered on Amazon, but this sendoff, the way that we are saying goodbye to our little home, doesn’t bother me. What I feel is better than relief, even, because it’s an opportunity. This is an opportunity to get it right, and I’m watching us, and I know we’re getting it right.
The eggs in their half-soggy paper towel have stopped steaming. I set their nest on the countertop and one rolls free. The egg rolls with a swift, hollow horn slide across the counter, toward the drop. Jesse flinches. I jump as if sparked and hold out my hand for when it goes off the edge.

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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