Stories by
R. Gatwood

On my way to the home, I pick a hemlock flower to add to the bouquet. He still laughs at our old running jokes, when I explain them.

R. Gatwood is concise.

All our stories are about people before the Bettering—people who hurt because they couldn’t help it. People who didn’t think hurt was fun.

R. Gatwood is concise.

“A short life.” She runs age-tremulous fingers over the line crossing his palm. It’s from a knifeblade, but he nods, figuring she’s right.

R. Gatwood is concise.

“Most of the tooth is still there,” he said. The child only cried harder.

R. Gatwood is no good at comforting the disturbed.

As the kitchen curtains ignite, the man in the living room types “smelling smoke” and skims a list. Seizure. Stroke. Tumor. Sinus infection.

R. Gatwood is concise.

We pretended there was some mix-up about the dates, but we knew. We knew the worthy had been taken. We knew how few of them there were.

R. Gatwood is concise.

The head is still warm. I trace our initials inside the fogged silver cover of the serving platter. Is this really what I wanted?

R. Gatwood is concise.

Each of these two strangers has a friend, a different one, who calls late at night in tears. They try the weather—joke about slow elevators.

R. Gatwood is concise.

If I position my head just right, my wife will be looking into my eyes when she smiles. The hologram flickers as I rewind one more time.

R. Gatwood is concise.

Instantly he adds, “Forget I said that,” and endures a moment of agonizing hope until she says, “Okay.”

R. Gatwood is concise.