One Night Only
The neighbor had a few trees removed, and they had to leave the trunks out on the lawn overnight. The sun went down, or the truck was full, or else I guess they maybe just needed a break. They were ash trees, I think. Diseased. I called Rachel, and we went over to look at them, and they’d all fallen at some pretty weird angles. One of them was perched on the cut branches of another, and we slid underneath and then just laid there in the dark for a while. We couldn’t get our arms around the wood. Every so often, we’d try to push it, and it wouldn’t budge, and the ground was slick and wet, and so our bodies made these little outlines in the dirt while we talked about cremation. Like, the virtues of getting turned to smoke versus buried down deep. “There’s something about the skeleton,” I said, and what I meant was how I couldn’t imagine losing even your bones. We were drinking from thermoses filled with coffee and her mother’s cheap peppermint schnapps. It tasted like Christmas. Like mint toothpaste gone bad. One of the trees must have had 150 rings, and another had forty-seven, and that was the only one we counted specifically because the rest just seemed like way too much work. “Jesus Christ,” she said, and “It was practically a fucking baby,” and I told her how even the oldest one was like maybe our age at the very most. “It’s different for trees,” I said. “The scale, I mean, and I guess time is relative, and it all depends on, like, your particular angle in space.”
We were both pretty drunk, but I swear the neighbor was watching us through the window. The TV was on. You could see the blue light. Sometimes it would shift to different shades, and from the pattern I figured it must have been a baseball game or maybe a cop show, and it didn’t matter because you could feel the guy staring all the same. “He’s waiting for us to kiss,” I said, and I didn’t mean anything by it. It was more like a running joke. I bet she thought I was serious, though. She kind of arched her back and peered toward the window, and, “Fuck him,” she said, and I think I probably understood her. Even the stumps would be gone and disappeared gone.
Brett Biebel teaches writing and literature at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. His (mostly very) short fiction has appeared in Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Masters Review, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. It’s also been chosen for Best Small Fictions and as part of Wigleaf’s annual Top 50 Very Short Stories. 48 Blitz, his debut story collection, is available from Split/Lip Press.