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by Linda Niehoff

Dave promised her things. Usually when the words were only sweaty grunts. Not the moon or the stars or anything like that. Real things.

In the beginning he’d just bought her a pack of Camels. Then a bottle of Boone’s Strawberry Hill. Later on it was perfume in an emerald jar that made her think of bazaars under striped tents on far away sandy dunes.

At night she walked through the woods between their places. Blew smoke or her frozen breath out in long white lines. Listened to the milky call of coyotes over the ridge as they surrounded something.

She thought maybe she’d climb over to where they were. Offer herself up. They could take down a deer if it was small enough. Maybe she’d crawl on all fours to make it easier.

And maybe one would get heroic, break free. Drag the heart out of her. She imagined them pulling at her skin, promising nothing. Licking her bones as clean and as white as the rising moon. Maybe she’d become a story they’d tell a century of nights from now. She’d live on in the curdling cries they’d hand down.

It beat lying under Dave for soft brown boots and trips to Mexico.

Linda Niehoff’s short fiction has appeared in TriQuarterly, Necessary Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She lives in a small Kansas town where she works part time as a portrait photographer and full time as a homeschooling mom. She can be found on Twitter: @lindaniehoff.