Rappahannock Review | Sam Martone
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FICTION

The Permanent Ache by Gary J. Garrison
“Last week we put out cigarettes on our wrists…”

A Woman Should Have Legs by Robyn Goodwin
“The problem with Nancy’s suicide attempts was that nobody knew about them…”

Mostroferrato, Ancient Stronghold of the Briscoletti Family by Sam Martone
“Go south to a town with a tower towering beside it…”

Accidents by Ian Riggins
“Simple wooden things, painted white, with the usual assortment of bouquets and wreaths—the crosses stared up at me…”

Her Last Friday by Lucas Southworth
“Three months ago, the girl had three months to live…”

To the Wall by Holly M. Wendt
“The inside of her car bakes…”

 

NONFICTION

Justice by Alyce Miller
“On a cold snowy Sunday afternoon, two days after Christmas in 2009…”

The Pine Tree by Joy Weitzel
“Pollen from the male pine cone will drift with the wind, hoping to reach a female pine cone…”

 

POETRY

Mix-tape (#4) With the One I Still Haven’t Learned the Lyrics to by Mark Jay Brewin Jr.
“I couldn’t tell you how early I learned and lost the words…”

Jack Listens to the Language People Use by Kevin Brown
“When Wendy told us she had lost her…”

French Carousel by Susana H. Case
“Midnight in Paris, the party scene at the …”

Let there be spaces in your togetherness by Susana H. Case
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness…”

Imaginary Waltz with a Woman Wearing a Dress of Virga by Christopher Petruccelli
“Her silhouette is caught between windows and hanging …”

The Heron Rookery by Timothy Shea
“Now that the storm clouds have settled like sleeping dogs above the pasture…”

The Haircut by Timothy Shea
“While I know this road is not my river…”

Feature Issue:

The Suburbs

 

NONFICTION

Death Row Report by Dale M. Brumfield
“In 1992, my father toured Richmond, Virginia’s old Spring Street Penitentiary…”

Invalids. Girlfriends. Beer. by Brenna Horrocks
“I needed a change of tempo…”

Lights by Matthew Zanoni Mṻller
“On Saint Martin’s Day in Germany the children would go into the dark woods…”

Bret Hart & the Finished Dungeons of My Youth by Brian Oliu
“Legends are born here: of sweat soaked vinyl & broken bones…”

 

POETRY

Bloom by Kate Bolton Bonnici
“I stepped on a dead squirrel…”

Afternoon Heat Wave, Northern California: Lament for the Gulf Coast by Kate Bolton Bonnici
“Here, heat steals in—no air conditioning…”

Mostroferrato, Ancient Stronghold of the Briscoletti Family

Go south to a town with a tower towering beside it. A dog will rush toward you as you enter the town, leash dragging behind along the cobblestoned road, followed closely by the girl he’s gotten away from. She is surprised when the dog licks your palm—usually he’s not friendly with strangers. There is kindness in her smile, something familiar about her, but then again, think of how you’re unable to distinguish shopkeepers, priests. Maybe you’ve just reached a point in life where no one is new, everyone will remind you of someone else. Imagine: the paws of a mastiff scratching at your chest like a memory you want to forget, a dream you thought was real until you remembered it wasn’t. This town is home to a wealthy family. Their mansion takes up even more land than the church, than the two-story tavern, than the wish-filled fountain in the center of town. You’ve arrived just in time: the wealthy man is the one who’s sent out a call for true heroes. He is looking for someone to marry his daughter. There are rumors about her circling the town: that she wants to choose her husband herself, that she lived in the abbey until recently. Think of the prince, your former companion, whose wife left the abbey to marry him— no, no. Think of something else, think of what you came here to acquire. When you arrive at the mansion, the salon is already full of men who believe they are heroes, who believe they could be, if given the chance: a man whose face is obscured by a buffalo-hide mask, a rotund merchant rubbing his hands together, a young man about your age with sandy hair, what you imagine is a mixture of fear and determination on his face. You see the family shield hung above the mantelpiece. Its white steel sparks in the crackling light from the fireplace. One look and you know: this is the shield of the legendary hero. What you came for. One step closer to completing your quest. Look at the other men. Wonder if one of them is the hero’s descendant, also attempting to reassemble the legendary equipment, his ancestor’s armaments. When the wealthy man enters, the room falls silent. He says he is looking for a hero worthy of his daughter. He says, on this continent, there are two magic rings: a circle of fire and a circle of water. Only the man who acquires both will win his daughter’s hand and with it, the shield. As the wealthy man describes the volcano to the southeast of town, his daughter comes downstairs—she’s the girl you met at the town entrance. She tells her father to let her live her own life. She insists she will only marry for love. As the would-be heroes leave to begin their quests, she stops you. There’s something about you… maybe your voice… or perhaps we met somewhere a very long time ago. She must have you confused with someone else, for you have never said a word in your life, there is no way she’d know your voice. Of course, you cannot tell her any of this. Begin to doubt that you are only doing this for the shield—no, remind yourself you are searching for your mother. Remind yourself you are trying to save the world from an unknown darkness. After she goes upstairs to her room, explore every room. Check every dresser, every wardrobe, hope to find some rare piece of armor, a robe with magical qualities, something to reveal to you the nature of love, the choice you must make. What choice, there is no choice, your mother is out there somewhere, there is nothing else but that. You run into the wealthy man’s older daughter, a girl with a sharpness to her eyes. Imagine: a third-floor apartment, a room emptied of furniture, a record turning on the player, a song you can’t sing along to, not yet. Suddenly, you realize: you knew them when you were just a child. Their father lent a ship to yours, a ship you woke up on in the middle of open water, remembering nothing but the sea-rocked dreams you’d been dreaming. Wonder if this means something, if fate, looking down at you from above, guided you here, to these people who don’t know they knew you when you were very small. But no, this is just what happens when you travel the world, when you explore every corner of every town, when you break every vase, when you scramble down every dried-up well, when you search around your feet where something glimmers, when you go on quests to recover legendary shields, when you stop—do not stop—looking for your mother. Think of your father, his last words. You think of the girl with the yellow ribbon in her hair, wonder why you haven’t found her yet. You have found the shield, now you just need the helm, the armor. The sword hums heavy in your bag, her yellow ribbon tied around its handle. Imagine: a hotel lobby with handmade quilts hanging on every wall, your fingers cooled by condensation on a plastic cup. A pair of trains stopped on the tracks. A counting down, resolutions made. Her, beside you, for the whole of the journey, from one part of the country to another, from humid forests and island-dotted lakes to cornfields and grain elevators, from one year to the next. This is what you want: someone to be there, to get lost with you, to light up darkened regions on the map. But you don’t know if you’ve found her. You don’t know if you’ve already missed your chance. You don’t know how you’ll ever know, and there is no time to find out. You want a set of instructions, a guide to tell you where each path will lead, an index of all possible futures. There is only one future that matters—a missing mother found, a dead father remembered, a world saved from the clutches of unearthly darkness. You can feel it: the day is coming when you’ll make a choice, a choice that will actually alter your fate, when a question will be asked only once, not repeated endlessly until you choose the answer you are meant to choose. Gaze into the reflective surface of the shield. Try to picture your father’s face in your own. Think: Would it be so bad? Would it be so bad? If you let someone else search for apocryphal items, for some heroic destiny. If you stayed here, if you married, if you settled down and started your own family, rather than searching for a mother who may not even be alive. You wonder how your parents met. You have visions of them playing soccer, your mother wearing green socks, knee-high, kicking your father in the shin. It all could have ended different, destiny changed. She might have swung her leg and missed.

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