The Quotable


He guessed bedbugs, she guessed mutant mosquitoes:
these welts behind the ears, acorn-hard, aching.
“Black flies,” a local said, “the bane of Maine.”
Neither realized they’d gone to bed in a warzone
of compound-eyed whisper-winged soldiers,
tiny terrorists of the night. When they woke to watch
the sun rise, because it seemed the thing to do,
they sat on the porch of their bayside bungalow
drinking coffee black as the ocean, and it wasn’t
until the coast ran silver and the sky’s feet smoldered
amethyst that it came clear they hadn’t known
which way was east. It was too late by the time
they turned. He said, “Well that doesn’t make sense,”
as if the earth had canted just to cast a trick, as if
direction were an instinct in the dark. By then
a second troop of flies had kissed their necks
to itching halos, and sourceless sunlight stole
across the pines in lieu of the vagrant dawn.
The moon clung to its perch and needled the sea.
Minutes slipped low with the tide. The battle
to bridle the sky ended, as it always does,
in cratered acquiescence. They went inside, then,
dumped their coffee, went to bed, and both said,
“We’ll try again tomorrow,” their eyes already shut.

Alice G. Otto is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arkansas, where she holds the 2012-2013 Walton Fellowship in Fiction. Her work has appeared in journals including RiverLit, Harpur Palate, and Yalobusha Review.

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The Quotable 9 Night and Day