Elms by Dawn Raffel

I might have known her anywhere: the wreck of a cheek, the loose lid of an eye, the broken vein, felled breast, the burst cloud of the iris.

Tossing dirt: “The trees have something wrong with them. I think so,” I said.

“I don’t see it,” she said.

The stones were carved with wings and such. Slab after slab.

She was missing an arm. Her hug was a half, and I wished to refuse her.

“Thirsty?” I said, as I pulled us apart.

“Famished,” she said.


I said, “What are these made of?”

“Silk?” she said. “Might be something synthetic.” Daisies between us, sleeves on wood—mine: my hands, my broken nails, the dirt underneath them. Blood too.

Coffee with something else in it.

“Eggs agree with grief,” I said.

“No yoke,” she said. “My heart. I want only the white.”

“I want bacon,” I said.


“Nothing is in my eye,” she said.

Smears. Crumbs. The meat I had not touched at all, wrinkled and stiffened.

“I still think,” I said to her.

She dabbed half her face. I watched as she settled us up with the server. I said, “If you insist.”

She might have insisted.

“It might have been fungus,” I said to her. “If those were elms.”

She fingered my plate. “Next time,” she said. “Do you want that or not?”

Dawn Raffel is the author of four books, which include two collections of very short fiction (In the Year of Long Division and Further Adventures in the Restless Universe). Her stories have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, BOMB, Open City, Fence, NOON, Conjunctions, the Antioch Review, The Mississippi Review, No Tokens and many others, plus the anthologies Best Small Fictions 2015, Short, edited by Alan Ziegler, Micro Fictions, edited by Jerome Stern, New American Short Stories edited by Ben Marcus, and more.

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