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April 2013, vol 9, no 1

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Shelly Bryant

Cross Country

She’s endured the rocking of the train for days as it steamed its way south. Wobbling from her berth now, she doesn’t have the energy to notice the sticky Gulf Coast humidity, nor the mosquitoes swarming her at the station.

She stumbles onto the platform and retches again. Nothing comes up, though. Her belly was long ago emptied.

He catches her arm and ushers her to a bench. She didn’t even see him as she got off the train, but he’s here, just like he said he’d be. His hair has grown out since he left the navy. He looks a little different than he did the last time — the only time — they saw each other.

“You gonna be alright?”

“I think so.”

“The preacher and his wife are here. Momma sent him a letter while I was getting set up at the plant. She told them when your train would arrive.”

“The preacher?”

“Yep. He’s gonna marry us. So you can go home with me, y’know. His wife will be the witness.”

“Marry us? I don’t think I can even stand up.”

“It’s alright. His wife’s stout enough. She’ll hold you up. If not, we ain’t got a place for you to stay.”

egrets wing
across black wisps
— smokestacks on the bayou