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by Joseph Young

Patient A has a history of heart disease. He takes a red pill that has the sign of infinity pressed into its top. Patient B has begun to eat gravel. She watches the men in the road, their shovels full of dust, and the hunger starts in her throat. Her obstetrician is kind and gives her a blue pill shaped like a bird.

Patient A and Patient B sit on opposite benches in the park. Patient A contemplates his palm—the swoop of his lifeline—and his fingers don't stop beating, his jaw won't unclench. Patient B spreads her knees around her drum-tight belly, and she listens. Her ear has become sharp to the sound of little things, the ants building their hill in the sand, the tumble of pebbles in the stream.

Patient A has begun to moan, a cry beginning in his throat and working its way through the bones of his skull. The sound is low and filled with deep vibrato, the reverberation of caves and cathedrals, the creak of deserts. The moan interrupts the smile on the lips of Patient B. Her eyes climb the stairs of her reverie until she finds his face, the hollow of his mouth.

"What?" she says, her palm to her cheek. "What is it?" She is looking at his teeth, the silvered pits of his molars. She smells the dark in his throat.

Patient A returns her gaze, but it's through the warp of a dream, and it isn’t for a long moment that he can close his mouth and stop his noise. The woman and her belly, the bird's light of her nose, seem a signal, a yellow light at sea or at the center of a blind storm. He reaches for a cap to his fear, presses down, feels the wool of terror in his heart compress. He says, "Oh. Oh god. My dear. My dear, my lovely."

She smiles at him, afraid for everything, the love of her stomach, the shining breeze, her pocketful of soil.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.

Joseph Young's work has appeared previously in SmokeLong and a number of other journals. Visit at or

Read the interview.
Issue Thirteen (June 15, 2006): A Foreign Woman by Roberta Allen «» Fetichismo by Christopher Battle «» How the Broken Lead the Blind Until They Both Become Something Else Entirely by Matt Bell «» See Odi Naked by Lisa K. Buchanan «» Memory of Sky by Jai Clare «» The Captain by Ron Currie, Jr. «» Bingham by Steve Cushman «» The Table by David Erlewine «» Daffodil by Kathy Fish «» Fishing by Mike Hagemann «» Real Estate by Jennifer A. Howard «» Emily Avenue by Jeff Landon «» Tough Act by Steven J. McDermott «» Cheering by Srdan Papic «» Something Blew by Ellen Parker «» Euclid's Elements by Mary Lynn Reed «» Miracle by Chad Simpson «» Her Lips by Claudia Smith «» Man and Dog by Girija Tropp «» Randomization by Joseph Young «» Interviews: Roberta Allen «» Matt Bell «» Lisa K. Buchanan «» Jai Clare «» Ron Currie, Jr. «» Steve Cushman «» Katrina Denza «» David Erlewine «» Kathy Fish «» Mike Hagemann «» Jennifer A. Howard «» Jeff Landon «» Steven J. McDermott «» Srdan Papic «» Ellen Parker «» Mary Lynn Reed «» Chad Simpson «» Claudia Smith «» Girija Tropp «» Joseph Young «» Cover Art "Despair" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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