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Night Birds
by Craig Terlson

Night games of shinny started by five o'clock in December. Streetlights came on like candles that were slow to catch, making kids rush through their macaroni and hit the ice, boots unlaced, tomato sauce still on their chin.

We threw our sticks in a pile. Lloyd rifled them to either side of the street. It was a fair enough system. I wasn't one of the strongest players, but I wasn't the weakest. Thin Paul was forever getting driven into the snow by one of the Wheelers.

Rules were loose, tempers smoked and that red ball got raised higher and higher. Slapshots were outlawed—unless you were really pissed at someone. This one time, Lloyd let a shot fly that took off his brother's toque and left a bent circle on his forehead that I could still see at school the next morning. Fists, balled inside of mitts, hit down-filled jackets and the thumps sounded like they were three blocks over. I stayed out of the way.

I ran up and down the street, never handling the ball for long, firing it to the first guy I saw or taking a lame swing, hoping to direct it towards the two lumps of snow that served as goalposts.

We played when it was almost melting and we had to strip off our jackets to let the sweat out. And we played when the wind bit into our cheeks and I thought my feet would break off into my boots. We played until calves burned, lips cracked open and blood ran down chins into dirty snow.

Around nine o'clock, we heard names being called out of doorways, like strange night birds. John... Mike... Lloyd and Ray... get home. My mom never called me. I just went in when the others started to disappear, afraid to be alone.

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



Craig Terlson's fiction has appeared in Cezanne's Carrot, Hobart, the Laura Hird Showcase and other literary journals. He was recently awarded an arts council grant to complete his short story collection, "The Plate Spinner". Craig shouts about fiction at woofreakinhoo.squarespace.com.

Read the interview.
Issue Sixteen (March 15, 2007): Heaven by the Highwayside by Mike Amato «» There Swells and Jets a Heart by Rusty Barnes «» Miss Hempstead's Brother by Myfanwy Collins «» This Is What You Left Behind by Tod Goldberg «» Ten Very Short Stories by John Leary «» Photographer and Model by Stefani Nellen «» On Mondays, Francesca Takes the Stairs by Cami Park «» Seven in the Morning by Max Ruback «» Baby in a Jar by Tom Saunders «» The Color of Moths by Holly Selph «» The List by Paul Silverman «» Glasgow Lullaby by Rob McClure Smith «» Night Birds by Craig Terlson «» Quake by Beth Thomas «» Deep in the Heart of Texas by Robert Travieso «» Disappearances by Jeff Vande Zande «» This Is Just Another Yarn by Ann Walters «» Travel by Nancy Zafris «» Interviews: Mike Amato «» Rusty Barnes «» Myfanwy Collins «» Alicia Gifford «» Tod Goldberg «» John Leary «» Stefani Nellen «» Cami Park «» Max Ruback «» Tom Saunders «» Holly Selph «» Paul Silverman «» Rob McClure Smith «» Craig Terlson «» Beth Thomas «» Robert Travieso «» Jeff Vande Zande «» Ann Walters «» Nancy Zafris «» Cover Art "A Gathering of Matisse" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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