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In the Last Frame
by Beth Thomas

He found the film at his feet on a Surfliner train somewhere between Lompoc and LA back in ’05.

And in the last frame on the roll, a little girl with curly brown hair and flushed cheeks


He reached down, fished for it, and then pocketed the small canister and looked around as though guilty of something.

has descended the stairs in footed pajamas


The train knocked and slowed at LA’s Union Station and then stopped, and he debarked and paused and stood looking around for her. She would look older, he told himself. Six years older. Not “barely twenty” anymore but now “nearing thirty.”

and stands near the Christmas tree, all bows and lights and red on green.


Her hair might be darker, skin lighter. She could have gained weight, or lost. He scanned quickly, then looked at each face specifically. Business men in expensive suits waited to continue their commutes, transients lay fetaled in the shadowed corners, mothers ushered children from seat to line to train, and finally, there, her.

She smiles, face turned aside,


She sat in the waiting area, her legs crossed, her elbows resting on the ornate armrests. She did not stand. She smiled up at him, but it was not as he had imagined. He replayed in his mind the halted phone calls and censored letters of the past six years. He had asked her to visit, but she had refused to come to the prison.

eyes cast to the haloed sparkling lights on the tree.


Had it come to this? A weak smile of recognition, a flash of memory behind the eyes, and then a graceless rising to feet and embrace? They traded greetings as though strangers, his posture honest, hers heavy shouldered and cloistered around the daughter they almost had.

And on the film the pearlescent blush


As she walks away he notes with purpose her retreating narrow shoulders, the subtle switch of her hips, and how the rhinestone comb in her hair catches light from somewhere and emits a dim shine.

of paper-thin wings.


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



Beth Thomas is originally from New Mexico but currently lives in California due to military relocation. She works as a technical writer in the aerospace/defense industry. She has a BA and an MA in writerly things from New Mexico universities. Her fiction has recently appeared in Edgar Literary Magazing, Gator Springs Gazette, EdificeWrecked, Insolent Rudder, and UR Paranormal. She spends her spare time playing peek-a-boo with her daughter.

Read the interview.
Issue Seventeen (June 15, 2007): Renoir Responds to Aline Charigot’s Charges of Painting Her Ugly by Daniel Bailey «» Cymothoa Exigua by Christopher Battle «» Oblivious by Gary Cadwallader «» The Wedge in Between by Debbie Ann Eis «» One Purple Finch by Kathy Fish «» Clouds by James Hanley «» Mousafa's Woman by Kyle Hemmings «» First Night by Ric Jahna «» My Great-Aunt Meets Jesus at the Mobil Station in Montana by Stephanie Johnson «» Old Leningrad by Sandra Maddux-Creech «» Selective Memory by Mary McCluskey «» The Attraction of Asphalt by Stefani Nellen «» Of Potential by Jim Nelson «» Portrait of a Mother, Beforehand J.M. Patrick «» Midnight in Albuquerque by Tiffany Poremba «» Flatlining in the Edward G. Bellacosta Memorial Park by Jake Ruiter «» Prow by Claudia Smith «» I Know This Man; He is My Father. by Tavia Stewart «» In the Last Frame by Beth Thomas «» My First Two-Headed Boy by Veronica Thorn «» Interviews: Bob Arter «» Daniel Bailey «» Christopher Battle «» Gary Cadwallader «» Debbie Ann Eis «» Kathy Fish «» James Hanley «» Kyle Hemmings «» Ric Jahna «» Stephanie Johnson «» Sandra Maddux-Creech «» Mary McCluskey «» Stefani Nellen «» Jim Nelson «» J.M. Patrick «» Tiffany Poremba «» Jake Ruiter «» Claudia Smith «» Tavia Stewart «» Beth Thomas «» Veronica Thorn «» Cover Art "Peace in a Time of Monsters" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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