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Mushrooms by Kathryn Kulpa

The baker’s wife came running, her big breasts swinging like cabbages in a sack, and we laughed until we heard her shout, They’re killing everybody, then we ran, too young for anything on us to swing, dust puffing up from the road, far-off sun shining weak and pale like milk strained through cheesecloth, everywhere pounding feet and shouting and somewhere, getting closer, sounds like breaking trees. Papa pulling his ax from the woodpile, Mama shooing the cows from the barn. Run, she said, run to the woods, hide like mushrooms hide, and we ran through twisty paths, past weary drooping trees, found deep piles of leaves, covered ourselves like we were already dead, soft earth receiving our bodies, we lay still as sleeping dead girls under leaf blankets and watched pinholes of light grow lighter, then dark again, smoke massing the sky, ashes forming shapes like when we used to watch clouds—It’s an elephant! It’s a sea serpent!—but these were the shapes of everyone we knew, our teacher, the doctor, the baker’s wife, then Mama, last Papa, weaving dark shrouds to keep us safe, brushing us like soft hands before they blew away forever. We held hands, whispered their names, and that was how we said goodbye.

Hear Kathryn Kulpa read her piece.

Kathryn Kulpa has words in Fictive Dream, Flash Frontier, Ghost Parachute, SmokeLong Quarterly, Vestal Review, and Wigleaf. Her books include Cooking Tips for the Demon-Haunted and chapbooks forthcoming from Porkbelly Press and Gold Line Press. She was born in the smallest state and has been nominated for Best Small Fictions.

Plastic Rivers by Shome Dasgupta | Lottery by Scott Garson | Drones by Ulrica Hume | Mushrooms by Kathryn Kulpa | The Archipelago by Lorette C. Luzajic | Manual for an American Novice in a Small Indian Town by Tara Isabel Zambrano | A Single Ladybug, Lying Dead on the Windowsill by Elena Zhang