Literary Orphans

The Journey by Andrew Bertaina

I left in the evening, after the children were down, faces slack and beatific in sleep.  I rolled my suitcase down to the train station in the blued light of an early morning, chestnuts swayed in the breeze. Down below the station was a quiet river, and a small park dotted by goose crap. At the station, I sat down on a bench and cried. I thought about my son’s soft curls and my daughter’s plaintive morning lilt. Then I dried my tears, and boarded the train.

After hours of sleep I awoke in the countryside, purpled clouds on a low scrim of sky. I imagined the filmy light streaming in the windows onto the waking children.  I saw cows lowing in short grass, hooves encased in mud. I saw a murder of crows, darkening the sky. I saw a woman hanging clothes on a line, the wind ruffled her dress, the sunlight gathered in her hair.  I saw, just outside of North Platte, a very handsome man, shoulders bent, leaning over a notebook and occasionally looking out the window at the hills undulating, bare trees, withered stalks of corn, and fissures where water settles.

I have always loved women and perhaps it’s the thing that drove us apart.  I could never let go of the idea, or fantasy perhaps, that someone else better was out there, just beyond my reach, just around the next street corner or in the next conversation. A woman sat down next to me and began reading Tolstoy—the greatest of the Russians.  I forgot the children then and for two, hours I tried to think of ways to strike up a conversation.  Finally, she looked up from her book, and I caught her eye. “This is my stop,” I said, and got off the train in the middle of nowhere, the sun pelting the fields of corn, long flocks of geese overhead, the sky an electric blue. It was going to take me hours to get home, to wrap them in my arms, and lay my head in the soft down of their hair.

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Andrew Bertaina currently lives and works in Washington, DC. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in more than twenty publications including: The Three Penny Review, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, Literary Orphans,Sierra Nevada Review, Apt, OxMag, Prick of the Spindle, Bayou Magazine, and Catamaran Literary Reader. He is currently a reader and book reviewer for Fiction Southeast.

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–Art by Kaia Pieters