Afterimage by Beth Gilstrap

A soft spot in my heart for Oregon initially made me begin reading this story, and then it grabbed me like all good flash stories do.  See what you think …

Afterimage by Beth Gilstrap begins like this:

I turned a container of Morton’s over on a slug. The thumb-thick figure writhed and shrank. It moved mere inches before the salt took it. I put the salt back on the top step, crouched down close.  In a pool of its own bodily fluids, it lay dead. When poked, it felt like fried fish skin.

I panicked. I thought of its family. With the slamming of the screen door, I called, “Mom, Mom! It won’t move. I think I killed it!”  I pulled a chair up so I could reach the glasses, and filled one with water.

I poured the water over him in a thin stream, back and forth, down the length of its body. The salt washed away, but there was no slug resurrection. Mom came out, wiping her hands in her apron, and peered down the steps. “What have you done, now?”

“I put salt on him,” I said, petting the desiccated creature.

“I don’t guess you’ll do that again, will you?” she asked, rubbing her temples.

“No, Mama. Do you think I should bury him?”

“At least get him off the steps,” she said. “And you might want to say a prayer. Ask for forgiveness.”

That night I dreamed I had stigmata. I woke in a sweat, checking my ankles and wrists. I put my knees to carpet. “Lord, forgive me. Lord, please. Please, Lord. Please. I accept Jesus into my heart.” Sometime in the midst of my pleas, I fell asleep with my head against the bed.

Before long, my parents began to fight in spurts of firewater and righteousness.

Before long, he held her against the wall by her throat.

Before long, my brother and I hid behind my bed.

Before long, Dad turned up a bottle of Listerine.

Before long, his mistress came to the front door in a frumpy coat.

Through the divorce, I kept thinking about the slug I had salted.  I was a slug murderer.

I kept at the night prayers. I begged forgiveness, thought maybe …

Keep reading at Pithead Chapel Journal, there are some good twists & turns ahead.

See more good reading on the Sample Stories page.

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Categories: sample stories

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