Nights in Paradise, fiction by Rusty Barnes

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August 29, 2015 by RJ



Before Paradise


Like Krakatoa—Kilauea—Vesuvius—Mr. McGurk said as he turned to Helen, his lips like red rash. He dropped to his knees. Every rumble of my intestines is for you. Please say that you will have me and we will make calderas together under the stony light. Helen paused, her blaze-orange vest flapping in the breeze as she directed traffic into and out of the Topsfield Fair parking lot. Sorry, she coughed. I just don’t burn for you like that.


The Last Night in Paradise


Mrs. McGurk found the newspaper floating in the forsythia, late again. That little shit of a delivery boy. She’d get him this time. She loaded her shotgun with her dearest unspoken wishes, made a plate of lemon cookies for afterward and waited. About four a.m. he showed up and she shot at him, but missed. He lay on her front porch like an asthmatic baby, mouth opening and closing. That’s right, she said. Suffer. The news is important.


On Another Night in Paradise


Helen McGurk rose and prepared a lovely rare roast beef for her husband’s dinner. She rubbed in salt and pepper with her bare hands, shelled peas, and boiled some potatoes into paste. Mr. McGurk came through the door around five, said hi honey in his sweet voice, only to find her on the table, legs spread, roast toppled, peas scattered, potatoes in her hair.


Drive me like a stolen car, baby, she said.


He appreciated her sudden candor.




Rusty Barnes, a member of the National Book Critics Circle, has published three books of poems and three books of fiction, including the flash fiction collection Breaking it Down and the novel Reckoning. His work has appeared in over two hundred journals and anthologies, among them Post Road, Change Seven, Red Rock Review, Barn Owl Review, and Interstice. He is sole proprietor of Fried Chicken and Coffee, a blogazine of rural and Appalachian literature and concerns.

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