Places She's Never Been

Kelle Schillaci Clarke

The Carolinas, for starters. Is one of them really better than the other? And what’s Vermont all about, besides the B&J Chunky Monkey? She lies beside her son on his upper bunk, her right leg extended vertically, toe pointed sharply at the U.S. map taped to his slanted ceiling, surrounded by glow-in-the-dark star stickers, nearly invisible for at least another hour. Sixty minutes. Three Ninjago chapters. One potty break. Three water requests. A farmhouse in a middle state, she thinks, her pointed toe hovering over Kansas, his body radiating heat against the cotton-sheeted mattress, exhausted from another long day of court battles, too-big words, and endless questions.


She’s always been a west coast girl: temperate San Diego with its cookie cutter roller-bladers, complicated Los Angeles with its handsy Hungarian landlords; and now, Seattle, dark and determined to break her with its dogwood beauty. On a clear day, they can see the Space Needle from her son’s window, its blinking green lights at night.


Her toe journeys southward. Maybe somewhere where their neighbors would have horses, she thinks, not sure which state she’s pointing to, and they’d take long morning walks with pockets full of crabapples. Her geography is all off. Everything’s all off. They watch a magnolia blossom tumble into the overflowing gutter outside her son’s window. She wonders who to call to clear them. When was the last time she knew a man with a ladder? Her calf muscle squints as she arches toward Cuba (out of the question), Florida (she’s too young), New York City (she’s way too old).


“How about here?” she says, pointing a toe at Wyoming. Or maybe it’s Montana, she thinks, aren’t they basically the same thing? His body is finally calm beside hers, his breathing regulated, his forehead sweat absorbed back into his skin. He could be a cowboy there, a fly fisherman, an accountant. Whatever he pleased.


“I like that it’s purple, and that it’s so square,” he says. They stare up at Wyoming for a good long time, both of them thinking about the future, while they wait for the darkness, and the stars.

About the Author

Kelle Schillaci Clarke’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Superstition Review, Pidgeonholes, Barren Magazine, Bending Genres, (mac)ro(mic), Flash Frog, Cease, Cows, and other journals, and she is currently a reader for Fractured Lit. She lives near the water in Seattle with her husband and daughter and is on Twitter @kelle224.