“Post-Atomic Bovary” by Morgan Harlow

How often had she imagined a safe place where she might go and live alone, an old abandoned cabin, small and sturdy, built high on some isolated mountaintop. A meadow of alpine flowers would grow right up to her door, and the cheerful presence of birds and mice and butterflies would enliven the stark dramatic backdrop of sky and rocky outcropping. Mountain sheep would graze contentedly farther out, and now and then an elk or a bear would come up from the wilderness of forest and rushing rivers.

Yet she would never escape it—it was in her nature, too. She had been nourished, as an infant, on the gray synthetic milk of short-term capital gains, contaminated with strontium 90 and polyester resins, post-modernist pretensions, and greed. When Pluto returns to Scorpio and a cluster of planets waltz through Cancer, her house of earned income, she will bolt the door and hide under the table with her arms over her head and know that she did not come there of her own accord, but that she had been chased. An unrelenting figure pursued her, with spear upraised, ready, watching for signs of tiring or weakening, a stumble or a fall. 

She will hear the wind howling outside the walls, the pitiful scratching at the door. She will get up to splash her face, dipping her hands into a bucket of clear rainwater to steady them. The Milky Way will appear to her there, brilliant as a flight of salmon flashing through the rough uncharted waters of her life. When she goes to the window she will see, peering in at her, squinting its eyes to look through the frost it has made on the glass with its breath, her own reflection. It is the face of the Sasquatch, it is a child, it is the terrible mother who nurtured her, coming to take her back home. 

***

“Post-Atomic Bovary” first appeared in Ottawa Arts Review issue 7.1, 2013

FEATURED IMAGE: Audra Kerr Brown, “Drowned Dream” (2021). Double exposure photography, Morning Sun, Iowa, Twitter: @audrakerrbrown

Morgan Harlow

Morgan Harlow's work has appeared in Blackbox Manifold, Tusculum Review, Washington Square Review, The Moth, Seneca Review and elsewhere and is forthcoming in Cordella Magazine and The Oakland Review. She is the author of a full-length poetry collection, Midwest Ritual Burning. Find her on Twitter @morganharlow.

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