KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Haibun Story: 348 words


by Dan Gilmore

When Ted was sacked from his job at Pella Windows, he was afraid to tell his wife. He drove all day on the back roads of Iowa and found himself in a small town surrounded by cornstalks and blowing hot dust. He parked in front of place with a Budweiser sign, walked up some wooden steps, pulled his hoodie over his head, and went in. The screen door slapped behind him. Nobody looked up. Three old men sat in a dusty corner as if they had finally mastered the art of waiting. One was telling a story about a horse that couldn’t swim, how he had watched that horse flail about in the middle of a river until it drowned.

the packed church is silent
someone coughs
everyone wants to

A woman, not old but worn out, stood behind the bar, arms braced. “Welcome to the end of the road,” she said. “It ain’t the classiest of places but it’s all you got.” Ted ordered a draft. Next to the cash register was a religious candle of some sort. He asked the woman if she was Catholic. “Nope,” she said. “I worship at the shrine of Jim Beam.” She said the candle belonged to her son. She showed Ted a prayer that was inscribed on the candle. “It’s called Prayer to the Virgin Mary as the Untier of Knots,” she said. “He prayed that prayer right up to his last amen.” Ted told her that he had a few knots that needed untying. She held out the candle. “Take it. It’s yours,” she said. “Maybe my boy pushed it right up to the edge. Maybe one more prayer will do it.”

the slot machine whirls
two cherries and a horseshoe
he drops another coin

When Ted left, the old man was telling his horse story again like no one had heard it before. Outside, he put the candle on the seat, started the engine, and headed home. He would call his wife when he got in range.

heads bowed everywhere
looking for answers
on their smart phones

—From New Shoes, Gilmore’s collection-in-progress of haibun, scheduled for release later this spring by KYSO Flash Press

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