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Short Stories by Kristi Estefania Stout Larios

condensed southern gothic

well first you need an innocent
who is really a villain.
a dusty stranger, perhaps.
loping up, he gives you the old
eyeball. you are aroused
because he is new.


you need an abandoned house.
the shape of it does not matter.
it could hide in your entrails
coiled like a waif. waiting.
with rattled breath for the day
you choose to feed it.

                    alright good so the dusty stranger is close he tips his hat particles waft
     into your eyes dust is literally emanating off his person    you close them                                                                      psst

                                                                                                  you’ve been asleep

      this whole time                                 you are only just now

                   waking up. what is the name
of this town again wait.



                                                              when was the last time
                                                                 you had a real birthday

        is it really possible

                                            you haven’t had a proper birthday                                                         
                      since you were                   


your eyes open you catch the last of his question

trouble you for water
blink hard                water              ?

the dusty stranger is mortal after all            (needs: water)
and you harden. he sees the light shift
and tries again to convince you of his mystery
by laughing in a small way

                                                            the game goes on like this


i thought the dead cat was a dirty plastic bag
which seems impossible
but if you have never seen something before your head
comes up with more probable images and so
i thought the dead cat was a dirty plastic bag

but once rose said do you see that cat i saw the cat

it was a pretty little thing too not a tabby but a plush orange
long hair cat with a collar. no blood or anything
just twisted like a wrung towel
face looking straight up
but. of course looking            is the wrong word

i thought of all the wild kittens in all the world in all the dumpsters

rose said we ought to move it. trucks come through here sometimes
this awoke something in me - i was only ten
and rose was older but out of the two of us i was closer to the man
and i knew my role here was to tell rose to wait
while i go get a shovel

rose let me play the part
even though we both knew that if i had been alone
i would’ve pretended like i never saw the cat

i kept my eyes soft while i slid the blade under
the cat’s body. i was so careful. dear god
please don’t let me pinch its skin please
or mess up the bones or the brain please
god please keep all the stuff inside

i got its torso but the limbs dangled
off the edge of the shovel and i just about threw up
my arms wobbling trying to keep it on the blade

i tucked the cat into a bed of clovers

you know. i walk past dead squirrels all the time
i step over dead dead dead

me and rose went on to wherever we were going
i tried to forget

but no one came by to move the damn cat for weeks
i really could not believe it. i had to watch the thing
decompose and get eaten by ants

every time i walked by the dead cat i wanted to yell where are the grown ups
a teacher a daddy anything

by the time it lost an ear and most of its toes i decided to bury it myself

afterwards i washed the shovel for hours and hours and i cried and i cried and i washed it

Kristi Estefania Stout Larios is a writer based in Durham, NC. You can find more of her work at