You Remember the Pin Mill

Selected for the O. Henry Prize Stories, 2014

For Robert Long

You are driving west across the state, at the insistence of the Commonwealth’s Department of Corrections, when you remember the pin mill.

Just a shape when you first saw it, through the windshield of the Goddamn Rambler: a vague but jagged blackness looming in the gray ahead. You turned to warn your mother, but in the predawn light you glimpsed the contours of her face and turned back, only then you saw Whatever It Was rising up and clawing with skeletal appendages at the pearlescent sky.

But then you realized: Whatever It Was wasn’t rising; the Goddamn Rambler was coming down a long, steep hill. So maybe Whatever It Was was sleeping and nothing would happen if you went by quietly. Only the Goddamn Rambler would not go quietly. The Goddamn Rambler coughed and sputtered, though you whispered, Shh, shh, shh. Then the Goddamn Rambler backfired, and you saw Whatever It Was turn.

But then you realized: it wasn’t turning; the road was, curving away. Maybe far enough away that Whatever It Was couldn’t hurt her, even if it did awake.

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