Janice D. Soderling

“This ain’t easy for me neither, Wanda Gail,” he said, and his words came slow and deliberate like the steps of a hobbled horse.

The woman shifted herself sideways, avoiding his eyes, and looked out across the river. “Isn’t that a heron over there?” she said. “I haven’t seen herons around here since I was a girl.”

The man didn’t answer. The only sound was the steady quaking of the aspen leaves, a soft rustle like the wagging tongues of gossips.

The woman said, “It would have been a comfort to have had the child.”

He said, “You know that wouldn’t’ve worked. It wouldn’t’ve been fair to the kid. It weren’t practical.”

“I could go with you,” she said. Without looking his way, she knew his jaw had tightened, throbbing under the weather-beaten skin. “I could.”

The man said, “We better be gettin’ on back. Your husband will be wonderin’ where you’ve gone to.”

Her voice came quick and bitter. “Jeb is no more interested in me than you are.”

“Well, I’m goin’ back now. You comin’?”

“Do you have to leave tomorrow? Can’t you wait one more week? Till I’m feeling better? You owe me that much.”

“I owe you nothing, Wanda Gail. You owe me nothing. We’re dead even.”

“Dead,” she laughed, or maybe she was crying. “You hit the nail on the head there, Buster.”

The man stood up. “You comin’ or not?”

She pulled herself to her feet, leaned unsteadily against the aspen trunk and looked across the river, shading her eyes with her hand. “I don’t think it is a heron at all. Just an old tree stump. But it sure looked like a heron. Had me fooled.”

Janice D. Soderling is an award-winning writer whose fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, The Fiddlehead, and Acumen; and online at 42opus, Our Stories, Cezanne’s Carrot, and Word Riot. Her poetry is scheduled online at Innisfree Poetry Journal, Mezzo Cammin, Right Hand Pointing, and Umbrella; and in print at Anon, Other Poetry, and Blue Unicorn. E-mail: wordwright[at]

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