Best of the Net 2014  

A Temperature Through Which Cold Barters

Imagine your breath as a small table on which is set a vial or ramekin of salt. Imagine that this salt is your wish for something to be led in, the children flush from the winter's cold and ready to sing for their grandparents, the Holstein with its hobbled leg and the butcher on call in the night with his large hands and sharp knives. Imagine one could trade the children for the butcher, or the bawling cow for the poinsettias that flock like red wool to the warm walls of the medical center, insensible to the boreal flesh of the apple you picked up outside, from the asphalt of the parking lot, wizened but whole, a tidy planet. Imagine this apple in your coat pocket thawing as the children sing, as the butcher removes his battered revolver from the black leather bag, as the small table your breath assembles trembles in the clearing of your throat, your body, the dim figures hidden in the sycamores beginning to climb down now, slowly, small radios clutched in their stained hands.

- G.C. Waldrep (from The Cortland Review)