“Life Expectancy” was a finalist in The Waking’s Flash Prose Prize
In 1944, when my father was just a boy, his dog was sent away and my grandfather lied about it. Something about Sparky being “needed for the war” and special farms for training. Can’t imagine what the army could use with a beagle-mutt, and we can only speculate on my father’s reaction coming home from school that day when his six-year-old self unlatched
the back door of the Spanish bungalow in West L.A., and feeling along the stucco for the hook, found the small leash missing, the little bed vacant, monogrammed kibble dish scoured and cupboard-stashed. Perhaps his mother sports orange pedal pushers and a starched white button-down tied at her waist. Was she scraping yogurt from the bottom of a blue carton, the milky clots lifted to her Stanwyck red mouth with the noiseless precision of a sniper or priest performing last rites? Her husband sits with a coffee cup and Times not looking up from the black print
and so does not notice his young son’s face which is a frozen contortion of disbelief like those children trapped in the molten skirt of Vesuvius after her giant heart exploded.
He was needed for the war, my grandfather says, flipping the paper inside out, splitting it in half with a single brisk slap. And anyway, he was messing with your mother’s yard, tearing holes in the begonias and roses. Son, how will we get anything to grow right with an animal like that around?
Michelle Bitting was short-listed for the 2020 Montreal International Poetry Prize and the 2021 Fish Poetry Contest judged by Billy Collins. Her fourth collection of poetry, Broken Kingdom won the 2018 Catamaran Prize and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2018. In 2021. Her manuscript Nightmares & Miracles won the Wilder Prize and will be published by Two Sylvias Press in 2022. She has poems published in The American Poetry Review, Narrative, The Los Angeles Review, Rattle, Vinyl Poetry, The Paris-American, Love's Executive Order, The Raleigh Review, Plume, Tupelo Quarterly, and others. Poems are forthcoming in Air/Light, The Night Heron Barks, Sugar House Review, Limp Wrist, SWWIM, and Pine Hills Review. She was a finalist for the 2020 Reed Magazine Edwin Markham Prize, and the 2021 Coniston Prize. Michelle is a Lecturer in Poetry and Creative Writing at Loyola Marymount University and Film Studies at U of Arizona Global.
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