about the author

Liana Holmberg’s award-winning work appears in the Academy of American Poets anthology New Voices and a variety of journals. Her favorite word is carburetor. She grew up in Hawaii and now lives in San Francisco, where the mix of salt air to creative fuel is just about right.

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How It Ended

Liana Holmberg

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She left him the house, took an empty suitcase and the car.

The suitcase had belonged to a grandfather she never knew. There was room enough for his spare suit and a shaving kit. In those days, you didn’t try to take it all with you. You laced up sturdy shoes, donned your hat, kissed Ginnie on the way out the door in Houston, and landed hours later in Costa Rica. Brazil. You didn’t try to anticipate every emergency. Venezuela. Chile. Anywhere there was oil. The drill men called him the Hound, because he led the way to oil sure as if he smelled it on the wind. He could walk eight hours through jungle, point at a patch of ground that looked like every other patch of ground. Three days drilling, they would hit the vault.

She kept the windows down. Eighty-mile-an-hour winds blew the starch out of her shirt, the cut from her hair. On the far side of San Antonio, she filled the tank, bought coffee and a carton of cigarettes. The attendant touched her hand as he counted her change, asked if she needed a light. She laughed, said I don’t smoke.

In a low-slung motel in Laredo, she slept ten dreamless hours, got up, took a long shower, put on the same clothes. She walked past boarded up stores, past a dust tornado in an unpaved parking lot, till she found a dark-paneled diner where no one spoke English. She ordered huevos rancheros, raised her coffee cup to the faded matadors framed on the walls.

At the border, she declared Nothing, amended, A carton of cigarettes. The customs agent didn’t ask her to open the suitcase, assumed she was a tourist, gave her the green light.

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