about the author

Jeffrey Greene was born in Michigan, raised in Florida, and moved to Washington D.C. in 1993. He married in 1995, and now lives in Bethesda, Maryland. He’s been writing short stories since the 1970s, and can say with certainty that it never gets any easier.

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After the Tremors

Jeffrey Greene

After the tremors, which seemed to go on longer than they should have, odd things began happening. A ceramic frog on the bathroom shelf came to moist, pulsing life and dove from its dusty place headfirst into the toilet and disappeared. I’d become someone younger and fatter in the mirror, with close-set eyes in a mooching, grabby face that my wife seemed to know and loathe even more than I did.

“Something’s happened,” I tried to say, as the sky turned muddy, but the words dribbled incoherently from the corners of my pinched little mouth: already an extinct language. The walls and floor, meanwhile, had been stripped to the studs as we stood there, not understanding each other, and in the next moment we found ourselves in a weed-grown concrete waste, seeded grass waving in the cold, gritty wind.

“What do we do now?” my wife asked, shivering.

“Walk,” I said, looking around for my shoes, which I saw hanging from a sagging power line, their laces tied together, out of reach. The power line led us to a deserted tent city on the shores of a man-made lake, its waters the color of antifreeze. It bothered me that my bleeding feet didn’t hurt more, and that my wife’s face kept changing into this or that old girlfriend, but the boatman in the cop’s uniform who offered to row us across the lake said we’d find some help at the gas station. And no sooner had the oars dipped into the vehemently green water than we were standing in the man-like shadows of three rusty, glass-globed pumps. A jumpsuited mechanic with grease-fouled hands smiled sweetly and shook his head as we held out fistfuls of crumpled money.

“No gas today,” he said, the tiny radio in his top pocket tuned to a scratchy whisper of country music. “But there’s beans on the stove and beer in the cooler. Settle in. This is your home, too.”

It was my older brother, I realized, returned at last from his ancient absence, and bearing me no ill will, apparently. We embraced, his hands leaving black smears of grease on my white station attendant’s uniform, my peaked visor cap askew as we laughed and cried together, our voices squeaky and duck-like as if the air had become helium-rich, echoing in the vastness of a world we knew was no longer our own.

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