Fiction

The Gray Girls

A short story by five authors.

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In the old days, when their father and mother were both alive and ran through the trees with the Gray Girls, they never lost a man. Their mother had been the best hunter of them all—quick and decisive, with a vertical leap like a basketball player’s on steroids. Her skill was what attracted their father to her, what attracted everyone to her. When the girls closed their eyes, they could see their mother running, her hands and feet grabbing at the soil beneath her and pushing off again, the earth her springboard. Bettina looked the most like her, if not for the scars on her face, but it was Jenny, little Jenny, who had the most of her mother’s talent.

The Gray Girls didn’t much like to talk of their mother—too dark, too painful—but when they stood together, panting in the darkness, it was her guidance they sought.

“Mother always went toward water,” Shannon said. She nudged her chin over her shoulder. “That way.”

“Fuck,” Leslie said. She kicked a rock, hard, sending it skidding down the path. In the distance, someone cried out.

“Fuck is right, Les, you got him!” Bettina didn’t wait—she ran toward the sound. She could tell it was the one in the violet coat—they all had an ear for voices, especially in the dark. Now that she knew where to point herself, where to tune her attention, she was picking up the sound of his breathing. She leapt over branches and through bushes until she came to a small clearing.

The man in the violet coat stood motionless at the very center of the treeless spot. Bettina saw her sisters’ faces appear, one by one, in the shadows on the side opposite her. Shannon gave a high-pitched scream, and then the man was no more than a bunny, a fawn, a sweet pet with fear in its eyes.

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