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Last Cold Beer for 50 Miles

By Karl Dandenell in Issue Twelve, December 2023

Sitting in the shade of the weather-beaten gas station’s solar panels, Abby Williams clutched the county’s latest water cutback order and gritted her teeth. I’ve become a character actor in my own life. Or worse, a caricature. It felt like the Witness Protection team had simply checked off the requisite number of boxes rather than write an original script. From the top: older woman (but not that old!), divorced, scraping out a living in North Dakota, fifty miles from Antler, population 32. Throw in a loving boyfriend who limps around on a VA prosthetic leg whose battery often failed, and you’ve got a perfect romantic comedy.

Right. Who the hell would pay to watch that? Abby wouldn’t. She and Kayden were more fans of British crime dramas, anyway. At least that’s what her script said. And she (almost) always followed that script, because US Deputy Marshall Flores had assured them that they’d be safe if they did. Your ultimate goal, he told her, is death by natural causes.

Death by boredom, more like it. If Abby didn’t have her little hobby, she’d lose her marbles and go off-script completely, and that’s when the bad people from Texas would show up. So she kept her hair short and red, ditched her glasses for colored contacts, and looked over her shoulder every five minutes.

A dust cloud rose over a nearby hill. Abby tracked it, hoping it wasn’t another damn autonomous semi hauling lumber from Manitoba. Even though the law required a backup human driver, trucks rarely stopped here. Electrics didn’t need fuel or oil, and the drivers would rather stop somewhere that had decent restaurants and motels, like Bismarck or Dickinson.

When the vehicle hit the last curve, though, it blared its air horn: three 80-decibel blasts. Definitely not AI. She stepped toward the road, tilting her floppy sun hat to block the glare from the old, patched highway. The vehicle slowed, revealing itself to be a beat-up Peterbilt cab pulling an even more beat-up trailer. The driver brought the truck smack up to the pump and popped the door.

“Morning!” Abby called out.

“Good morning, ma’am. You got diesel?” He pulled off his sweat-stained Minnesota Twins baseball cap and ran a hand through thick black hair.

“Depends. Running a bit low this time of the month.”

“A hundred liters?”

“Yeah, we can manage that. Got your permit?”

“Sure thing.” He climbed down from the cab and presented Abby with a coffee-stained printout.

She scanned it at the pump and raised an eyebrow. “This is expired.”

The driver tucked his thumbs into his belt. “Yeah, well, there was an issue with the county. They claim I didn’t pay my C-tax. I’m sure it’s nothing.”

Abby folded the permit and tapped it against her palm. “Uh, huh. Look, mister, county audits me same as everybody else, and I’ve got to account for every drop.” She extended the permit between two fingers. “You stay cool now.”

He jammed the permit into his shirt pocket. “Well, shit. Oliver said this wasn’t going to be a problem.”

“I thought I knew all Oliver’s friends.” She clasped her hands behind her back and tapped a button on her watch. A bell rang twice in the service bay.

“Derek Miller,” said the driver. “People call me Deek.”

“Oliver an army buddy?”

“We used to fish up in Carpenter Lake when we were kids.”

She nodded and eased to one side so Kayden had a clear shot. “I hear the Yellow Pike are coming back.”

“Wished they stock Northern Pike instead,” said Derek. “You know what I mean?”

Abby breathed the tension out of her stomach. “I do, indeed.” She turned toward the garage. “Kayden! Paying customer!” Her signal that she was okay.

Her boyfriend stepped out of the shadows, wobbling a little as his external knee joint over-corrected. “Boss?” He safetied his 9mm Sig Sauer and tucked it inside his overalls.

“Do me a favor and set up Derek here with a hundred liters of homebrew.”

“You got it, sweetie.” He connected a hose to an unmarked barrel and reeled it toward the truck.


“For the emergency generators,” said Abby. “Gotta keep the beer chilled.” And power her off-grid industrial printer.

“Best biodiesel in North Dakota,” said Kayden as he uncapped the truck’s fuel tank. “Because it comes from Abby’s fried chicken.”

“How much?” When Abby told him, Derek’s eyes practically bugged out. “That’s highway robbery!”

“You’re free to report us to the county when you pay your C-tax,” she said. “I’ll even give you a receipt for ‘tire repairs’ so you can write it off.”

“Yeah, that’d be great,” Derek said without enthusiasm, brushing past her into the tiny convenience store. “Hope that beer’s cold.”

“Cold enough to hurt your teeth!” Kayden started the pump and sidled over to Abby, tucking a hand into the back pocket of her jeans. “I don’t think he’s very happy about our service.”

She leaned into him. “Too bad. And damn Oliver for not warning us. He knows the rules.”

“Might have been an honest mistake,” said Kayden.

“We can’t afford mistakes. Now give this guy his beer and don’t forget the receipt,” she said. “I need to use the ladies.” She locked herself in the upstairs bathroom, dug out that month’s burner phone, and sent a text: Please tell me you have news.


Abby was dusting off the junk food when Oliver’s van, Clara Blue, pulled up, belching smoke like a coal plant. Oliver, a young Black man dressed in a desert camo tee shirt, sun hat, and shorts, strode into the shop, his purple plastic sandals slapping against the linoleum. “Afternoon, ma’am.” His accent was pure New Orleans.

“Hello, Oliver.”

He doffed his hat, revealing a quarter inch of frizzy hair and scars. “I came to apologize.”

She crossed her arms. “I’m listening.”

“Ma’am, I honestly had no idea Deek was going to rush over when he did, but he picked up some last-minute hauling and, well, he was gone before I remembered to call. So I do apologize. It won’t happen again.”

“I appreciate that.” Oliver was her closest friend in North Dakota. Pity he’d lost a goodly portion of his short-term memory thanks to shrapnel from a mortar. She handed him a diet soda from the cold case. “Looks like Clara Blue is burning pretty rich today.”

“She’s a diva all right, ma’am.” He took a swallow and held the can against his forehead. “Oil pump’s leaking like a mother and the junkyard is practically empty. I don’t have a lot of options.”

Abby pursed her lips. “Maybe Kayden can sort it out. No promises.”

“Much appreciated, ma’am.” He dug out a leather wallet. “I can pay you.”

“Let’s see what Kayden finds first. Meanwhile, how about a game of Rummikub? Loser buy the drinks.”

They finished two hands before Kayden interrupted them by walking in with the suspect pump cradled in his arms. “It’s dead, Jim.”

Abby said, “How long to replace it?”

Kayden bit his lower lip, doing the math. “Say an hour to configure and load the beast with polymer. Another three hours to print. Then I gotta, you know, install it.”

Oliver checked his phone. “Well, I should get home and walk Goofus and Doofus. Can I borrow the loaner and pick up Clara Blue tomorrow?”

“Sure, it’s locked up next to the recycling bins.” Abby went behind the counter and pulled down a large silver ring that held a single key.

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll come by first thing.”

“Not too early,” said Kayden. “Some of us need our beauty sleep.”

Oliver stuck his arm through the key ring and touched the brim of this cap. “Thanks for the game.” A minute later, he was passing the front window, pedaling furiously on Abby’s old mountain bike.

Kayden tossed the dead pump into a steel drum, where it crashed against other scrap metal.

“I wish he’d wear a helmet,” Abby said.

“He doesn’t trust them. Not anymore,” said Kayden. “I’ll get Old Faithful fired up.”

“No, I’ll do it,” said Abby. “Why don’t you poke around under Clara Blue’s hood? No telling what else is ready to fall off.”

To their surprise, the oil pump was the only real casualty in the aging van’s continued war against entropy. While the air filters looked like the lungs of chronic smokers and the brake pads were thin, the van could limp along on those. The pump, unfortunately, was a restricted internal combustion engine part, requiring an expensive pollution waiver.

Abby could work around that.

In the early days of their relocation, Abby and Kayden stumbled across Old Faithful at a bankruptcy auction. The industrial printer didn’t have a network connection, which meant it couldn’t be monitored remotely, and that suited Abby just fine. Once they had the printer, Abby reached out to a hacktivist group in Singapore who agreed to sell her a library of automotive templates.

That had been a stressful month, wondering if they’d pissed away half their savings on a questionable supplier. When the package finally landed out back, Abby thought Kayden was going to kiss the delivery drone.

Abby pulled a thumb drive from behind the septic tank and cracked open her last pouch of polymer. She’d have to go into Minot soon and get more. Right now, though, all she really needed to do was tighten hoses and push buttons. Basic stuff.

Monitoring a production printer was slightly more exciting than watching paint dry; at least you got to see the output take shape, layer by layer. Old Faithful was just finishing the pump’s outer shell and inner rotor when the shed’s lights flicked off. The A/C followed immediately thereafter.

“Goddammit!” Kayden called from upstairs. “Why does this always happen when I’m on the toilet?”

“Because Black Hills Electric doesn’t like you.” Abby grabbed a flashlight and checked the batteries. With Old Faithful pulling heavy amps, there wouldn’t be enough juice for the store’s freezers and the apartment A/C. Something had to give. Kayden came into the shed, drying his hands. “I just love washing my hands in the dark.”

“Go start the generator, Mr. Clean Hands.”

“Yes, boss.” He kissed her cheek.

Soon she heard the little diesel chugging away behind the shop, followed by the clunk of the breakers resetting. The lights snapped on and Abby peered through the printer’s inspection window. There was no visible deviation in the sprayer pattern; Old Faithful had come through.

She fetched a beer and some nuts that were just past their sell-by date to monitor the remaining print job.

The blackout lasted until 6 am, which infuriated Abby. The generator had guzzled the last of their fuel three hours before, which meant waking up in a stifling hot bedroom. “Why couldn’t blackouts start at dawn?” she asked, splashing cold water on her face. “At least we’d have the solar.”

“Tell me about it.” Kayden grumbled as he pushed himself to the dresser. His leg hadn’t charged properly, so he was forced to use his Lofstrand crutches.

“Screw the water bill,” Abby said. “I’m taking a real shower. Hell, I might even shave my legs.”

He tossed a clean shirt and underwear onto the bed. “Are you sure about that, boss? You didn’t go to the water board meeting: they’re weren’t kidding about those surcharges.”

Part of Abby wished she had gone. It would have been deeply satisfying to vent with everybody else, but those meetings were streamed and recorded for public record. The last thing she needed was some AI matching her face with her former name and alerting San Antonio.

“Christ on a biscuit. How are we supposed to make ends meet on what the station brings in and two measly government stipends?” Another glaring hole in the US Marshall Service script.

“You could raise your prices,” said Kayden. “Old Faithful is barely making pizza money after expenses.”

“No.” She shook her head. “I’m not doing this to get rich.” Not like before. “It’s my charity work.”

“I thought charity began at home.” He dressed without another word and bumped downstairs to make coffee.

“Fuck.” Abby allowed herself a soapy washcloth and just enough hot water to feel human. Then she checked her burner phone and found one message.

News tomorrow.


Despite Kayden’s admonition, Oliver pedaled up half past nine, his two golden retrievers leashed to his orange safety vest. Abby gave Goofus and Doofus a proper scratching, then ushered them into Clara Blue. Oliver peeked over Kayden’s shoulder while the mechanic tightened bolts with a torque wrench.

“Why did you smear grease all over the new pump?”

“Same reason you wore camo on patrol.”

Oliver pursed his lips for a moment. “Shit. That’s clever.”

“You might want to think about taking the fire access road home,” Kayden said. “A nice layer of dust over everything should keep the County Mounties off your ass.”

“Thank you again, ma’am,” said Oliver, handing her a stack of prepaid credit cards. “My disability bump wasn’t as much as I’d hoped, but I’ve been saving these from Christmas. They’re still good, I promise.”

“We trust you,” said Abby. “Y’all drive safe now.”

“Stay cool, ma’am. Sir.”

“Keep it under eighty if you can!” Kayden yelled at the departing Clara Blue. Oliver waived from the open window.

Abby flared the gift cards like a fan. “Don’t I look all fancy?”

“You know, I’ll bet those cards will cover a nice, long bath.”

“Only if you wash my hair.”

“You’re the boss.”


A thunderstorm arrived the next day, breaking the heat wave and stranding two tourists who’d parked in a gully to wait out the rain. Kayden was the first mechanic to take the AAA call, so he loaded up the tow truck with rapid chargers, a thermos of coffee, and half a BBQ chicken leftover from dinner.

“So, how bad was it?” asked Abby when he returned. She stood in the mudroom’s doorway. Kayden’s overalls and a big shop towel lay in a wet, dirty pile at his feet.

“They weren’t thrilled to sit there for an hour while I pulled them back on the road and topped off their primary drive battery.” He grabbed another towel and dried his hair.

“I’m sure you worked as quickly as possible,” she said. “I hope they appreciated the chicken.”

“Oh my god, Abby. You’d think they’d hadn’t seen lunch since last Sunday. One of them, Michelle, said it was the best thing she’d ever eaten in the States. Gave me a $50 tip.”

“That was nice of them.”

“It gets better,” said Kayden. “She works for a big restaurant group in Winnipeg. Said she could hook us up with someone if we were interested in selling them the recipe. Or maybe marketing a spice rub.”

“Well, well. Sounds like she got your attention.”

“It was her shoes that sold me. Italian.” He laughed. Abby joined in.

“Seriously though, you should call her.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “That recipe’s been in my family forever. I would feel weird selling it. Mimi Betty paid for a new church with her BBQ.”

“Hasn’t hurt us, either.”

Abby agreed. It was a nice little ecosystem: grease from the fryer fed the still that produced the biodiesel for the generators (and customers like Derek). And the chicken was damn tasty.

He pulled on clean overalls. “Still, maybe worth thinking about.”

She heard the eagerness in Kayden’s voice. It was hard to say no when he was trying so hard to help. “Maybe.”

The front door chimed. A voice called, “Hello?”

“Coming!” Abby closed the mudroom and entered the store from the counter side door. “How can I help you?”

The customer looked up from the display of energy drinks. He was an older man with gray hair shaved in last decade’s style, wearing a rain-spattered short-sleeved dress shirt and a thin black tie, chinos, and steel-toed shoes. All he was missing was a US GOVERNMENT golf cap. “Hello, Abigail.”

“Levi Flores, in the flesh. What brings out here?”

“I was in the neighborhood.”

“Uh, huh.” Abby glanced past him. His car, a boring green sedan, was parked at the pump. “Rental?”

“Not on my per diem,” Levi said. “It’s a loaner from the USDA office in Fargo. Less conspicuous.” He held up a government credit card and fueling permit. “Let’s talk outside.”

They strode quickly between the roof overhang and the pumps. Abby scanned his information and unhooked the nozzle, willing her hands not to shake. The Deputy Marshall almost never visited. “There you go.”

“Thanks, Abigail.” He lowered his voice. “Which do you want first, good news or bad?”

“Good news, please. And for chrissakes, call me Abby. Abigail is some fussy old auntie,” she said. “I wished you’d come up with a better name.”

“Wasn’t my call, Abby,” Flores said. “Anyway, the good news is Tom Cooper is dead.”

“What?” Her head snapped up. “Which one?”

“Cooper Senior. Heart attack in his cell. All those steaks finally caught up with him.”

She took a deep breath. Finally. “And the bad news?”

“We want you to testify in his son’s case.”

Abby leaned back against the car and crossed her arms over her stomach. “What the hell, Levi? I thought you guys had that all tied up with a fucking bow.”

“I thought so, too. But Justice is going after Tom Junior now for illegal drug printing and distribution, money laundering, and slavery. The whole RICO book.”

“What about Sandoval?” asked Abby. Diego Sandoval had been the company’s fixer in Mexico. He was a big, boisterous man who smoked Cuban cigars and described his workers as cheap, plentiful, and replaceable.

“He’s testifying about the Nuevo Laredo operation, which is only part of the picture,” he said. “We need to put them in the same room, and that’s where you come in.”

“God, that son of a bitch made my skin crawl.” The way he stared at her breasts.

“If it makes you feel better,” said Flores, “Sandoval’s going to get prison time as part of his deal. We’ve already seized his assets.”

“Too bad you can’t send some of that my way.”

“I can’t increase your stipend, if that’s what you’re asking,” Flores said.

She sighed. “It’s not just the money.” Although it was hard not to dwell on all the cash-filled boxes the prosecution had entered into evidence. She could have retired on a fraction of it. “I need a change. It’s too quiet. Even Fargo would be an improvement.”

“That might be possible.”

“And Kayden needs more support from the VA. He’s too proud to ask, but his prosthetic is shit.”

Flores made a few notes on his phone. “Okay. Anything else?”

“And…” She took a deep breath. “I’d like to get a printer license for IC engine parts.”

He raised an eyebrow. “That’s a big ask. The other stuff I can do but my boss would have to trade favors with somebody at the EPA.”

“Well, if it’s too much trouble…”

“Let me make some calls.” He slid into the driver’s seat. “I’m flying back to San Antonio tomorrow afternoon, and I’d like a firm commitment from you by then.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“If everything goes like we hope, you’ll get a summons in a week or three,” Flores said. “The judge has agreed you can testify remotely, as long as you’re sworn in at a federal court.” He outlined the steps they’d take to assure her privacy: audio and video distortion filters, randomly assigned IP addresses. “Nothing to link it to you and this place.”

“I’ll think about it, okay?” Abby frowned at the clouds. The rain didn’t look to let up anytime soon. “Hell of a storm. Drive safe, now.”

“Always do.” He drove off, wipers flailing.


Kayden closed Abby’s laptop and gently pushed it to one side. “You’ve been staring at the same sudoku puzzle for twenty minutes. Something on your mind?”


“OK, then.” He poured two glasses of bourbon and plopped onto the chair opposite her.

She scowled at him, then clinked her glass against his. “Cheers.”

They sat for a few minutes, the silence broken by rain dripping off the cracked gutter. When Kayden got up to refill their glasses, Abby blurted out, “Flores came by today. There’re going to put Tom Cooper Junior on trial, and he wants me to testify.”

Kayden grimaced. “That’s a kick in the teeth,” he said. “How can I help?”

If Abby were still married, her husband Lee would have greeted her news with a shrug and a well, that sucks, like he did with most challenges. But Kayden espoused a more active approach to their relationship, and she appreciated the hell out of it.

“Tell me to do the right thing?” God, she sounded like she was nineteen.

“You already have,” he replied.

“They’re bringing new charges, apparently.” She outlined the government’s RICO case.

Kayden listened attentively, nodding. When she finished, he said, “Okay, it sounds like they already have enough to send this guy to Club Fed for a lengthy stay. But they’d rather bury him and throw away the shovel.”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“That’s a pretty strong motivation,” Kayden said. “What would happen if you told Flores no? Would he cut you off?”

She shook her head. “He wouldn’t. If I refuse, well, then nothing changes. We go on with our lives.” Running the same script seven days a week in their tiny apartment, sneaking in the occasional job with Old Faithful to stay sane.

“That’s good enough for me.” Kayden kissed her cheek. “I’m going to make some popcorn.” He stood and his leg emitted a string of rapid beeps. Battery failure.

“Sit down,” she said. “I’ll get your crutches.”


The next morning she made Kayden his favorite breakfast of spam and runny eggs, served with juice from the store. He ate everything. She picked at her food.

“Not hungry?” he said, wiping his plate with a tortilla.

“I don’t want to testify,” she said. “But it’s the right thing to do.”

“If that’s your decision, I’ll back you,” said Kayden. “Let me get your suitcase from the attic.”

“You’re okay with running things by yourself for a while?” she asked.

“I’ll see if Oliver knows somebody who can help out while you’re ‘visiting your sister in Cleveland.’” He made finger quotes.

“Columbus,” she corrected. “Gladys Mitchell, the school librarian who sings in her church choir every Sunday.” Good lord, the Witness Protection script leaned on lazy stereotypes sometimes.

“See, you got this,” said Kayden. “Go do your bit for justice. I’ll try not to burn the place down while you’re gone.”

“Better not.”


Some parts of the trial were familiar and relatively easy: the mediocre hotel room and a couple of burly deputies taking shifts in the connecting rooms. The paperwork. The review of her testimony.

The nights, however, were harder. Abby slept poorly, waking up every time someone in the room above used the bathroom or turned on the TV. And she missed Kayden more than she thought she would. They hadn’t been apart since, well, since the first trial.

A few hours before her scheduled testimony, the fire alarm went off, catching her in the shower. She managed to wrap her shampoo-slick hair in a towel and throw on a robe before officers pounded on the door. Abby let them drag her to the parking lot and stuff her into an unmarked police car, where she anxiously split her attention between the growing crowd of spectators and the fire department, which arrived in short order.

Had someone tracked her here? Had they set the fire to force her into the open? Abby shivered in her robe, imagining Cooper’s men lurking nearby. She wished Kayden were there. She’d take him and his old service pistol over these baby-faced deputies any day.

An hour later, the fire crew loaded up their gear and drove off. Turned out to be nothing sinister; a grease fire. But she was still damp, cold, and exhausted from holding her anxiety at bay. “I’m going to finish my shower,” she told the nearest marshal. “You can give me ten minutes, right?”

“No problem, ma’am. We’ll get you to court on time.”

Abby headed back to her room and rinsed off. Even though her face would be blurred, she applied makeup with care. With each stroke of mascara, she set aside a little piece of her fear and became Molly Hayward again. Became that overly trusting employee who used to love her job. Who loved Friday donuts and weekend fishing trips to the Gulf. And who testified against her Tom Cooper Senior because it was the right thing to do.

By the time she put in the cubic zirconia studs, she thought she could face the camera without losing her breakfast. Maybe.

Abby had just finished her initial testimony when the defense attorney asked for a short recess to confer with his client. The judge declared an early lunch break and muted the feed. Half an hour later, the phone in Abby’s conference room rang. It was Flores, calling from San Antonio. “It’s over.”

“What does that mean?” she asked. The screen in front of her pinged and displayed a new message: Secure Connection terminated.

“Junior flipped to avoid facing capital charges. Your testimony must have really rattled him, Abby,” Flores said. “All that’s left is the paperwork.”

Abby felt her shoulders release. She blew out a big breath. “Son of a bitch. I really didn’t think he’d take a deal.”

“It happens more than you think,” said Flores. “Especially in capital cases. So… how are you doing?”

“Pretty good, all things considered.” She smiled. “I feel like I can breathe again.”

In less than an hour, she was free.

She gave herself a last night in Fargo, drinking bourbon on the hotel’s balcony and writing out memories of San Antonio on the complimentary stationery. Abby made lists of friends, the few family members she cared about, and every restaurant and bar she could remember. Finally, she made a little bonfire in an ashtray with the notes. With each page, she said goodbye to that part of former life. The final note contained only two words: Molly Hayward.

She texted Kayden from her new phone: I’m wrapping things up here. Will come home tomorrow.

The response came back immediately: How’s your sister?

She’s not thrilled about her new accommodations, she replied, but I convinced her that she needed full-time care.

After a moment, Kayden wrote, I understand. Must have been tough.

It was, and you know what? It’s not my problem anymore. Or yours.

That’s great, he wrote. Love you, boss.

She smiled at her phone. Love you, too.

The next morning, she left a tip for housekeeping and wrote a thank-you note on the envelope. With a flourish, she signed her name: Abby Williams.


The new garage sign—glossy black letters against a yellow road diamond—stood out prominently against the chipped brick wall:



Three-quarters of the shop’s double parking lot was given over to trucks, sports cars, and the occasional motorcycle. Some vehicles were canvases of rust and faded stickers; others shone under custom-paint jobs and hand-buffed wax.

On the remaining asphalt stood a food truck, flanked on three sides by picnic tables. A dozen drivers sat in groups, eating and shooting the breeze. A menu above the truck’s order window proclaimed that day’s special, which never changed: Mimi’s BBQ Chicken, fries, and a drink. (Five dollars off with any service.)

Abby pushed a cardboard basket out the window. “Thirty-six!” She followed it with a stack of napkins. “Enjoy.”

She took a few more orders, then caught the cook’s eye. “I need to grab a coffee, Sadie. You got this?”

The old woman dropped a basket of fries into fresh oil. “You betcha.”

“Thanks.” Abby poured herself a mug and pulled on a jacket. Fargo hadn’t seen much snow this November, though it was still pretty cold.

She went to the garage entrance and eased herself onto a leather passenger seat rescued from a Lincoln SUV. An embossed patch sewn to the headrest announced OWNER PARKING ONLY. With a happy sigh, Abby switched on the seat’s heater.

Her lower back and legs immediately warmed up. She closed her eyes and sipped her coffee. Bliss.

Kayden had given the seat to her to celebrate the garage’s opening, exactly ten months to the day Flores had visited them in Antler. Every time Abby sat in it, she was reminded that she and Kayden had put the past behind them. It was still in their rearview, of course, but it got smaller every day.

The script still had flaws, but they were finally growing into their characters.


She opened her eyes to see Kayden. “Hey, I was just thinking about you.”

“Good thoughts, I hope,” he said. He leaned forward on his crutches and kissed her forehead.

“Always.” She smiled and set her mug down. “What’s up?”

“My new leg arrived. The VA prosthetist wants to see us at three o’clock so they can fit it.”

“And show us another hour-long video about proper maintenance and upkeep.”

Kayden frowned. “If you’d rather stay here—”

“Not at all.” She stood and kissed him. “What’s the use of being the boss if you can’t sneak away with your boyfriend now and again?”

© 2023 Karl Dandenell

Karl Dandenell

Karl Dandenell is a graduate of Viable Paradise and a Full Member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association. He and his family, plus their cat overlords, live on an island near San Francisco famous for its Victorian architecture and low speed limits. His preferred drinks are strong Swedish tea and single malt whiskey. Karl's work has appeared in such places as Fireside Fiction, Metaphorosis, DreamForge, Little Blue Marble, Speculative North, and the anthologies Abandoned Places and The Science Fiction Tarot. You can find links to his other work, including podcasts, on his website, www.FireWombats.com.

Fiction by Karl Dandenell
  • Last Cold Beer for 50 Miles