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By Jane Banning

Marilyn hung up without saying goodbye, and I watched the backs of her words as they stalked off

She’d asked, “How could you write a book like this?  How could you conscionably create such pain?  Just to entertain people?”      

“Can you tell me what you mean?” I’d asked.  ‘Conscionably’ chilled me.  I’d studied a wraith of light in the wintry sky, my coffee grown tepid.
“Sorry.  It was just a question.”
It had left me raw, my book about two Vietnam veterans - men scrambling, falling, running full out with their heads down, ears echoing with red screams, weapons dull and blunt.   Marilyn, my best friend, called me right after she read it.  She said she finished it and paced the floor at night, crying and twisting tissues and I could see those linty worms lying, limp, on the floor.
I realized the book had jostled a cold ghost that hunched on the end of her bed: the dark-eyed college lover.  Her love hadn’t saved him, rather she’d discovered him on the floor of his apartment.  He was a victim, not of shrieking missiles, but of a father’s impossible expectations.  And now the book’s frankness and the horror of loss on its thin pages had ripped aside a final ragged shred of her protection.
I drove to her house, my hands empty.  I pounded on the door and she answered, face closed and pale.
I whispered, “Can we talk?  Is it too hard to do? ”

Marilyn said, “Yes, it’s too hard,” but she cracked the door open.  I shivered in the slender February evening and walked in.  

Jane Banning lives in Oregon, Wisconsin.  She was a finalist in the Micro Fiction Award contest in 2008.  Her work has appeared in the University of Iowa Daily Palette, Six Sentences, Tuesday Shorts, Long Story Short, Birds By My Window, and The Boston Literary Magazine. Contact Jane.