An excerpt from The Running Trees by Amber McMillan
Fresh from the printer, The Running Trees is now available, and we’re celebrating its release by sharing an excerpt from one of its experimental short stories. Have a taste; you’ll be hooked!
Photo: Nathaniel Moore
Conversation #100: Missing Feathers
AINSLEY. Can you just pass it to me?
ROBERTA. Pardon? I can’t hear you.
AINSLEY. Pass the pen? Please?
ROBERTA. I hate it when you do that.
AINSLEY. Do what?
ROBERTA. That voice.
AINSLEY. I’m sorry. May I have the pen.
ROBERTA. Yeah sure, you may have the very important pen. Here.
AINSLEY. Thank you.
ROBERTA. No, thank you.
ROBERTA. Okay what? What’s okay?
AINSLEY. I don’t want to fight.
ROBERTA. Yes you do.
AINSLEY. I don’t. I really don’t want to fight.
ROBERTA. Why are you talking that way then? Why?
AINSLEY. I don’t know what you mean.
ROBERTA. Right there! That stupid voice you’re using like you’re trying to soothe me. Like I’m having a psychotic break and you’re going to calm me down.
AINSLEY. Okay. I’m sorry.
ROBERTA. You’re still doing it. You are not the reasonable one between the two of us. Stop playing like you’re the level-headed sane one, using that maddening voice.
AINSLEY. Maybe I should go.
ROBERTA. Then go.
AINSLEY. I’m sorry, okay?
ROBERTA. Okay, sounds good.
AINSLEY. Why do you want to fight? I said I’m sorry.
ROBERTA. I heard you.
AINSLEY. Fine. But it doesn’t seem like —
ROBERTA. I said sure, that it was fine. I don’t care.
AINSLEY. You don’t care about what?
ROBERTA. I don’t care that you choose to use that voice to talk to me. I don’t care that you choose to be a jackass.
AINSLEY. I asked you for a pen. I needed to write down that number for Mum so I could delete the text.
ROBERTA. Oh, I know.
AINSLEY. What does that mean? What’s wrong with asking you for a fucking pen?
ROBERTA. It’s not about a pen, it’s never been about a pen. I can’t believe I have to spell it out for you like this. As if this is about a pen.
AINSLEY. I asked you to pass me a pen and you lost your mind.
ROBERTA. Oh, okay. Fuck you.
AINSLEY. Isn’t that what happened?
ROBERTA. Of course it is. I lost my mind over a pen because I’m crazy. And you’re the sane one. Again. It’s always the same story, over and over.
AINSLEY. I didn’t say you were crazy.
ROBERTA. Yep, you didn’t say the word crazy or the word sane so therefore I’m wrong because those specific words weren’t said. Those specific words didn’t come out of your specific face so I’m wrong. I’m a wrong idiot and you are a sensible saint who talks really softly to prove it.
AINSLEY. I’m going to go. This is pointless.
Excerpted from “Conversation #100: Missing Feathers” from The Running Trees copyright © 2021 by Amber McMillan
_____There’s more to this conversation: read the rest in The Running Trees and enjoy a slew of other whimsical, unconventional, and humorous stories. Order from us to have a copy shipped straight to your house or pick one up from your finer bookstore.