Lydia Copeland Gwyn

All the Women


Then she came to the secret campsite—always aban­doned when­ev­er she’d arrive. Her run­ning route was the same each morn­ing. Down the road away from her home, and when the road ran out of shoul­der she’d run through the mead­ow under the trans­mis­sion tow­ers where red-tailed hawks perched and watched. The camp­site was a flo­ral blan­ket in the grass among the jew­el­weed and asters. There was a case-less pil­low with tick­ing that remind­ed her of a child’s pair of rail­road over­alls. There was a bar of soap and a jug of green mouth­wash and a cou­ple of Hustler mag­a­zines. All the women in there were sun-fad­ed, the shad­ows and posed ecsta­sy lift­ed from their faces. She knew because she some­times flipped through the pages.

She would always think back to her child­hood friend Tracy and the day they found her father’s stash of Penthouses mixed in with his body­build­ing mag­a­zines. The pages of tanned women with their spray of blonde hair and frost­ed pink lip­stick seemed inter­change­able with the oiled-up mus­cle men, and all of them wres­tled in her mind that night as she lay in the sleep­ing bag on the base­ment floor watch­ing gold­fish float in a tank and Tracy’s sleep­ing face glow in the aquar­i­um light. She tried star­ing into the walls, into the black out­lets and imag­in­ing what wires and lines and con­nec­tors might run behind the sheet rock, and she pulsed and pulsed her­self while the part­ed lips of glossy women and the hands and tongues of men flashed in her mind. She thought she might be lift­ing out of her­self and ris­ing to the ceiling.

After she ran down the hill and into the park­ing lot, she saw a drag­on­fly had land­ed on her car. At home she stepped onto the front porch, the floor and steps of which were dec­o­rat­ed with the draw­ings her chil­dren had made using the side­walk chalk in their Easter bas­kets. There were orange suns and blue clouds. Her son had just learned their phone num­ber and had writ­ten it every­where. She opened the front door to the smell of microwaved bur­ri­tos. Somewhere inside, her hus­band cut a fold­ed tor­tilla with the edge of a fork.


Lydia Copeland Gwyn’s sto­ries and poems have appeared or are forth­com­ing in the Florida Review, Appalachian Heritage, Elm Leaves Journal, Glimmer Train, SmokeLong Quarterly, and oth­ers. She lives with her hus­band and two chil­dren in East Tennessee where she teach­es English and works in a pub­lic library.