Claire Hopple ~ Keep it Together

We watch some­thing burn until we notice it’s our apart­ment. It’s where we’ve been liv­ing for the past few hours. Fortunately that means most of our stuff is still boxed up in the truck. No skin off our backs. We’re out on the sidewalk.

Soon the whole vil­lage could be on fire. Well, we don’t real­ly live in a vil­lage per se, but it feels like one.

The sit­u­a­tion is out of our hands now. And yet here we are, the clos­est thing to fire­fight­ers mere­ly due to our humanity.

The flames don’t scare us so much as our inabil­i­ty to move.

A scarf with a head attached arranges itself out the crack of a win­dow above us.

Red trucks careen into view. Civilians coag­u­late on the curb. We’re almost milling about at this point.

A whole lot of pageantry for a cou­ple of charred walls. That’s what we think at the beginning.

Our neigh­bor tells us to “Keep it togeth­er!” And that’s exact­ly what we’re doing.

She’s wor­ried about her son. He’s not around.

They always come back. Just like Grave Digger and the McRib,” we assure her.

You don’t under­stand,” she says. “He’s real­ly com­mit­ted to being an arson­ist, and oth­er unsa­vory prac­tices for that mat­ter. This for­ay must be all part of his sin­is­ter plan.”

She looks like the type to spread rumors, but we don’t know her yet. We read some­where that noses con­tin­ue to grow through­out our lives, and this checks out with the Pinocchio sto­ry. That pup­pet was an unex­cep­tion­al liar like the rest of us.

She wants to go look­ing for him. We ask if she needs any secu­ri­ty detail.

She says he might be attend­ing the annu­al pan­cake fes­ti­val, but that nei­ther syrup nor man­hunts agree with her.

We’ll get to the bot­tom of it.”

She pulls out a hand-drawn por­trait of her son.

He has a mole in the shape of Nebraska and he’s in love with the local anchor­woman,” she says.

Here, keep your­self busy.”

We tear off a poster sta­pled to the tele­phone pole and hand it to her.

She stud­ies the poster.

Everybody claims to be a dog per­son and yet these posters tell a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. They’re always FOUND DOG and LOST CAT.”

The impor­tant thing is to make it look like we’re break­fast food enthu­si­asts. Everybody’s at the pan­cake fes­ti­val. The hot­cakes are sell­ing like hotcakes.

We posi­tion our­selves in a line and end up eat­ing along with the rest of them. Melted but­ter drips down our col­lars and onto our shirts, which unfor­tu­nate­ly won’t dis­ap­pear unless we wash them.

We go about our busi­ness. We don’t do schemes, but as we all know, you can tran­quil­ize any­thing. So we hope for an encounter in order to do just that. We don’t want any unpleas­antries. If he has any asso­ciates with him, that might be a dif­fer­ent story.

Little Miss Pancake is crowned right when we get the call. Our neigh­bor says her son is cater­ing a birth­day par­ty at the pet­ting zoo.

On the way over, we dis­cuss what to say to him. Maybe we’ll tend to the ani­mals or har­vest some fresh eggs instead. Or maybe we’ll tell the truth.

He pre­sides over the taco bar. Decidedly non-dubi­ous in nature.

The goats act as though noth­ing has hap­pened. One of them is sleep­ing or dying, we can’t be sure which. The adja­cent pond is pur­port­ed­ly tox­ic. That could do any­body in, man or beast. We have an eye for tox­i­c­i­ty, but now’s not the time.

He gath­ers his per­son­al effects and agrees to return home with us.

Looks like we made some­thing of our­selves. We don’t have to say what that some­thing is.


Claire Hopple is the author of five books. Her fic­tion has appeared in Wigleaf, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Peach Mag, Forever Mag, HAD, and oth­ers. She lives in Asheville, NC. More at