Becky yanks one of my pigtails. I haven’t pigtailed it in years but we’re camping in Yellowstone. Her two and my Davy are with us. “You said you didn’t bring anything!” Her tone says she means drugs. Seriously? Like I’d fly with my third grader and a dime bag.

First she’s mad then cautiously elated.

“I didn’t!” I don’t smoke anymore.

“No bullshit,” she grabs my arm like she’s hauling me to jail.

“I swear!” In yesteryears, Becky and I smoked an expert amount of weed.

She leads me to my rental at the mouth of the campsite and points to the back tire.

“What?” In yesteryears, I didn’t need glasses for camping.

She points closer to a bud on the ground. “Then what the fuck is that?”

“Shit,” I say slowly, like I’m stoned and aliens are landing.

Becky stands up quickly then looks back at the tents where our boys are bitching about “no iPods. “

“What do we do?” The ghost of camping trips past has materialized. And this ghost looks good.

“Someone will think it’s ours.” In Becky-ish this translates, It’s a gift from God.

I’m already scouting where to smoke it. The women’s showers at midnight! But Jeff gave up strip clubs and I gave up weed. “Get it,” I say.

Becky stabs her hands in her pits.

I pick up the bud to flake it to oblivion before I can reconsider. It won’t flake. I smell it and realize it is a weird, immature pinecone.

Probably from God, but not a gift. Retribution for all of 1992.


About the Author: Amanda Nowlin's stories and essays have appeared in Callaloo, Gulf Coast, Vandal, The Dallas Morning News and the anthology Literary Cash. In December 2012, the Liars’ League NYC published and featured her story, “Boxing Day,” which was performed by Broadway's Maggie Lacy. She is the recipient of a Barbara Deming award and the TEX Emerging Writer Award judged by Joyce Carol Oates. Amanda earned an MFA from New York University and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She lives in Huntsville, Texas, near the state prison and teaches creative writing at Sam Houston State University. Amanda is currently completing her first novel.

Story Song: "Blue Sky" by The Allman Brothers Band