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Fall '23


Every night, my parents turned on the radio and listened to the casualty count of the war. And every morning, they dreaded the mail delivery until it happened and no news arrived.

Every night, I crept into my brother’s bedroom and counted the mounds of dust on his dresser. And every morning, I poured two bowls of cereal to send away for the cereal box prizes as often as I did when he was here, so that there would be treasures waiting for him when he came home.

My mother told me to only pour as much cereal as I could eat, so I started eating two bowls even though it was too much and it made my stomach hurt. Around the time the dust on his dresser made the wood look a different color, I started pouring the second bowl because I was still hungry. Then, my mother started chiding me for growing so fast, as if I could control that. Clothes are expensive, she said, as if I could control that either. We have to save as much as we can for the war.

I know, I said. That’s why I’ve been saving all the cereal prizes for Bobby.

My mother made an odd noise, turned around, and didn’t say anything. I kept eating my cereal.


My mother left the kitchen so I washed my bowl and went to school. She was not at the front door to kiss me goodbye this morning around.

When I crept into my brother’s room that night after listening to the radio, all of the dust was gone from his dresser and there were vacuum lines in the carpet where his bootprints used to be. And all the cereal box prizes were lined up across his dresser like toy soldiers.

Abigail Finch (she/her) is a Midwest transplant pursuing her MA in Writing in California. She has previously been on staff at Relief Journal and is currently serving as the nonfiction Editor for Last Syllable. When she's not collecting degrees, she can be found listening to Taylor Swift in the Taco Bell drive-through. Find her on Twitter @itmebugail. This is her first publication.

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