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Excerpt from

Stomach Punches
By
Rob Pierce


Philly punched Josie in the stomach. She crumpled forward, gasped for breath. He walked away, his back to her, dissatisfied. She made noises behind him. He turned and looked back at her. She still couldn’t talk.

“How?” he asked her anyway. He couldn’t say it any better than that, and she knew what he meant. “How,” not a question this time, not that kind of question anyway.

Josie tried to straighten, didn’t do so well, backed up until she bumped into one of the kitchenette bar stools. She propped herself up and leaned forward, more perched than sitting. Bare toes on the cold linoleum, her feet angled down, poised to run.

A sound came from her mouth, nothing that counted as words. He didn’t know how much words counted at this point anyway. “You don’t have to talk.” He looked down at the top of her head. “Talking’s one of the things you did with him. Right?”

She looked up, shook her head. He hadn’t noticed the mascara under her eyes but now it ran. He wondered who that was for. “Stop crying. You don’t deserve it.”

“I don’t deserve to hurt?” Tears were in her voice.

“No. You deserve that. There’s a kind of pain you don’t deserve. Because it’s for the innocent.”

She shook her head, wiped her eyes. “You don’t deserve that kind either.”


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