For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“Akhnilo”

James Salter

Excerpt

Suddenly he heard the floor creak. Someone was there, a figure in the soft light drained of color. It was his wife, he was stunned by the image of her holding a cotton robe about her, her face made plain by sleep. He made a gesture as if to warn her off.

“What is it? What's wrong?” she whispered.

He backed away making vague movements with his hands. His head was sideways, like a horse. He was moving backwards. One eye was on her.

“What is it?” she said, alarmed. “What happened?”

No, he pleaded, shaking his head. A word had dropped away. No, no. It was fluttering apart like something in the sea. He was reaching blindly for it.

Her arm went around him. He pulled away abruptly. He closed his eyes.

“Darling, what is it?” He was troubled, she knew. He had never really gotten over his difficulty. He often woke at night, she would find him sitting in the kitchen, his face looking tired and old. “Come to bed,” she invited.

His eyes were closed tightly. His hands were over his ears.

“Are you all right?” she said.

Beneath her devotion it was dissolving, the words were spilling away. He began to turn around frantically.

We read it in Dusk and Other Stories.

Originally published in Grand Street.