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The Short Form

“Rubiaux Rising”

Steve de Jarnatt


Rubiaux awakes out of time. In pitch darkness. He scratches his leg where it isn't with his hand that is not there. The water level is now up over the stacked supports, soaking him a good inch. But it has stopped. Prayer has worked, if only partly. But there is something new in the darkness now — breathing, movement. Others. He keeps his own breath steady, feigning slumber, waiting for light to grow in the east.

When he slowly opens his eyes again an hour later he sees them — the unholy menagerie. All down the ledge, crowded near him in awkward proximity, are: a large king snake; two smaller water snakes; four fat nutria; a half-drowned feral cat and two shivering kittens; three pitiful brown rabbits; a soggy raccoon; a dozen Norwegian rats; a clot of huddled mice; along with a teeming mess of spiders, beetles, centipedes, and such. His eyes dart. Theirs do too. All seem to breathe in some strange unison. Waiting a move. Nobody is eating anybody this morning. They share the same fear and confusion — orphan brothers in the storm. 

We read it in The Best American Stories 2009.

Originally published in Santa Monica Review, Spring 2008.