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William I. Lengeman III

Nellie lies on the couch, though she is much too large for it. It is uncomfortable, but the doctor -- an otherwise reasonable man -- insists that she make this concession to tradition. Perhaps he has been watching too much television, is too caught up with maintaining the appropriate forms, but she acquiesces.

"You've been having the dream again."

It is a statement and a question. He leaves it hanging. She doesn't answer right away. She doesn't need to look to know that he's made a steeple of his fingers and is resting his chin on it. He is patient. He can wait, but so can she. She is feeling petulant today. She wishes she hadn't come. She wishes she was with the others, gathered together in the heat of the afternoon in the shade of their sole tree.

The silence lingers and he finally concedes.

"You were running, but you don't know why."

She nods.

"How does that make you feel?"

"Oh, come on. Give me a break."

"Okay." The doctor regroups. "I want you to try something. This is a free association type of exercise. Take some deep breaths and relax as deeply as you can. When you're calm tell me some reasons why you might be running. Don't think about it. Just say whatever comes to your mind."

She sighs. She has no patience today, but the dreams...they're so...she takes slow, deep breaths. After a few minutes she speaks. She hears his pen scrape the clipboard.

"A happy meal...supersize the grain. Oh, this is really--"

"No, no, no. Go on."

She sighs.

"A bee stings me in the ass."

She giggles. He smiles.

"They're coming after me. The ones that got Norman."


"The mutilators."

She tries not to imagine herself with her rectum precisely cored and removed.

"Can you see them?"

"No, they're just shadows...behind me...looming over me."

She trembles. There is a long pause.

"Are there any happy ones?"

She smiles, after a fashion.

"I'm in the Olympics -- high jump. I'm running like a bat out of hell toward the pit. I missed the first time, but this time I'm gonna clear that bar."

His eyebrows rise. The smile disappears. She is trembling again.

"I'm running after my father. They came before dawn, before we were even awake. They loaded him on the truck. I'm running along the dirt road from the barn, chasing the truck, but it's no use. I'll never see him again."

She turns her head to the wall. If she could cry, she would. The pen scrapes the clipboard and stops. She knows he is steepling again.

"We've never discussed your father. Tell me about him."

She is about to when there is a soft, insistent beeping.

"I'm sorry. We'll take this up again at the next session."

She rushes from the office without saying anything. Her head is jumbled with thoughts as she runs the half-mile along the narrow two-lane road to the pasture.


William I. Lengeman III has published non-fiction in Saveur, Historic Traveler, Terra Nova and numerous other publications, as well as An Ear to the Ground, an anthology of essays published by Cune Press. His fiction and poetry have appeared or been accepted for publication in AlienSkin, Andromeda Spaceways, City Slab, Deep Magic, The Dream People, Word Riot, Nexus, Left Curve, The Nocturnal Lyric and NRG. His humor book, S*** Happened, A Concise and Somewhat Confused Guide to History, is currently available in e-book format from Check out his website, 499-Word Tales For The Modern Age.

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