4_illustrationA new month and a new short story. I wrote this one with a deep respect for Oxford American magazine and a fondness for small Texas towns. I might submit it to OA for publication, if they don't mind that a few of you read it "via email" first. Thank you to all my subscribers for your patronage. Not a member? For only $10, you too can join the fun. Here’s a preview of this month’s story:

"Escaping Venus Texas" by David Hopkins

Eileen always thought the rats would eat the cockroaches—or that the presence of cockroaches would indicate an absence of rats. Imagine her displeasure when both proliferated and partnered together. During the year she lived with Chad, the cockroaches appeared on the walls, the floor and the ceiling. Eileen used Glamour with Reese Witherspoon on the cover. The Happy Issue. She rolled the magazine into a baton. An optimistic headline faced outward: “301 things to put you in a good mood fast.” 1… 2… 3… she crushed three cockroaches that evening. But it was the appearance of the rat that made her decide to leave Chad.

The rat was in the kitchen. The rat did not scurry when it saw Eileen. It was not afraid of Eileen. This bothered her.

“Go!” She waved her arms above her head. “Get out of here!”

The rat turned toward Eileen and sniffed the air. The gesture said, “Make me.”

“You are such an asshole.” She threw an oven mitt towards the rodent with little effect.

“An oven mitt?” The rat looked away, almost bored. “See how not scared I am?”

Eileen hurried in short quick steps to the closet. She grabbed the broom. Yes, comically predicable, but what else are you going to use against a rat? The broom allowed a degree of distance with her attack. When she returned to the kitchen, the rat was gone. This was much worse.

“I could be anywhere,” the rat teased.

At this moment, Eileen knew she had to leave her boyfriend as soon as possible. “Tomorrow,” she said to no one. “I’ll leave tomorrow.”

The rat was not to blame for Chad, and Chad was not to blame for the rat. The two existed, and Eileen realized she had a choice. She did not have to live here. She did not have to live in Venus, Texas.

Would you like to read the rest? You should subscribe. I’ll send you this short story (available in pdf, epub, and mobi formats), the stories from June, July, and August, plus a new story every month for the next six months. All artwork/photography by April Hopkins.