Terri Leonard


Explosive, the blast is both sound and vibration, and comes in the dark, out of nowhere. Billy startles, sits upright in bed, the bed he and Patsy used to share. He flings a framed photo onto the floor, and he feels the wet of loose bowels, his response to the woodpecker just now tatting its territory on the metal downspout of his small house in Blue Ridge. The tatting is too-loud, too-close, a spark that triggers the familiar cascade of involuntary reactions. It’s 0500, the time his battalion would shamble bleary through the darkish haze obscuring clear sight, smoky dust clinging to clothes and skin as they’d venture, step by step in a line, four feet apart, eight achy men per unit, hunting IED’s, homemade bombs hidden in sandy soil. Bones that ached from upright sleep in rubbled corners; arms that ached from the heavy hover of Minehounds detecting for hours; adrenals that ached from the relentless drawdown of readiness, beyond depletion. They made jokes about the vigilance. Called it, “Feeding the Pig.” From the years of deployments, Billy’s nerves are hardwired even here at his family’s farmstead, far from war, no livestock to feed. 

The woodpecker tats again and still in his bed, Billy ducks for cover, arms over head. Quiet, waiting, he listens for more. In the silence, he notices his breath and the stench of his own feces, and he’s reminded of Kabul and the river where people dumped and washed. Looking around slowly, with only his eyes, he notices the floor and the framed photo there on the ground. As he reaches to pick it up, the cracked glass shatters the image of prom, a clean shaven brighter Billy with Patsy proud, leaning close, staring starstruck at him, not the camera. Patsy, the high school fiancée of a Marine just months before his first deployment. 

As the melancholy seeps in, Billy shifts in bed, feels his sheets, pajamas, ruined. Hugging his pillow, he weeps silently. Branded behind closed lids is the image of his partner’s arm in the sand, lacy flesh hanging from the uniformed shoulder, tattooed heart, initials of wife and kids half-draped by the severed sleeve, rifle still tucked under his buddy’s other arm, how Billy, with Marine Corps reflex, squatted, quick-grabbed the biggest piece of skull, used it to scrape, scoop jelloed bits of brain into the helmet, military grade, still intact, only seconds to register the terror. There was still some left, but for the smoke Billy didn’t get it all, too hard to see, bits of brain left for night critters, strewn like roadkill in the rocky moonscape of his nightmare. A mistake his mind won’t let him forget.

That was two deployments ago and nearly three years had passed. Home now, but not the same home, and not the same Billy.

He rises and drops his soiled boxers, gathers the sheets, and does a load of laundry. After a shower, he walks naked to the window, picks a stale saltine crumb from a stash in his drawer, and gingerly places it in the corner of the sill, steps back to watch. A Carolina wren, his wild pet, swoops in, devours the cracker. “Little beady birdie,” he says in a baby talk voice reserved for animals. The wren flies back to its nest in the tool shed.

* * *

The breeze on the back deck of Bubba’s Cue and Stew is blowing smoke just enough to make it feel sane in this July heat, the deck planks darkened green from humidity and meat grease, cicadas pressing in thick like the air. Sssssssssssss. Continuous. Sssssssss. The pitch rises, insistent, so loud it’s almost painful. SSSSSSsssss. Irritating his irritable brain to react, this hiss not centralized but everywhere, disbursed throughout the woods, rattling like rage, rising to some pre-calibrated crescendo, then easing like a sigh to silence, silence that is equally loud, close, urgent, like what he feels at home in his bed, far from any real danger. Billy grinds his teeth, lights a cigarette for comfort, relishes the controlled burn of his lungs expanded slow, full, the tingle that permeates his head and hands on the exhale, familiar, soothing. 

This hiss not centralized but everywhere, disbursed throughout the woods, rattling like rage, rising to some pre-calibrated crescendo . . .

It’s not the sauce that makes a good Q. The heat, coals just right, size of the smoker, deep and wide. Plus the right cut of fatty pork. And the patience, the time it takes for the meat to surrender, the checking and rechecking, someone who can handle the intensity. It’s almost ready. Billy reminds himself this is what he’s good at. No, more than good, irreplaceable. 

Patsy’s head pokes out the screen door. “How much longer with that pork?  Church just let out and folks are pouring in.” She notices the deck studded with cigarette butts, and steps out. “Billy, I told you we can’t smoke out here near the food! It’s our second warning. Christ, if anyone sees, we’ll be shut down.  At least pick up your butts.”

Sagging cigarette hard-set in his lips, Billy daggers his eyes at Patsy, now ex-wife, the owner of the oldest barbecue in the county, building inherited from her father, but business largely built up by Billy. Sweat drips from his beard, and he tries to move away from the smoker and Patsy, but there’s no room. He’s in a tight space. The drip splats, hisses on the hot metal, just missing the meat. 

He watches Patsy catch herself, sees her lips press together like they’re holding back, watches the way she swallows hard, face trembles slightly, fingers clench. He notices these efforts, all the times she’s avoided reacting since he’s come home, each deployment his nerves, patience more whittled away. The outbursts, his then hers. Even now, watching her manage reacting. Pity was the worst, then her outrage, and now Patsy’s own patience is threadbare, ragged, working so hard to be with him. Of course, she’s not anymore, with him. Divorced, but still close, he tells himself. Billy looks away as Patsy whirls back toward the dining room, an easy pirouette on the greasy deck. The door squeals closed behind her, smacking the wood frame hard. Billy feels it like a slap. 

Closing the welded heavy lid, he adjusts the barrel smoker, checking and rechecking the legs, hardly any room for him and it on this deck, so close to the edge. He hears the snap of Patsy’s voice handling the pressure of the crowd out front, and then he opens the smoker, knowing he shouldn’t.  Gingerly prodding the pork with a long-handled barbecue fork, it holds together unyielding, not how it should be–tender shreds, overcooked, melting from the bone. As he pokes, the grease drips onto the coals and steams upward, searing his eyes and cheeks. He savors the smell and also the burning sensation. It’s the same steam that draws locals and tourists to Bubba’s and just now draws Patsy back out to the deck, paper ticket in hand. 

“Billy, there’s a to-go order. Can you take it on your phone? We’re swamped.” She hands him the number. “That meat has got to be ready. It’s been hours. C’mon, BJ, let’s have a taste.” His high school nickname slips out, and it softens him some. 

Billy knows better. A little more smoke, then it needs to rest, twenty minutes at least. Against his judgment, he tries a pull and it resists, so he forces apart a chunk and stuffs it in his mouth too quick without blowing. “Owwww!” he garbles, juggles it with his tongue, the tender skin inside his cheeks sear, struggle to contain it. He feels Patsy watching, embarrassed at his foible and that he caved, and he surrenders, spits the wad over the deck railing, and cusses. “What-The-Fuck, Patsy!” He watches as she slinks back to the kitchen, hears her yell to the staff, “Twenty more minutes … hold ‘em off with extra puppies,” she says referring to the fried corn fritter recipe her grandma made famous.

Billy looks at the greasy ticket Patsy left, dials the number noting the metro area code, then smirks, nods when the woman answers. She wants to order free-range meat and gluten-free buns, someone from the city, alright. 

“Our pork is raised on corn mash just like all commercial pigs.” Fork-hand on his hip, Billy exaggerates the word “pigs” and swaggers his head lecturing to the phone. It wobbles his vision like he’s drunk. 

“Do you want to order or not?” He tells her it’ll be 30 minutes, that they’re running behind. Then he knocks his knuckles on the open kitchen window, holds up the order slip and slides it through. 

Finally, the barbecue is done. Billy’s holding a crusty flake of meat on the long fork, letting the breeze cool it. He feels complete, accomplished, knowing he honored the time it takes to get the coals just right, seasoning, hours of slow cooking, the influence of the heat and smoke, checking, constant checking, knowing when it’s just right, it’ll pull from the bone.  It demands vigilance and he thinks about that expression, “Feeding the Pig,” that maybe it’s not always a bad thing. He wishes there was someone to tell, someone who would get it. 

Lost in his funny thought, he’s near-startled by Patsy clearing her throat. She’s emerged from inside, standing close, watching him hold the fork, watching for the meat to pull apart the way it should, watching as, for the second time, he takes it to his mouth, gums it around, and then unexpectedly, grimaces, gums the words, “Shit God-Dammit,” looks up, Patsy’s face just inches away. “Burned my mouth. Can’t taste a thing,” he slurs blaming her with his tone.

“Here, let me try BJ.” She doesn’t react, persists patient, calm, because she needs him, he knows.

Billy exhales audibly, softened by the tone of her voice. She takes the fork and flakes off a small bite. Holding it up, blowing on it gently, she closes her eyes and then her lips over the morsel.

“Oh, BJ. You still have that magic, darlin’. This is amazing. I’ll come back in a sec to bring it in.”

Since all the therapy, Billy notes that Patsy’s trained to say something positive first, before she says what she really thinks. He waits but nothing comes. Wiping his arm across his face, he blows off the compliment, snorts a noisy wad of mucous that masks the satisfaction puffing out his chest, and she slips back into the building. 

Since all the therapy, Billy notes that Patsy’s trained to say something positive first, before she says what she really thinks.

Switching back to business, he redials the take-out. It’s been 40 minutes, and the lady wants to cancel the order. He tells her she needs to come get it, that it’ll be waiting up front. Now, she’s not answering. Hanging up, he stabs into the smoker with the long fork, says, “Only someone from Atlanta’d do that shit, call for take-out, and then call back after the food is ready saying,  ‘Sir, I think I phoned the wrong barbecue place.’ Head bobbing, he mimics her polite city sing-song, then switches to an overhand hold, jabbing so hard the fork sinks clear through the pork to the backside of the metal drum. Clang! Clang! Ching! a satisfying sound and the vibration electrifies his arm, shoots through to his bad shoulder, makes him even madder. He lifts the hefty hunk of forked meat from the smoker and drops it into a stainless tub for mixing. Then, with cigarette clenched tight between his teeth and still holding the fork, Billy handwipes his jeans and grabs his phone, greasy fingers slide over the screen as he finds the redial and presses hard.

“Un-fucking-believable. She blocked my number!” and he slams the phone down hard on the deck railing, remembering too late its delicate nature. A small shard of screen glass flies from the phone and lands in the barbecue tub. He considers the options for more than a minute. He could grind it into a fine powder, mix it into the meat, hide it so well no one would know. The decision paralyzes him. His mind drifts suspended, until he hears Patsy’s voice calling out an order as she crosses onto the deck, and he quick pinches the glass shard out with his fingers, slings it into the parking lot.  “No civilian casualties,” he mumbles as Patsy closes in, one hand on her hip.

“Who you talking to?” she says and looks at the stainless tub of meat, now separated and heaped to almost overflowing. “Oh, BJ.  It’s gorgeous.” For the second time, he waits for the punch from Patsy but there is none. Again, he blows off the compliment.

 “Miss Take-Out thinks she’s gonna get away with this.” He holds up the shattered phone for Patsy to see. “Not on my watch.”   

She gasps, “Oh My God. What happened?” 

He mouths his lit cigarette, ash hanging over the meat as he picks up the tub, hands it to Patsy daring a word from her, as if she’d made the bad order. Holding the heavy bowl, she shrugs her shoulders and backsteps with the treasure toward the door.  

Out of habit, he sucks air with the next drag like weed, and holds the smoke in before slowly releasing, then flicks the butt, still burning, into the parking lot. It smolders close to the dumpster and the place where he flung the glass. 

Then comes a soft “BJ, what’s up with you? Haven’t seen you this riled …”  Patsy’s voice eases off like the cicadas. 

He pauses, considers his rile, remembers the dream from the morning, the woodpecker and the soiled sheets. The one thing he does know is the difference between right and wrong. Marching, feet pounding the greasy planks back to the smoker, the vibration from his hammered steps rising into his legs, the sockets of his hips and pelvis. One hand holds the damaged phone, the other carries the stainless fork as the worn tread of his Doc Martens gives way to the slick. Then Billy skates, his body crashes down sideways, the impact broken by his left arm still holding the cooking fork. It jabs into the meat of his chunky thigh, right through his jeans.                                      

“I’m down!” he howls from his back toward the trees. “I’m down!” 

Patsy leans over him, eyeing the fork. “Jesus-Christ-Billyyyy …” and she bends the last part of his name. “Geez.”

Lifting his head he sees the silver tines solidly wedged into his thigh, blood darkening the denim. He knows where he is, the deck at Bubba’s with Patsy, sees her put down the bowl, look at her watch, her order pad, feels his shoulders flat on the deck, but his body is shaking, his breath is held out, frozen. Caught in this panic, he wishes the fork had pierced somewhere more vital like his heart or lungs, somewhere that would end this helplessness. 

Patsy sighs matter-of-fact. “Let’s pull it out. Ready, BJ?”  His hand covers hers and together they yank the fork out. It clatters to the deck. He winces, grits his teeth. Wet seeps out from his sealed lashes, and it’s not about the fork. Patsy touches his face with her finger, touches gently at the eye crease, almost to the teardrop tattooed high on the cheekbone just inside his temple, the one he got her as goodbye for his first deployment. People think it’s a symbol he killed someone, but they both know who returned missing. 

“Baby, you gotta get it together. It’s the busiest Sunday we’ve had all month, and I can’t take care of you right now. It’s just a puncture wound, needs a tetanus shot, but for now cover it from infection. You’ll be alright. The first aid kit’s under the dishwasher and get you some tea. There’s a new batch, it’s real sweet. I gotta get back.” She turns to leave. “And please, wash that fork.”

Billy emerges from the kitchen and walks to the front counter with a stiff leg wrapped in a swath of gauze tied quick, two wispy white tails trailing his bloody jeans. Diners occupy every booth, and a line is forming at the cash register. A plastic takeout bag sits on the counter. He quick-snatches it and heads through the dining room to the deck, past Patsy who’s taking an order. The door swings closed, bouncing twice. 

Patsy sticks her head out the screen. “Hey,” she barks. “Billy, what’s with the bag? Didn’t you take that order yourself earlier?” She walks out to hear the answer.

“Yeah, I did, and now she decided she doesn’t want it, called to tell me it was the wrong barbecue place. I told her it was ready, and she needed to come get it, but it’s been almost an hour. She just blocked my call so I’m delivering. It ain’t right.”  

Patsy looks at him and the white bag on the deck between them, pulls a cigarette from his pack on the railing, and they both light up, hotboxing, smoking fast, staring at the bag. She shakes her head says, “Probably someone from the city.”

“Trying to get over on us by hiding,” Billy says. “I hate cowards.”

A voice from the kitchen yells through the screen door, “Patsy, orders’ up.”

Billy limps out to the truck, slings the bag inside, slams the door and starts up. “I gotta drive,” he mutters throwing pebbly river rock as he peels out. Side mirror, he sees his gauzy tail flutter from the door crack like streamers as he slows to stop at the light. The dash vibrates with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Billy’s singing top-of-his-voice, when a cop pulls close in the turn lane, powers down his window, yells, “Music’s too loud!” Billy turns to look, ready for a fight. 

The cop yells, “You doin’ alright, Bill? Trailing something out the side there, son.”

It’s Trey Shelby, practically an uncle, oldest man on the Blues, the town’s tiny armed unit. He’s a retired Marine Sergeant, a widower, childhood friend to Billy’s long-deceased grandfather.

“Yeah, just running down an order,” Billy shouts over the music. “Got a case of fraud.”

“A case of slaw, d’ya say?”

“Fraud, F-R-A-U-D, Fraud!” and he yells this last word.

“Oh yeah, fraud. Want company?”

Billy signals thumbs-up, and Trey turns on the blue strobe. They drive the next few blocks to the new Korean barbecue on the outskirts of town, nearest the interstate. It’s called “Smoke” and the neon sign outside blinks the word, “P-O-K-E.” Billy gets out of the truck and walks over to the open window of Trey’s cruiser, leans in.

“She’s gotta be here cause it’s the only other barbecue place around, but likely she don’t know that. These Ko-reans,” he says snaking his head side to side at the seated cop. “What the heck is ‘Poke’ anyhow? Wouldn’t be serving Poke Sallet, would they?” he says referring to the springtime Southern greens he grew up on. 

“Naw, I’m thinking it has to do with POKE-MON,” says Trey opening his door and gently nudging Billy back from the closeness. “So, what’s all this about, anyway, Son? Fraud?”

“Some takeout tourista thinks she’s gonna get away with placing an order to-go and bailing on it. She blocked my calls, and I think she’s here.”

“Well what’ll you do if she is? Ya can’t stalk someone like that, Son.”

“I don’t know. I’d recognize her voice.”

“Yeah, and then what?”

“I don’t know, man,” Billy growls, his face and neck get tight, ropy. He pivots from Trey and reaches across the front seat.

“Whoa, Billy Junior, hold on now. Let’s talk about this, Son, make a plan.”

Billy emerges with the white bag. “Don’t need no plan, Trey. Nothing gonna happen. It’s not right, just sayin,” and he turns to survey the cars in the lot. Just two, one an SUV with out-of-state plates, and the other a Prius with a sticker that says, “Eat Local.” 

“That’s her car there, that Toyota, I know it.” He scrunches his eyebrows mean-faced, and stomps hard with his non-injured leg. “I’ll tell her what she can eat. This barbecue she ordered!”

Billy steps fast toward the neon sign and pounds up the porch steps, his gauzy strips fluttering around him like a tattered flag.

“Billy, wait, what’s … Son, is that blood? Take that off before you …”

Billy strides through the front door and just stands there, half in-half out, extending the white bag like an offering to the diners. Trey walks briskly to catch up, bumps into the back of him, stays pressed against his stiffened body, while nudging him inside. The door ratchets behind silently enclosing them.

It’s a small place, only a few tables, and a glass cooler displays micro-brew beer, organic kimchi, and sparkling kombucha. Billy can see a wavy reflection of himself distorted, in a large wall mirror, his body frozen, arm still holding out the bag. His head doesn’t move. Only his eyes survey the space left to right and back, assessing, this habit of surveillance grooved into his nervous system. He stares at the Billy in the mirror like a movie, and he sees Trey see too, the distorted reflection. He watches Trey’s hand slide slow and quiet up to his holster, finger it. Then, Billy feels Trey’s exhale at the back of his head like a warm caress so close it tussles his hair, and both their bodies soften.

There are just a few diners: a family with kids playing phone games;  two women at a table, one with cropped reddish hair and the other wiry blonde and gray, past her shoulders. Forties maybe? They look up, see Billy’s eyes tracking, white bag outstretched, bloody gauze hanging from his torn jeans, Trey pressed up behind him. The redhead sits erect, wide-eyed, looks away quick, then rifles in her purse. 

The other woman smiles, says to Trey, “How do, Sheriff?”

“Fine ma’am. Routine Sunday run,” he says in a loudish voice, all business.

Billy cocks his head, and his gaze softens, not looking at the women or at anything, really, but in the direction of their table. He’s listening, listening hard for something he can’t quite hear. Billy thinks again about this morning, the woodpecker and his messed up bed, about combat training … Threat Assessment … Civilian Consideration … He sees the words floating across the blackboard of his mind, hears the sounds of the Minehound detector, chirping high and low, innocent like birds, as he stands, arm extended, tired from the weight of the bag. The plastic quivers, and he lowers it to his side.

It’s quiet now, and Billy fixes on the long-haired woman. She’s holding his gaze, and he realizes she’s someone familiar, the owner of the bead shop where Patsy buys his CBD oil. Premium grade hemp, it helps with the worries, fewer side effects than the drugs he gets from the VA, and it doesn’t make him high. She knows all about the dosing. He recognizes her weathered smile from the bead shop website, and that hair. From somewhere else, but she’s been here awhile. Her necklace is polished turquoise, and leather bracelets dangled with crystal encircle her tatted arms. It’s Jana, he remembers her name. Putting down her burrito dripping with barbecue and cabbage threads, her gaze remains steady, a soft smile that isn’t pity or fear, unlike her friend who is still fumbling, head down in her overstuffed purse.   

An Asian man in plaid shorts and a blue ‘Smoke’ t-shirt steps from behind the counter, walks toward Billy and Trey, says polite, “Help you?” Billy’s voice is frozen, his eyes still locked with Jana’s. The man begins to pat his pants, reaching for what?

Trey’s body is a slight pressure pushing Billy forward, toward what needs doing and on cue, Billy announces to the mirror, watching himself do it, “Did anyone make a to-go order? Pulled pork, hush puppies, and slaw?” It comes out flat, sounding like a lost-and-found ad.

Then Billy sees the redhead remove something from her purse, a small black canister, pepper spray by the way she’s holding it. It’s visible to him but hidden under the table, her index poised and ready to press the red button. She pivots toward Billy, lifts the canister high, pointing at him, her finger on the ready. 

“I did, and it’s no crime to cancel. I called.”

Billy feels Trey pressing hard against him, then the big man’s hands on his arms, holding him steady. Trey whispers something in a low monotone, like calming a spooked horse.

“Whoa now, Billy Junior … let’s keep everyone safe …”  

Jana’s wrinkles wrinkle more, her eyebrows ripple no good. She shifts toward her friend, scolding, “Lynn, put that down, for Christ’s sake,” then looks toward Trey and shrugs her shoulders, palms open in defense of her out-of-town friend. Back to Lynn, she chides, “When did you place the order?” The crystals clink with her movement, agitating Billy. Her hand goes to them, quiets the sound.

Lynn’s arm doesn’t move, points the canister toward frozen Billy-Trey, but her head turns to face Jana, whispering, as if they were having a private conversation.

“Before we left, to save time.” She widens her eyes toward Jana, animates the whispering with dramatic head-shaking. “Then, when we pulled into this place, I went outside to cancel it, or tried to.” The logic doesn’t work, and everyone can see the scowl on Jana’s face.  

Lynn continues, shifts in her seat and, with open arms, appeals to the room like a lawyer. “Is it a crime to cancel an order?” she bawls, still holding the pepper spray.  The family with kids gathers up and quick clears out, scurries to their parked car. Billy takes a sharp slice of in-breath, holds it, glaring at the redhead and her stupid weapon. She huffs and drops the canister back into her purse, defeated.

Jana speaks again, this time to Billy, commanding his attention in her gentle way, voice low and calm. “Aren’t you Patsy’s friend? So sorry for this, um, misunderstanding. I’ve seen you when she comes to the store. You wait in the car, right?” Billy relaxes, steps closer, breaking contact with Trey. The old cop, still wary, quick-steps behind, still keeping his hands on Billy’s arms, nods to the Asian man, who shouts back to a call from the kitchen and scurries away.

Moving slowly, not breaking eye contact with Billy, Jana wipes a greasy hand, then pulls back her sleeve to reveal a giant tattoo, ‘M-O-M’. The M’s are drawn around an ‘O’ in the shape of Planet Earth, a winged eagle atop, guarding. It’s the symbol of the Corps. Small script below it reads ‘Mother of a Marine.’ 

“I get it,” Jana says to Billy. “Why you’d be upset. It’s not right.” She scrunches her lips to the side, looks with chiding eyes at her redhead friend. Then she says to him, “Tell Patsy I’ll credit her next order at the shop. You come in too, won’t ya? Say Hi to Rusty, my son’s retriever, always at the front window. Poor old thing still waits for him to come home, craves the energy of a young man.”

Billy nods once to her, then turns to go, arm at ease by his side, white bag still hanging. “C’mon Trey. Let’s have us some real barbecue!” he says loudly as they walk out to the parking lot.

The cement table is covered with moss and lichen, overgrown by laurels, hidden behind the QuikTrip off 441. Though close to an intersection solid with traffic, it’s quiet, private. Billy sets the bag down and slices it open with his knife, makes a ragged white tablecloth, then chips away a seat-sized section of green moss, just enough to expose the cement. He dusts away the mossy dirt with his hand, and feels the rough crumbles of the pocked surface, new beneath old, or maybe old beneath new. He wonders. Trey brushes pine needles from his bench, talks while he tidies, loud because of his bad hearing, like he’s talking to himself. Billy smiles, listening.

“I love this place. Built by the WPA. My dad was in the WPA. Used to come here all the time with him and your dad, too, before the QT.”

Billy’s heard this speech before, and it makes him smile hearing it now, a small smile that reminds him of those days before tourists. He and Trey haven’t come for a while. He remembers his dad at this very picnic table, eating Vienna Sausages (pronounced “V-eye-enna”) from the can, putting the empties slimy with white meat juice under the table for Chipper, their black lab and family pet. Couldn’t hunt to save his life, but he was Billy’s childhood friend. Thinking of him just now, he remembers the baby talk voice he used when the dog was a pup. “Hey little buddy.” 

Trey says, “What was that, Son? You miss your dad?”

“Yeah,” says Billy. Then he takes that first bite, his teeth sink through, his tongue compresses the soft white bun against the ridges of his palate, and he reaches the shredded meat. It’s tender, seasoned just right. He thinks about the Korean place, the woman who ordered wrong, and Jana, the bead shop MOM. And he thinks about Rusty, the worried dog at her window, needing the energy of a younger man. Billy swallows, nods his head, mouths the words, “Hey little buddy.” 

Trey nods back says, “Yeah, some good barbecue, Son, just the right smoke.”

Terri Leonard works as a yoga therapist with veterans at the Atlanta Veterans’ Administration offering mindful movement sessions and a therapeutic practice called iRest@ (integrative restoration), a form of guided self-inquiry used for work with trauma. They are a medical anthropologist by training and an emerging fiction writer. Recently published short stories appear in Halcyon and The Madison Review.

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