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An Tran





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ANNA HAS SPENT A MINUMUM OF SEVENTY-THREE HOURS A MONTH IN DR. SAMSON’S OFFICE FOR THE PAST SIX YEARS. She did the math once in a waiting room. Ever since Colin was diagnosed, Anna has lived part of her life breathing in the piercing stench of sterility, the sting of medical disinfectant. Now, she is listening to Dr. Samson explain the latest blood results. It sounds the same as the last time.

His creatinine levels are elevated, the doctor says.

Anna asks, What does that mean?

We don’t know, he says.

It’s always “we” when there’s a problem. Colin doesn’t have a team of doctors, not most of the time. Still, Dr. Samson insists on “we,” as if the nurses and receptionists in their spaced-out uninvolved little worlds had anything to do with the blood work. Oh, the nurse Sera jammed the needle in and maybe Sue at the desk filed the results in the right folder – good for her! – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t Dr. Samson alone who “doesn’t know.”

It’s impossible for Anna not to hate Dr. Samson. She should love him for all that he does, for as long he has been there for Colin, but there is a deep chasm between those words, “should” and “love.” She remembers Hume’s Guillotine. The Is-Ought Dilemma, the fatal space between reality and morality.

The sight of Dr. Samson’s thick grey moustache churns butter in her stomach. When she sleeps, his voice resonates in her dreams like the devil on her shoulder. Except, instead of temptations, Dr. Samson whispers medical tests and procedures. When Anna wakes every morning, she immediately checks on Colin, immediately curses the doctor for lying to her, immediately feels the pang of guilt for her anger.

The doctor pauses. Anna must have been glaring, so she takes deep breaths to cool the fire from her eyes. Well, he continues, there’s a chance his kidneys haven’t been processing the creatinine. His urine has a pretty high level, too. And some blood.

There’s damage, she says. Anna doesn’t like how he said the word “chance.”

Dr. Samson’s eyes dart away.

It’s reversible, right? Anna asks.

We don’t know yet, he answers.

The Remicade, she says in remembrance. Colin had been on it to treat the Crohn’s, but Dr. Samson took him off it last year. His creatinine levels had been too high and the doctor suspected the Remicade.

He runs a thumb down the file in his hand like there might be something there, something new and different from before. Finally the doctor replies, If the Remicade was causing the issues, then it was only part of it. We’re going to set up an appointment with a renal specialist. He’ll take more blood, and maybe we can examine the kidneys.

Anna doesn’t hide her glare anymore. She vents. You’re not going to tell me, on top of the Crohn’s, on top of being sick for half of his damned life, he might have to deal with kidney failure?

No, the doctor says. I’m not going to tell you that. We’ll figure it all out. Until then, I’ll pray for you.

Anna doesn’t ask why he would pray for her instead of Colin. She is the one who needs God’s forgiveness.

The autumn comes as a relief for Anna. The humidity that suffocated her in the summer months gives way to a blissful chill. The leaves lose life and they are reborn in bright and vibrant colors. In the autumn, she prays and asks for forgiveness for her anger and her rage. In those brief months, when life whimpers down, before all is snuffed by the heartless sterile snow, Anna believes in God and herself and Colin. Again, if briefly.

She takes Colin apple-picking. The colors of autumn collide in the orchard. The view is kaleidoscopic; there are reds and pinks, yellows and oranges, greens and golds in leaves and apples. The scent of spice, wood and smoke hang in the air, accented by the frosty chill stinging her nose with each breath. Colin runs off ahead, his legs beating the ground, a harsh and clumsy stomp in his short strides. Anna’s husband, Joseph, chases after, roaring the way fathers do. Anna has never understood the monster-play between men and boys, but she remembers how her own father would roar monstrously at her brother. Somehow, it’s endearing.

They are waiting. Anna expects a call any time. Within the hour, if she’s lucky. Three days if she’s not. Colin has been a scheduled for surgery next week; the call will just confirm it. Anna doesn’t like the idea. She images her boy on the table, splayed open while white-cloaked masked men dig and prod, dig and prod. The worst part is, it’s normal to him. He doesn’t even flinch.

They’re gonna open me up, explains Colin to Joseph excitedly.

Joseph asks, Oh yeah? What’re they going to do that for?

I have, starts Colin, I have a problem with my kiddies.

Joseph laughs. Kidneys, he corrects.

I have a problem with my kidneys, repeats Colin. And the doctors are going to go inside me and fix it!

Colin starts up a small tree barely taller than Joseph. He calls down, Mom! Dad! Watch this! And then he scurries into the canopy and vigorously shakes a branch until applies, like a volley of golden-green tennis balls, rain down to the earth.

Joseph laughs again. Wow, he says. You’re pretty strong. Bet a strong guy like you isn’t afraid of the doctors, huh?

Nope, says Colin cheerfully. They don’t scare me.

Anna looks away.


Today he was supposed to have the surgery. Everything had been prepared and maybe the doctors could finally figure out what was wrong. But yesterday, Anna’s phone had rung and the nurse had talked about a new appointment and a different doctor. Platelets, the nurse had said. Something about platelets, though Anna cannot remember. It is hard for her to recall these details, even as she tries to glue every word she hears to her mind.

She wants Colin to live a normal life without the daily blinding white of linoleum and fluorescence bearing into his and her skin. Colin had missed sixty days of school last year. Sixty! That was more than a third!

Now, she drives him to the new doctor. A hematologist. A blood specialist. It sounds ugly to her. It sounds visceral and Anna doesn’t like the thought of her boy being cut up to begin with, but that’s life for her now. It’s a choice between life skinned open or death and she will not lose Colin, not to this or the kidney thing or the Crohn’s.

It was a ridiculous genetic gamble. There are over 30 separate genes that have been shown to link to Crohn’s disease and the random hodge-podge of her 23 chromosomes and Joseph’s 23 chromosomes somehow – magically – turned all thirty of those individual genes to “On.” She cries herself to sleep most nights, praying and praying and praying to God that it all be undone. Let Colin be healthy, she begs! Let him go to school! Let him be able to play outside! Let him have a real life!

Every morning, she awakens to find God has haplessly ignored her pleas. The clouds still swirl in the sky and, from time to time, obscure the sun and cast the world into the drab of grey and rain and snow. She looks at her hands every day and sees they plump through time and she dares not look at her stomach. It is too much already to feel the strain of her shirts against her abdomen. She is angry and rueful at God’s callous betrayal until she remembers her place and apologizes, holding the cross around her neck to her forehead.


The hematologist is named Skinner. The name tastes foul in her mouth and she doesn’t like the impression it leaves in her mind, red and hot like a brand. It reminds Anna of what they want to do. Skin Colin. Split him open and poke and prod and see if moving this tube over that way might fix the problem. Or maybe they’ll just inject some clear liquid – more vodka-like than water-like – into the grey-brown legume of his kidney and it will be like magic or poison or nothing.

His blood isn’t clotting, Dr. Skinner explains to her. We don’t know how, or if, he’d recover if he turns out to be hemophiliac.

We get his blood tested every month, Anna shouts angrily. Why can’t you tell?

The doctor, graying hair and wrinkles wrapped up in a white coat like a clone of the others, shakes his head. No, he says. Dr. Samson hasn’t tested for it before. It’s a whole different sort of procedure. Tell me, does Colin get a lot of nosebleeds?

Well, starts Anna momentarily taken aback, he gets nosebleeds. All kids do.

Maybe it’s nothing, the doctor responds. The nosebleeds, I mean. But let me take a moment to explain. Colin could have one of two things. The first is hemophilia, the one everyone knows. Hemophilia is carried in the X chromosome and, like most other X-related conditions, is overwhelmingly represented by males, the doctor explains. Women have two Xs, so they have a higher likelihood of just being carriers. The dominant and healthy X will always compensate, so women rarely inherit the disease.

It sounds like gibberish to Anna. She catches onto one important thing, probably what Dr. Skinner is getting at as politely as he can: it is her fault, her genes and not Joseph’s that have imparted this calamity upon Colin. She understands genetics enough to know that. In the case of a boy, the father only contributes a Y.

The other possibility is von Willebrand Disease, continues Dr. Skinner, oblivious to the sudden streak of guilt that mars Anna’s face.

Truth be told, the stain of guilt and the stain of stress on one’s face are nearly indistinguishable. No matter what, Anna always looks haggard these days. There is darkness pooling beneath her eyes and crow’s feet clawing deeper beside them, ready to claim her face. Her cheeks have swollen round so that she is self-conscious in Chinese restaurants, paranoid that the patrons and staff all compare her to the jolly golden Budai laughing and rubbing his globular belly by the door. She will take it, though. The weight, the stress, the guilt, if Colin might someday get better. So she listens to Dr. Skinner intently, even though she imagines he is jeering internally, criticizing her stomach’s circumference and her intelligence and her ability to mother a boy like Colin.

Von Willebrand Disease is carried in chromosome 12, Dr. Skinner continues to explain.
Suddenly, Anna cannot hold onto the doctor’s words. She catches platelets and something about factors. Lacking factor seven, he says on two different occasions. And then he says eight and nine and Anna doesn’t know what the words mean. She thinks they must be important, because he has said the words so often.
Dr. Skinner pauses for a moment. And then he asks, Does that make some sense?

Anna nods, although it is still senseless babble to her. She will do her own research later. She will read until her eyes are red and Joseph tries to bribe her into bed or just unplug the computer because he’s had enough. When she wakes up, she will read again. And again and again. She will read until every last word, acronym, and Roman numeral has seared itself into the folds of her brain.


When Joseph comes home from work, Anna is reading at the computer. She stops to tell him what Dr. Skinner said. Joseph finds the couch and turns the TV on.

He’ll be fine, says Joseph. Either way, it can be treated, right? And I bet it’s neither, anyhow.

Men are stupid, Anna decides. They don’t like doctors, so they don’t go until the last crucial second. Men think that everything will be okay. Until it isn’t and there is nothing left but fear.

Anna exclaims angrily, He doesn’t need this on top of everything else. He’s already facing renal disease! His medical record is already thicker than your dissertation!

He’ll be fine, repeats Joseph, this time slower as if that meant Anna would believe him now. She instead wonders why people think that saying something slower than the first time changes anything. She is nothing but anger now, but then Joseph stands. He comes to her and places a hand on her shoulder, looking down with eyes welled with just enough water to let Anna know he is fighting tears. Joseph says, It’s just a biopsy, Anna. Nothing serious.

She wants to say that Colin is just a boy, but she hears what Joseph is saying and she nods. Her hand finds his and squeezes gently. Anna relaxes underneath his touch. She is amazed at how relieving it is to have Joseph’s strength.


Anna has a personal trainer she sees twice a week. It is as much for weight control (she no longer deludes herself into thinking that she can lose weight) as it is for stress relief. She also talks to him about Colin, about Joseph, about Dr. Samson and all manner of other things. She has cried in front of him twice. She understands what physical therapy means now.

It is Thursday morning after seeing Dr. Skinner and taking (another) blood sample from Colin. She repeats her words to Joseph to the young boy, Michael, paid to listen and torture her with movements that she hates so that she forgets everything else she hates. She sees herself and the boy a thousand times over, reflected in the mirrors multiplying tunnel visions of bodies and muscle and metal ad infinitum. The machines are painted white, but the barbells are ancient. They are colored like slate and each has a red-brown dusting of rust that always stains her hands and clothes orange. Michael doesn’t know how to respond, so he makes a face and bows his head silently. When he speaks at last, he says, That’s a pretty stacked medical record.

I know, Anna replies, appreciating the effort if nothing else. Poor kid.

Michael, uncertain of what to say next, falls to silence and demonstrates a full squat, holding a large dumbbell to his chest. Immediately after rising, he hands it to Anna and she takes it clumsily. It looked so much smaller in his hands. It looks now like it has magically grown a quarter-size and Anna thinks of Wonderland.

Three years ago, in the stifling white sterility of Dr. Samson’s office, Anna asked: Why Colin? Why is this happening?

Dr. Samson pushed his eyeglasses up the bridge of his nose with a single finger, leaned back in his seat and gazed out of his office window without saying anything. The sky was a field of clouds and after the January snow, you could never tell where earth stopped and the heavens began. The white sickened Anna that day. She was tired of it. Her eyes had given up on white and settled on a gentler color more pink than red.

You know, started Dr. Samson, the main issue a lot of people have with evolution – other than the whole religion thing, of course – is that it is too reliant on random mutation and we can’t account for the random. In some ways, it doesn’t make sense.

He said this next part in a hushed voice, like it was a guarded secret: But neither does quantum mechanics. He belly-laughed and Anna felt a short surge of guilt because she hadn’t realized it was a joke.

The thing is, he continued unflinchingly, that if there truly is random genetic mutation, without cause, then we can’t predict anything in genetics. Trends wouldn’t exist. It would mean that disease – any disease – could spring up at any time in any one. But that’s not the case, is it? Conditions arise out of genetic prophecy. There’s no such thing as random chance, just varying degrees of probability. And when it comes right down to it, we can be fairly certain of most outcomes if we know two people’s genetic codes.

He began to idly drum the back of his pen into his desk and he still peered out the window without once looking at Anna. His upper lip was beaded with sweat, clinging as tiny crystal balls to each individual pillar of stubble composing his shadowed beard.

If I were to guess, Dr. Samson went on, I’d say that the scientists just say it so other people don’t get to blaming themselves. I don’t know if knowing would change anything or if it would change everything.

He shrugged. But, hey, even if it’s written in blood doesn’t mean it’s fatalistic, you know?


Colin is thin. His ribs are like the stretched-out bellows of an accordion, stacked neatly. Joseph tells her that all boys are skinny and Colin will fatten up with age. She sees fat boys all the time, though, and doesn’t believe Joseph.

When Colin naps, Anna sometimes sits in his room, reading quietly. She doesn’t know why she needs to be near him at these times. Now, she puts her book down and touches his face. The hillock of his cheek depresses at her fingertips. Surprise takes her. For a moment, she expected his cheek to dissolve into dust at her touch. For a moment, she thought her boy was papier-mâché.

Mom, he asks with as much rasp as a boy’s voice can muster, in his gentle croaking voice of first awakening.

Shh, replies Anna. I’m here, Colin.

He turns his face into the pillow. Or maybe he is shaking his head.

You worry too much, Mom, says Colin when his face emerges, facing the other way. Away from her. She touches his hair, tousling it as if it were still as long as last year. She remembers how it felt like silk thread slipping between her fingers. Cropped short, it is still soft, like fur. She knows one day it will feel like dry bristles the way Joseph’s does. One day, the years will take their toll and the silk will give way to straw.

The doctors’ visits and hospital trips never bother Colin. He rarely whines or cries or mopes. He goes and he gives them blood and he pees into a cup and he lets them gouge at his body with silver prods and electrode patches. Sometimes, he giggles and says, Look, Mom! I’m a robot! And then he makes whoosh sound effects when he’s all strapped in. Anna feels her heart plummet at those moments, because he knows no other life, until she starts to wonder if he does know and if he is being strong.

And then Anna decides she’s better off not knowing.


When Anna returns from the grocery store, she sees a voicemail on her phone and a missed call from Dr. Skinner’s office. Dread and anxiety both settle into the depths of her stomach and she throws the phone back into her purse, hangs it on a coat hook by the door and then walks away. It is hours before she returns to it and only by necessity because it rings. Colin’s school is calling.

The moment Anna arrives in the nurse’s office, she sees Colin sitting in the corner, hugging his knees and casting his eyes down. The nurse says to her, He’s been in and out of the bathroom. I don’t think it’s very pleasant.

Anna kneels by Colin. Hey, she says. What’s going on?

It hurts, Colin murmurs.

Is it your stomach?

Colin shakes his head. No, it hurts to pee, says Colin.

Anna sighs. Come on, she says. Let’s go home. You’ll be more comfortable.

When the nurse prepares the paperwork for Colin’s dismissal, Anna listens to her voicemail. She first hears Dr. Skinner clear his throat. The sound clips into a harsh static and Anna has to pull the phone away for a second.

Hello, Anna? Dr. Skinner starts. This is Dr. Skinner. The results of the blood work have come back. I honestly cannot find anything abnormal in his blood. We think the previous sample must have been contaminated or just a momentary halt in production. He’s been cleared for the kidney biopsy, but I would like to continue to monitoring his blood once a month for lacking factors. I’ve already arranged this with Dr. Samson, so this will be of no trouble to you. Dr. Samson will take charge and just add another test in to the routine blood work, a small blip on the insurance. Thank you and I hope Colin recovers well.

The anger erupts through her veins in boiling blood. Anger and relief, but mostly anger. Begrudgingly, she will call and schedule the biopsy when Colin and her return home.


Joseph is distracted. The waiting room is cacophonous in that silent sort of way, a causal orchestra of shuffling papers, random beeps, automatic doors sliding open and shut, wheelchairs rolling and the percussion of hundreds of feet beating linoleum tile. Colin is open somewhere on a table. It takes all her energy to not envision it, not picture what they might be doing in there to her boy. She focuses instead on Joseph and knows right away his mind on his something else entirely. Anna knows his moods from the rhythm of his breaths. Right now, the inhales are long and there’s a deep pause before a short and powerful exhale. The staccato of his breath means that something is bothering him, but he doesn’t know how to actually feel about it. She also knows that he does not know whether he wants Anna to ask him what is wrong. She does anyway, because he normally wants her to. When she asks, he blinks twice quickly and then looks at her. His thick brown brows are pressed together. He looks sad, almost. He says to her, Nothing. It’s just some things at work are on my mind.

Anna scowls. You’re thinking about work right now?

It’s a biopsy, Anna, says Joseph. They’re just trying to figure out what’s going on. Nothing’s going to happen to him.

Anna casts her eyes to the ground. She asks, What’s with that look?

He asks, What look?

Something’s on your mind, answers Anna.

Joseph shakes his head. It’s nothing, he says. She doesn’t respond to him. She just makes an impatient face until he caves. It is a skill Anna has perfected over many years. Finally, he relents and says, It just disappoints me that you’ve stopped believing in God.

What? What has that to do with anything? And what do you mean? Of course I believe in God! Anna huffs with frustration and turns away from her husband.

Joseph’s voice is calm and tinged with disappointment. The sound of it clutches Anna’s heart in pangs of pain and she tries not to cry, though her throat has dried and the stolen moisture creeps to her eyes anyway. He says to her, I don’t mean in that way. I mean you have no faith in God. You’ve stopped believing that he will do right in this world. You’ve stopped believing in his love. You’ve stopped believing in your love for God, too.

Anna says nothing. She wipes her eyes and stops breathing, as if stopping her breaths might halt the tears.

I know I’m right, says Joseph. But I’m not asking you to believe in God. I don’t think that matters. I want you to believe in Colin. I want you to believe in his strength and that he will be okay.

She turns to her husband. What makes you think I don’t believe in him?

Because you don’t! Joseph reaches out and touches her arm. You don’t believe in our son as a person. As a human being. All you see is the disease. Do you even know him? What’s his favorite color? Anna says nothing. Joseph says, Yellow. What’s his favorite superhero?

Batman, says Anna.

Mr. Incredible, corrects Joseph. What’s his favorite video game?

I don’t know! The one with the guns.

Joseph laughs and the antagonism is momentarily suspended. No, that’s my favorite video game. His is Zelda. The one with the elf-boy and the sword. Now he sighs and Anna feels the tension escalate again. Get to know our son, Anna. He’s an actual person. For all his youth, he knows what’s going on. And he’s okay with it. But you’re not. How can we teach him that he can be anything and that who he is matters more than what he has when the only thing you see is the shell of a boy with Crohn’s? This is the 21st century, Anna, and he’ll live. He’ll be a strong and brilliant man. You need to believe in the man he’ll become, though. You need to believe that whatever life and God throw at him, he can take it and he can endure. That’s the only thing that matters. If his mother can’t have faith in him, then he’s lost.

A nurse pushes an empty wheelchair behind Joseph. When he sighs, he turns around and nearly steps into her before awkwardly stumbling backward. He sighs again, turns back around, and chuckles dryly to himself. His eyes meet Anna’s again and his arms reach for her. Anna jumps at the sudden cold of his fingers, but she sighs and submits and is pulled into his arms and against his chest. Joseph whispers into her ear now, his breath hot and licking at her lobe with each word.

I’m sorry, he says. We need to be strong. For Colin. We need to have faith. And I know it’s hard. I wake up every day and I feel like I’m hollow, like I’ve gutted myself out so I don’t have to feel it at all. And it makes me miserable, Anna. But I can’t think of Colin as a young and sick boy. When I think of Colin, I think of who he’ll be as an adult. I think about him bringing his wife and kids over for Christmas every year. That’s who we need to believe in. That’s who we need to be strong for.

Anna looks away again. She pulls herself away from Joseph and then falls into a chair. The fabric is itchy and wool-like and the cushion gives too quickly to the wood beneath. She buries her hands in her face. Her mind races through everything she knows about her son. Blood type A-negative. Seventy-eight pounds. Four-foot nine inches. Crohn’s. Creatinine clearance, forty millilitres a minute. School days missed last year, sixty-three. Favorite movie? Book? Food?

Joseph sits next to her, drapes an arm around her, leans in and kisses her cheek. Anna feels shame.


It has been six weeks. Colin has been released from the hospital. They found several holes in his kidneys, like a million microscopic pellets had ravaged the organs. A wave of piercing particles like some violent double-slit experiment. Still, the surgeons called it acute renal disease. When the report reached back to Dr. Samson, he declared, Colin will be able to live as normal a life as a boy can with Crohn’s. We can put him on some steroids temporarily and that should remedy the creatinine levels. He’ll have renal disease for the rest of his life but it might never be a problem.

Anna had shaken her head to this. Or it might be a problem, she had said.

Dr. Samson had replied, Yes, there’s always a chance. But it’s unlikely, now that we know.

Anna sighed and thanked God. She went to church every Sunday since. She will go next Sunday, too.

Now, they are at the renaissance fair that comes for the autumn months. Deep-fryers sizzle in the distance, coating absurdities like Twinkies and Oreos in crisped fat. Swords cling and clang and younger women suffocate their breasts until they spill out their tops, pressed into perfect globes. Men are adorned in leather jerkins, a sort of reverse corset cinching their waists so tight that their belly fat spills out from underneath in a long roll resting atop their waistlines. Every now and then, Anna sees a family dressed for the 21st century, parents and children enjoying the show.

She stops at a wooden booth displaying rows of ornate jewelry on red velvet. She picks up a necklace, spreading the chain between her spread index and middle fingers. An oval pendant, inlayed with a ruby, gently swings as she brings it up to Joseph’s eye.

This is nice, isn’t it?

Joseph laughs and takes the pendant in his hand. All right, all right, he says.

Mom, if you get that, can I get a sword? Colin asks.

Anna says, They’re really expensive.

Joseph says, He probably means a toy one, Anna.

Colin chimes in, A toy’s fine. I meant a real one, though.

Joseph points his finger. You can have a real one if you pull the sword out of the stone there.

Colin rushes toward it excitedly.

Anna asks, What are you doing? What if he can pull it?

Joseph shrugs. Then I get a new sword.

There is a line for the sword in the stone. It is an attraction and there is a display of trinkets for prizes to successful participants. Anna sees a woman approach, wrap her slender fingers with both hands around the hilt and begin her efforts. She is dressed the way female warriors are depicted in medieval movies, a corset of dark brown leather with a deep square-cut. Her breasts hang low and bounce with her efforts and Anna watches the line of men (and Joseph) lean in and gawk. Anna slaps Joseph.

What? You can’t blame me. They’re there! Joseph laughs. You stared, too. Admit it.

Anna rolls her eyes. The woman didn’t manage to budge the sword. A series of men follow, some sliding the sword halfway out, some failing worse somehow than the woman, and only one freeing the sword. The crowd roars in applause and the man, who looks more like a recreational bodybuilder than a recreational table-top gamer, bows and smiles and waves. He replaces the sword, takes his trinket, and begins to try and talk to the woman from before. No doubt, he thinks his machismo might win her over. She immediately walks away and Anna chuckles.

Colin is next. He walks up to the sword and paces to each side of it three times. The sun catches his eyes, illuminates their chocolate brown, as he scans it. He is too short to pull the sword like the adults have tried. The butt of the hilt is at his solar plexus when he walks up to it. Next, he looks at his own hands and Anna imagines he is thinking to himself, How wiry! How weak I am!

Colin turns around.

Joseph touches Anna’s arm. See? Nothing to worry about. He can’t even try.

But then Colin beams and grins ear to ear, stepping backward until his back hits the blade. He lowers himself, grasping the cross-guard with his hands and pulling it into his upper back. His tiny face goes bright red and Anna sees his hips and knees open.

She gasps. He’s trying to squat the sword up.

Joseph cranes his head forward. What? Do you think he’ll get it? No, no, he won’t get it.

The sword moves upward and the crowd begins to cheer and holler and clap their hands fervently. Anna sees tears rolling down Colin’s cheek, sees all the strain he is putting into the effort. The sword is halfway freed, but Colin is slowing. He digs his feet hard into the stone beneath him, but the sword rises only inch by inch and Colin is losing his breath.

Joseph says again, Do you think he’ll get it? This is insane! He’s got to be out of energy by now. He won’t get it.

Anna reminds herself that there is no random chance. There are no maybes, only preconditions for outcomes. She thinks of Joseph’s strength and the way the world can change in an instant. She smiles and says, He’ll get it.



An Tran at Our Stories

An Tran

An Tran received his BA in English from McMaster University and is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte. He has worked as a parkour coach, personal trainer, and stunt performer and has competed in powerlifting at the national level. He currently works as a technical writer. He lives and writes in Northern Virginia where he is at work on a novel.  This is his first fiction publication.



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