By Stefanie Freele

From the beginning, she is against the idea of letting go of the thuds of ice-covered hate that plunge through her veins, keeping her thin and restless, because for all she knows, counseling will uncover something icky, something ugly, something unremembered, and then she will be angry about the stickiness, and anger is something she already has enough of. Cousin Deanna stole her first boyfriend. Brother Tim burned her books; father—where was father? Mother, she baked corn muffins and planted tulips and said things like Honey, you’re forgetting yourself. And always she herself, Tanya: boots, tears, stomping, wiping, no-one-is-listening, hear-me, forget-it. She crumples the flyer—ten sessions free for unresolved grief—and thinks. No way is she unresolving anything. She says, No way am I unraveling my onion for nobody. 

But of course Auntie Sylvia is persistent: Tanya honey, you could enjoy things again; you could actually laugh sometimes. Wouldn’t that be good? A little giggle, a little joy? Tanya calls the number, not because Auntie Sylvia says But things might even taste good again. The therapist quits after three sessions, saying things like no willingness and unbudging. 

So days pass and there Tanya is again: broken, boots, blackened, thinking This always will be, but also wondering, How long is the lifespan of a grudge, the duration of misfortune? She thinks if there were two of her, she’d tell the other it is long past time to be so clenched. She goes over to the closet, to her long military surplus coat, the wool green one with stripes that mean something, and says, Lets us two go outside for awhile. She hangs the coat on a tree limb, still on its hanger, and rests her bony hands on the shoulders, wondering how to confront a jacket with truth and past and fright. She thinks the coat will cry. She thinks the coat will ask for another chance. She thinks the coat will send out its arms and say, Come to me so we can still be pissed off together. If it does, she’ll kick it so hard. 

Before she brings herself to speak, a shoulder slips from the hanger as the branch bends. It sways and bounces, while the wind rustles about. The coat is a heavy wool coat. There it is now, crumpled in the dirty snow. You, she says. Lapel still stiff. Stripes in a row. War.

Stefanie Freele’s Recent and forthcoming work can be found in Glimmer Train, American Literary Review, South Dakota Review, Literary Mama, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Westview, Frigg, Boston Literary Review, Permafrost, Hobart, and Contrary. Her short story collection “Feeding Strays” was published by Lost Horse Press in 2009.