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Unlikely Places

The snow falls like heads of cabbage—people ducking, finding cover in the least likely places. I’m at the bookstore, where the week before there was a shooting. I got hit in the hamstring. I don’t really want to be here with the memories of it all, but the cabbage was banging on my windshield, making driving impossible, and when I got out the heads were hitting my own head. The bookstore was the closest. I sprinted from my car, limping.

It’s an unlikely place for a shooting, but things are going haywire all over the place. I like to smell the books, put my fingers on the hardbacks. I run my hands along the spines, remembering yoga, where, on my back, my instructor tells me to lay flat and open myself, and I imagine my spine a book spine, my limbs like pages.

Outside some seem to be ducking, some completely upright. The cabbage seems spotty, like one here, one there, not an all out blizzard. I was on my way to work, to teach some classes about plots, and mostly students write about parties, with the exception of that one about a barn owl, the one about a monkey.

I stand looking out, at my car getting beaten. It seems to be the only target. Inside the store, the same workers move around, putting books away, checking out a buyer. I wonder if the worker remembers me from the week before, me falling to the floor with the book on my leg. The shot was silent. I remember everything spinning, the dot on the wall. The page. I touched my leg and closed the book—I smelled it and I hugged it. The worker said I have to either buy the book or shelve it. I pulled myself up and added more books to my basket.

Here I grab a new book and I open it and smell. I read and feel like I am in it: a woman in costume, jumping off of buildings, saving a baby in a house fire, then a man eating noodles with his triplets, then a plain old woman in a bookstore fascinated with a plain old woman who gets shot and lost.


Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Oh Baby, Pretty, and Pistol. Her work has appeared in The Nation, The Huffington Post, Ploughshares, Conjunctions, NOON, Denver Quarterly, Mississippi Review, and several other places. She received a Pushcart Prize, is an associate editor of New World Writing, and is an associate professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo State.