Bake a loaf of bread for your father, for your mother. If you create enough silent acts, you’ll keep yourself from screaming.

Wash the dishes fold the laundry feed the chickens mow the grass plow the barely-thawed soil dig your fingers into its fresh body and squeeze until the dirt knows: that empty night and her name and the stretch of skin she kissed into acceptance—

Write and write and write but whatever you do don’t speak. Do whatever you have to do — wander on those acres for days with the forbidden book in one hand and sacrilege scribblings in the other, and when that’s no longer enough go to the creek furthest from the house and mumble into its tripping waters. Whisper to the crawdads and the dragonflies and the pond skaters and let the fungus on the carcass of the deer take what they can never know and decompose it. Let the decomposing things — that night her name stretch of skin — sink eagerly into the marrow.

Don’t tell the soy. The soy is home. Their voices carry. Hop the splintering fence and traverse the rows of tobacco, then squat next to a massive yellowing leaf, and say it. If you can’t tell the tobacco directly, stare down at your muddy boots, at the clay caked in the cracked leather, at the laces frayed by the barn cat’s teeth, and say it. That night. Her name.

Say it and say it and say it but do not shout it, and do not bring it home. Leave it in the dirt between the rows. Leave it with the tree too dried out to gossip — soft birch bark stretch of skin — and the chicken that will be tomorrow’s dinner and know and accept that if you tell enough somethings you’ll never ever tell a someone.

Bake a loaf of bread for your sisters, for your brother. Knead it and let it rise, and when you cut the steaming loaf and serve them slices with butter and honey, watch them consume. And know, and accept, that your secret is theirs too.

Em J Parsley (they/them) is an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at El Paso. They have previously been published in AZE Journal and Breedlove. When not in El Paso, they live in rural Kentucky and take care of chickens, who are dumb but lovable creatures.

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Every Day Fiction