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by Mathew Goldberg


Saturday, we attended Safety Day at Davy Crockett High School where Levi got to sit in a fire engine, helicopter, and police car. In early October, summer assaulted Austin a second time, baking us inside the vehicles.

“What was your favorite part?” I asked Levi back in our car.

“Crash, crash,” he told me. “Car lost wheel.”

As we’d waited for our second turn in the hook-and-ladder, we had an unobstructed view of the Volvo across the street tearing out of Bank of America to meet a pickup truck’s rough embrace. The Volvo pirouetted across Manchaca, and the pickup veered into the grass toward the school, lurching closer and closer to the emergency vehicles filled with our kids. The pickup’s horn wailed; the driver’s head collapsed to his wheel. I stood frozen with Levi in my arms as the pickup rolled to stop five feet from me and my two-year-old son.

The fire fighters and police officers dropped the plastic hats they were handing out and sprinted into action. Levi felt so light in my arms. He cried, not at the crash, but because I pulled us away.

“No, no. Gibi go back.”

Gibi was Levi. He spoke in third person.

“Everyone’s okay. I promise.”

But, of course, I didn’t know this. Bobby Dyer wasn’t okay all those years ago. His parents drove that Plymouth with the rear-facing, third-row seats. When we sat back there, we’d wave at the cars and stick our tongues at their drivers. Maybe, if we’d been on the Select soccer team with Bobby, we’d have been in the car that night too, in the back seat right beside him.


Bobby Dyer taught us Bullshit. We circled the beige carpet of his finished basement, the carpet’s prickly threads rubbing our legs pink while Bobby shuffled the deck, bridging its two halves low and high. The cards crackled and sighed. Back then, ten years old was old. Not only did Bobby have two years on us, but he was cool. He played striker on Alexandria’s Select soccer team, and he knew all the lyrics to Michael Jackson. With an Asian mother and white father, he had fine, black hair and light-brown skin. His green-brown eyes warmed you like spotlights when they graced you with their attention. When I brought over my new Transformer—a plane that changed into a robot—Bobby said it was bad, and I tried not to cry.

“No, no,” Bobby said. “Bad means good.”

“It does?” I sniffled.

“Yeah, man. It’s bad in a good way.”

My older sister, Maggie wrote “Maggie Dyer” on her book covers and Trapper Keepers. Maggie visited Bobby with us after school to play soccer and ping-pong and Murder in the Dark. Before Bobby turned off the lights, we drew roles from his orange-billed Orioles hat. Maggie liked being the detective. Bobby didn’t care if he was a body. The rest of us wanted to be the murderer. Back home, our parents lobbed insults at each other behind closed doors. At Bobby’s, it felt good to act; it felt good to be bad.

I hadn’t thought about Bobby in forever. I didn’t think about him when Maggie was hospitalized or when Levi was born with hip dysplasia. I didn’t think about him as Val and I unbuckled Levi’s harness with each bath and diaper change. “Our little Seabiscuit,” Val called him. I didn’t think about Bobby when Levi, at six months, needed surgery. Seeing Levi under anesthesia, I’d never felt more vulnerable. The astronaut mask covered his small, pale face. His body, like Isaac’s atop the rock, lay offered to the cold clutches of the world.

Only after Safety Day, with my perfectly healthy two-year-old hurling himself up and down our stairs, did I worry about Bobby Dyer.

“Be careful,” I told Levi. “Careful, careful.” I sounded like a grandfather. I bought a $600 car seat from Norway, and I made sure to drive well under the speed limit. Cars beeped and passed me on residential roads.

“Betty White,” Val called me.

With our daycare shuttered and Val out of town, I was on duty. You’ve read the story—Emerald Academy of South Austin. Emerald had immaculate facilities: an indoor treehouse, a puppet-show stage, buckets of the newest Magna-Tiles. Every member of the staff was CPR-trained. “It’s the best,” my coworkers had said. The aide, Shira, was earning a degree in early education at UT. She was a dark-haired basketball player from Israel who wore short shorts. She had an endearing gap between her front teeth—a Madonna-bite. Shira brought cupcakes on the kids’ birthdays. I said “hi” to her every morning. She’d served in the Israeli army, and I imagined her patrolling the West Bank hefting an Uzi.

Thank God the baby involved hadn’t died. The mother had noticed the baby’s red, swollen face at pick-up. “She wouldn’t stop crying,” Shira had said. “It was waking up the others.” The police confiscated the pillow.

“How do we know something didn’t happen to Levi?” Val had said. This was September, after the news.

“We don’t. We can’t.” Not in this world.

“I should quit,” Val said. She tapped her fingers against our counter, waiting for me to say something. She wore her charcoal suit. Her phone screen, with all its cracks, filled with shuffling green rectangles. I don’t know how the cracks didn’t cut her face. The child of a gambling addict, Val survived on the discipline of her work. She practiced real estate law and took three weeks when Levi was born. We’d met at a Jewish singles’ event at the Dell community campus.

“Background checks my ass,” Val said. She was gorgeous when angry—fissile with rage she otherwise carefully controlled. She talked with karate chops and thrust her left leg forward. “That lying psycho Jewish bitch.”

The last time Shira brought in cupcakes, I’d taken two. Chocolate with vanilla frosting.

Levi pushed blocks into the slots of a trash truck. Daddo naddo oh, he sang. He wore a sagging diaper.

“I can work from home,” I said.

And I could, at least while Levi napped.

“It’s only temporary. We’ll find another place,” Val said. “We’re on the waitlists.”

“Are any of them fucking safe?” I asked.

“You want me to quit,” Val said. I’d supported us while Val attended law school. Hell, I’d paid for law school.

“No,” I said. “Of course not.”

“Then what? You want to quit.”

“I don’t want to quit. No. I don’t.”

Levi looked up at us from the floor. His big blue eyes absorbed everything. He dumped the blocks from his truck and watched for our reactions.


I witnessed the Challenger launch with Bobby Dyer. We got to school early and sat on our desks. Our teacher, Mr. Henson, wheeled in the big TV. We shouted along with the countdown. The shuttle was a toy in the sky for seventy-three seconds, its rockets releasing hot lava before the shuttle vanished into a puff of clouds. There were no exclamations from the broadcasters or the control room. It just happened like this outcome was the normal functioning of the device. Then, in monotone, as smoke trails hung in the air, we heard: Flight controllers looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously, a major malfunction.

“Are they okay?” we asked.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Henson stammered. “We don’t know anything. Not yet.”

They sent us home. We went to Bobby’s and played Bullshit.

“They’ll figure it out,” Bobby told us. “They’ll find the problem and make sure it never happens again.”

A major malfunction. As a verification engineer, I tested computer processors for malfunctions. In fact, I tried to cause malfunctions. The L2 cache (long-term memory) fed the L1 cache (short-term memory) which fed the processor. To test the memory system, I sent signals through and checked their exit. It’s a high-tech game of telephone. You spend the day looking for errors.

At the office, I had two pictures of Levi on my desk. Sometimes I forgot that he was out there in the world. When Levi concentrated with his Duplos, I couldn’t bear his vulnerability. When he was born, someone tore out my heart and put it on legs to stumble through this terrible world.


On the way back from a soccer game in Fox Church, Bobby’s mother stopped at a red light, and an ambulance rear-ended them. They said Bobby was lucky to be alive. We biked past his house where “Get Well” cards choked the mailbox. “It was an accident,” our parents said. “Sometimes, bad things happen to good people.”

The chair cost twenty-five thousand dollars. It engulfed Bobby like a black metal cocoon. Because Bobby could only move his neck, he steered it with his mouth. The word “joystick” sounded inappropriate. Before the crash, Bobby’s parents gave him an Atari, and we gave up ping-pong for Pong. Bobby used to flick the joystick with his palm. Not anymore. On the front porch, Bobby struggled with the oversized straw. Tubing ran from his throat to a unit on the back of the chair.

“Don’t cry,” Bobby said. “It’s my proton pack. I’m a Ghostbuster.”

White Reeboks adorned the footrests. Their laces were missing.

We didn’t know what quadriplegic meant, or ventilator. How did he use the bathroom? How did his parents dress him? He looked like an accessory of the machine, the figure that came with the vehicle. Because he couldn’t feel anything, he didn’t need anesthesia for the operations.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “It looks worse than it is.”

They built a ramp and got a van with a lift for his chair. Bobby’s father worked for the NSA and had insurance, but with all of this, they still went into serious debt.

Bobby watched us play Super Breakout and Missile Command. He shouted advice. We held up comic books and transformed our Transformers.

“That’s bad,” he said.


My manager signed off on me working remotely for two months. Val kept the fridge stocked with snacks. She had low blood sugar, and she got mad at me for eating all her yogurt. I left the banana flavors.

With Levi in the playroom, I worked at the kitchen table. Our back windows overlooked Austin’s hill country. The sun banked off the weathered-steel arch of the 360 Bridge. Pre-Val, I lived in Hyde Park, in an apartment above an old lady’s garage. A green lightbulb decorated the stairs. My Gatsby light, I called it. The whole structure leaned; a beer bottle would roll uninterrupted from one wall to the other. It felt like sleeping in the hold of a ship. But I liked walking the neighborhood at night: the old houses, the stray cats, the white tusk of UT’s tower in the distance. I pet the strays, knowing some would scratch and draw blood.

Mornings with Levi, I drove to our South Austin park. Levi saw kids walking from the parking lot to the playground.

“Boy walk in lot,” he said.

“I know,” I said. “We don’t do that yet.”

Despite myself, I liked watching Levi run. He exhibited such abandon, pulling two invisible ropes. He chugged over sand and grass and turf. He was a climber already, and I could only spot him so high. He studied and emulated the bigger kids, scaling the roofs of playhouses. And despite my warnings, he climbed the slides. Our park had climbing walls and xylophones and forts. Young mothers in yoga pants pushed kids on swings and traded contractor stories. I was the only man present. When a little girl asked me for help with her shoes, I backed away and said, “You need to find your Mommy.”

One morning, Levi slammed his head into a slide. Blood covered his lips and ran down his chin. I held him and checked his front teeth. He screamed, and the mothers turned to watch. I blotted Levi’s mouth.

“It’s okay,” I promised. “It’s not bad.”

He gaped at me in amazement.

When Levi was born, I baby-proofed the house. There are no basements in Texas—something about the rock and soil—so we made a playroom on the first floor, but Levi figured out the locks. He can escape his crib. I jettisoned our wood coffee table and anchored every bookshelf. I latched every cabinet. I padded every 90-degree corner with rubber. “It’ll leave marks,” Val said. But Levi got into everything. I stripped everything off the bookshelf, which he climbed. He had bruises from his falls, from running around the counters, and I worried when I took him to the doctor that they thought I beat him.

His cheeks were so chubby, his hair so fine. He had my sister’s nose. At night, he slept with his bottom raised in the air. I never woke him right away; I wanted to keep this image as long as I could.

In the car, his lip bloodied, I peeled off Levi’s shirt. I strapped him in the car seat and surveyed the lot. The moms here drove hybrid SUVs. A dark blue Chevy sat at the far end. A man occupied the driver’s seat. As I squinted against the sun, the Chevy started its engine, and the car pulled away.


Over the last year, I witnessed Maggie’s decline over Facebook, her posts more disjoined and apocryphal. I flew to D.C. after each arrest. The first time, she attacked a guy on the Metro she thought was following her. The second time, they found her naked walking the Key Bridge. It’s hard to commit someone, and it’s impossible to make someone take her meds. The anxiety and mania that allowed Maggie to achieve in school tore her apart after graduation. “Were there signs growing up?” Val asked me. When we were young, our mother had us paint the fence with water. Maggie took the job so seriously, returning to start again and again when the water dried. At the time, I thought she wanted to distract me from whatever was going on with our parents.

Maggie started homework on Friday afternoons, right after school. “She’s maniacal,” my parents joked. When she left for college, I found drawings: Bobby bloodied on the cross. Maggie called his house all the time, even after what we did. Now, when I got her on the phone, she wasn’t a person anymore but a voice.

Look. You can’t fly out every time someone doesn’t return a phone call. You have a kid, a job, a wife. Maggie didn’t tell me when she was placed on extended leave. And the last time she visited, we found Levi sealed in the car, Maggie sleeping on the couch.

“Never again.” Val chopped the air.

Did Val see how similar she was to my sister? The two had the same crazy drive. They were both on law review. Only Maggie had a bug. Maybe Shira had the same error. At work, the L2 cache was corrupted, which meant I was winning our simulated game. DEADBEEF, a magic debug value, meant buffer overflow or uninitialized variables. With Levi napping, I scoured the internet, searching for Bobby. He wasn’t on social media. I tried Bobby, Bob, Rob. I found an op-ed Robert Dyer wrote at Georgetown arguing for more ramps. So at least he attended college. I imagined a programmer like me. He could do that: work in front of a computer all day, dictating his code. The life expectancy for a ventilator-assisted paraplegic wasn’t high.

In Bobby’s basement, the murderer was the one in control. The detective simply reacted. The best murderer pretended to hide with a partner and then tagged his victim. All the while, the detective was upstairs, on the other side of the door.


Bobby’s parents got him a nurse when he entered junior high: a Hispanic woman in her thirties named Maria. Thirty seemed ancient to us. Maggie was jealous. “The fat bitch,” Maggie called her. Maria even went with Bobby into the bathroom. Sometimes, in class, Bobby’s legs would shake, and the chair’s metal would ring.

“Don’t worry,” Bobby told the teacher. “I’m not nervous about the test.”

The boys liked it when Maria bent over. Not many high school girls had an ass. When Maria attended to Bobby, we shifted in our desk chairs to hide our erections.

“Do you think he gets hard?” John Bobard asked in the locker room.

“He’s paralyzed,” we said.

In junior high, Bobby went by “Bob.” Bob Dyer. We called him “Bobby,” and he corrected us like we’d said a dirty word. Maybe he didn’t want to be a kid anymore. After all, how much could he control? In high school, Bob became Rob. Rob Dyer. He led the debate team, the math team, and the “It’s Academic” team. His parents made the school install ramps. He didn’t want to play Nintendo or D&D with us. He hung out with the cheerleaders and volleyball players—the girls we lusted after under the covers. These girls laughed at his jokes and asked for his help after school. They liked talking to Maria, a grown woman younger than their parents.

We loved Bobby. We hated Rob.

“Those girls,” Maggie said, “they don’t like him. It’s charity work.”

That’s why we started the rumor. We told the boys, and Maggie told the girls: in half a day, the entire school believed that Bobby Dyer had a robotic dick—a metal contraption connected to his chair that Bobby controlled with his chin. Maggie said that Bobby showed her the thing after school, that it expanded from a stub to a full twelve inches. It spun around and vibrated. The teachers couldn’t shut us up. By the end of the day, Bobby was “Robocock.” He was “Robocock” the next day and the day after that, every day until Bobby stopped attending school and finished the year at home. The Seniors left tinfoil-wrapped dildos at his door. The yearbook staff printed “Robocock” under his class photo. It was bad.


On Highway 360, a car cut me off, and I pulled over to steady my breathing. I didn’t know why I was crying. “Miny oh miny,” Levi sung from the car seat. He wore the plastic fire hat from Safety Day. I calculated the weight of the car, the power of the engine.

“It’s alright. It’s okay.”

You have to believe.

The blue Chevy was at the park again. Years ago, those snipers shut down D.C. I’d used some of those gas stations where they’d picked people off. One sniper drove while the other hid with a rifle in the trunk.

“Should I call?” I asked the mothers at the swings.

Levi tugged at my leg while I reached for my phone. “Blue car.” Levi repeated what I said to the dispatcher. Then he ran across the park. His chubby legs scrambled, and I was too scared to yell for him to stop. He pumped his arms, pulling those invisible wires. Then he leapt into the parking lot. Close to the Chevy, I still couldn’t make out the driver. Levi rubbed the front bumper, and I finally scooped him up.

“Never. Do that. Again.”

Levi wailed because I’d yelled at him.

A young man in a suit emerged from the Chevy and presented me a sheaf of papers. I couldn’t hear him over Levi’s screaming, and I couldn’t read the papers with Levi struggling in my arms. The man said something about being served. Shira’s lawyers had subpoenaed me as a character witness. No one from the school would willingly say a good word.

“She’s desperate,” Val said over the phone from Houston.

Maybe Shira knew I’d checked out her ass. Maybe she knew my secrets. Val had a vibrator in her dresser that strapped around my cock. I felt part machine with it on, and it was difficult to cum. On weekends, when Val came home, Shira snuck into our bed. Punish me, the girl said through the gap in her teeth.

“Can I say no?” I asked Val.

“No. You can’t.”

“What can I possibly say? I didn’t even talk to her?”

“Like I said. She’s desperate.”

I’d never had headaches, but now I was getting migraines. It’s a pounding in the temples and nausea. Topamax took away my appetite. At night, I put on an eye mask. That pillow covered my face.


I was up at 3 am when Maggie called.

“Where are you? Are you okay?”

“I figured it all out,” she said. She didn’t sound angry but calm. I tried to imagine the room she was in, if she was sitting or standing, if it was raining there. One afternoon, it rained in our yard but not our neighbor’s, so Maggie and I fled the house to play wiffleball at Bobby’s. He could still walk then. He pretended to knock dirt off his shoes with that plastic yellow bat. Just over his fence, rain pounded gutters.

“Do you say Berensteen or Berenstain?” Maggie said over the phone.

“Like the bears?”

“Berensteen like Springsteen or Berenstain like a stain?”

“Steen. Like Springsteen.”

“Right! But it’s stain. Berenstain.”

She was right. We had the books.

“No one’s name ends in ‘stain’?” she said. “At some point, it all diverged. You took quantum physics. A beam of light splits and creates a parallel world. We’re not where we’re supposed to be. There’s another you. Another me. For every decision, a beam splits and creates a new world.”

“You’re not taking the meds.”

“There’s a world where the things didn’t happen.”

Crazy means so many things. I tell people my sister is “ill,” but “ill” suggests a virus, and Maggie will never recover. “Haunted” is a better word. Maggie carries a passenger who fights her for the wheel.

“I got a call from a hotel last week. In Chicago,” I said. “You had an unpaid bill. What are you doing in Chicago?”

“There’s a million versions of us,” she said.

Levi stirred on the baby monitor.

“Are you still in Chicago?” I asked.

“They don’t want us to know.”

“Fly here. Today.”

“I don’t fly anymore. The radiation.”

“Then I’m coming out. Just tell me where.”

“You shouldn’t fly. Especially not the kid.”

“Levi hasn’t flown yet.”

“I can’t come. Val hates me.”

“She does not.”

“Don’t patronize me. I’m not a kid anymore.”

“I know. You’re not.”

But it was hard to think of Maggie as a woman. I could fly to wherever she was and bring Levi with me. But there was the subpoena. I told Maggie about the preschool. It felt good to talk.

“Maybe we should homeschool,” I said. “All these shootings. The worst bullies ever did to me was spit in my gym locker.”

“Come on,” Maggie said. “You were the bully.”

“Me? I wasn’t even cool.”

“You made fun of me. You wrote that shit in the bathrooms.”

I wanted to protest. Our parents always compared me to her. My teachers, too. “The underperforming little brother.” I tended to think of Maggie, with her condition, as the knot in my string, but maybe I had it backwards.

“I don’t remember that,” I said.

Levi coughed in his room. I worried he’d scale his crib.

“What happened to Bobby Dyer?” I asked.

“He’s a lawyer,” Maggie said. “In Alexandria.”

“A lawyer? He’s alive?”

“A lawyer for the DOJ. Robert Dyer. Look it up.”

Justice made sense.

“I’m sorry for all that,” I said.

“It’s no problem,” Maggie said. “There’s thousands of worlds.”

“I miss you,” I said.

“Why? Are you gone?”

My sister was a missing person who did not miss. Since her breakdown, I’d been on guard, waiting for her to explode. Sometimes, I dreamt of a smooth ascent—Maggie silently vanishing off into space.

“Don’t go. Talk to me.” I told her about my simulations, how I debugged the cache. “Everything is causal—you can trace everything back.”

“So, you fix it,” Maggie said.

“No. I detect it. The designers fix it.”

“The designers.”

“That’s right.”

“Who are they?” she asked.

“They’re another department,” I said.

“Can you talk to them?”

“Sure. Of course.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’ve tried.”

I tried to explain it again. I needed to keep her on the phone.

“How hard is that? To say something’s wrong?” she said.

“It’s more complicated. You have to say exactly what’s wrong and exactly where it is. There’s millions of lines of code.”

“Tilting at windmills,” she said. “You should be building something. Not sitting and waiting for something to happen.”

“This is building something. And you don’t have to wait. There’s always a bug.”

Bobby in his chair. Maggie on the bridge. Me and them both.

“I don’t want to fail,” I said.

“Oh, brother,” Maggie said. “You will. In every world.”

A thud buzzed over the baby monitor. Levi had scaled his crib. I carried the phone to his room. I rocked Levi in my arms and sang to him and gently returned him to his crib. When I picked up the phone, Maggie was gone.


In one of Levi’s books, the Big Bad Wolf builds a bulldozer to raze the house of bricks. What do you do with a constant wolf at the door? Ignore it? Feed it? Maybe you learn to speak Wolf.

The morning after Maggie’s call, I called both the phone company and the police. Maggie had checked out of the Chicago hotel. Her neighbors in D.C. hadn’t seen her in a week.

“It’s a fucked up system,” Val said from Houston. “Take my dad. There’s only so much you can do.”

“Sure. Okay.”

“She’s not the only victim.”

Levi dug in his sandbox. He was naked down to his diaper. The wind teased his hair. A daddy longlegs inched along the deck. Its moves were so deliberate. The spider was venomous but, supposedly, its fangs were too small to puncture the skin. I removed my shoes and slid my bare feet into the sand. Levi laughed and ladled sand over my toes. I kissed his sweaty forehead.

“The police are the best option,” Val said.

“I know. You’re right.”

I hoped Maggie was right. I hoped that, at some point, we’d entered a parallel world. If I had an old yearbook, I’d check for “Robocock” and see if our world had changed. Maybe there was a world where Levi didn’t inherit Maggie’s bug. Or a world where I skipped the deposition, where I didn’t report a faulty memory, where I didn’t say “I don’t recall” to every question.

Levi buried his dump truck in the sand. “Gibi deedbeet,” he said. “Deedbeet.”

“What’s that?”

“Gibi deadbeet.” He got upset when I didn’t understand. I searched his face for signs of my sister.

Deadbeef. He’d been listening to me code.

I was good at my job. I was a lead engineer with a team of programmers. But you couldn’t see, let alone fix, everything. Our design was never wholly solved.

“Meat meat.”

Okay. Levi was hungry. I’d go inside and slice up some grapes and a hot dog. I’d call work and ask for more leave. But I wanted this moment in the sandbox to last. We were building something. It was just so fragile.

A siren blared, and Levi jumped into my arms.

“Help someone,” he said.

“That’s right. There’re going to help someone.”

After Maggie’s call, I found Bobby’s work number. The listing didn’t return a picture, but I could call him. Bobby knew Maggie back when she was good. He knew about justice, how to stay alive. We used to bike and skate on our own, without supervision, far from our houses. How did Bobby do it? I wanted to be good. And I wanted Bobby as my witness.

Maggie lived in each moment, eschewing both the past and the future. If she was right, there was a world where Bobby didn’t get hit by that car, where he and Maggie stood at the altar with me as their best man. But if worlds split, would you feel echoes of your other lives? Would I feel the one where I scooped my son up, sandy legs and all, and tossed him in the car? I could speed to the airport and pick a random city off Departures. I felt it now—Levi fighting my lap as the plane whooshed and banked. I needed more time.

“Tuck tuck gone,” Levi said.

The truck. Either the firetruck or the one he buried in the sand.

“That’s right,” I said. “You did it.”

Levi moved out of my arms and smacked the sand. He laughed like it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. His mood could flip so fast. I envied his earnestness, his single-mindedness, his impassioned imprecision. The daddy longlegs probed the air with his two front legs. Levi attacked the sand with revving sounds, and the spider scurried to the other end of the deck.

“I’m here,” I promised.

In another world, someone fixed Challenger’s O-rings. No major malfunction. No errors at all. In that world, we sat on our desks and cheered. Smoke bloomed and dissipated, and the silver rocket smoothly disappeared into the darkening sky. Mr. Henson wheeled the TV cart away, and we settled back in our seats to diagram sentences: noun, verb, object; this acts on that; this causes that. You could trace it from start to finish.

We walked to Bobby after school, but instead of Bullshit, we played Murder in the Dark. I drew an “M” out of Bobby’s hat. Maggie climbed the stairs and shut off the lights. I hid in the dark with Bobby behind the furnace. The beige carpet prickled our legs. Laundry tumbled in the drier. A zipper clanged against the sides of the machine.

“I wonder who it is,” Bobby whispered.

It was time to tag him. Maggie would soon flick on the lights. But I waited a few moments. Then a few moments more. Let my leg touch his. Let his toes tease the carpet threads. Let his green-brown eyes sparkle in the dark.

“Don’t cry,” Bobby said. “We’re safe.”


Mathew Goldberg’s stories have appeared in The Atlantic, ShenandoahAmerican Short Fiction, and StoryQuarterly, among others. His short story collection placed as a finalist for The Iowa Review Award, and he received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council and a Special Mention for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Missouri with his wife, the writer Kelly Tate, and his son.

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