ZUGZWANG by Benjamin Schachtman


For Emily


AMBER SITS IN HER CAR, finishing her joint. The boys are out back, huddled over a crate with a makeshift chessboard on it. The parking lot is mostly empty, most of the time, but the GM still makes the staff park in the back row, up against the woods. Pathetic, Amber thinks. She puts the roach out in her ashtray. Most cars don’t even have ashtrays anymore. Hers does; it’s old, older than her and barely turning over these last few mornings. She checks her makeup in the visor mirror and then gets out into the windy winter afternoon.

She texts her sister again.

Any news?

No haven’t seen doctors nurses tho but they busy and total bitches

Are you gonna stay tonight?

ur turn

I gotta work. Can you stay?

lol nope

Amber shoves her phone back in her pocketbook, cursing.

As she walks back to the restaurant, she watches the boys. Hud and Cooper, looking bleary eyed and hung-over, wave at her and shout something she can’t catch. Hud is crouched, stroking the arched back of Sloppy, a stray cat that sticks to the woods when it isn’t raiding the dumpster for food. Amber’s never gotten close enough to see if it’s a he or a she. The cat only gets close to the cooks. As Hud scoops the cat up, it digs its little pink nose into his beard. It likes pulled pork, apparently.

Hud sets the cat down and it circles Cooper’s legs twice, but he’s too involved in the chess board, so it scampers out into the woods. Hud makes a gesture with his hand that’s either rolling dice or jerking off. Cooper laughs, picks up his king, and marches it checkers-style across the board, hopping over the pieces. He flicks Hud’s king into the gravel. Hud overturns the board and the two head back inside through the kitchen door.




Amber walks through the front door and the hostess grabs her arm.

“I sat you two at thirty-five.”

Amber glances at the wall clock, at the elderly couple sitting in the empty dining room, and back at the hostess.



Amber shakes her head.

“It’s fine.”

“How’s your mom?”

Amber’s already walking into the kitchen.

“She’s fine. Everything’s fine.”    

The elderly couple each get iced water and spaghetti. Their bill comes to eighteen dollars and fifty two cents with tax. They leave a twenty.




There’s a brief pop in the early evening, right around five thirty when the sun packs it in and the parking lot lights slowly start to flicker on, one by one. Amber’s outside smoking when the GM sticks his head out the door.

  “Amber, your four top sent their entrees back. Can you…go? Talk to them?”

    “They all sent their entrees back? All of them?”

    “Yes. Can you…?”

“Yeah, sure.” 

The GM shakes his head and goes back inside. Amber looks back down at her phone.

Please? I’m not getting out of here until at least 9. Even though its dead.

LOL it’s

Eff you, Rose. Visiting hours stop at 8.

Fukka u 2 sis i got plans gonna get fukkkkked up idgaf

Amber drops her phone into her apron and goes back inside.




In the kitchen, behind the service window, Hud is squeezing limes.

“The hell,” Amber shakes her head, “are you doing with limes?”

“Hudgaritas,” Cooper shouts, pulling a sauté pan from the oven.

“That’s so juvenile,” Amber says.

“I wanted to do Hudjitos,” Hud says, “but I couldn’t find any mint.”

“What happened to table twelve?”

Hud shakes his head.

“They were monsters,” Cooper says, “absolute monsters.”

“Right, sure,” Amber says, “But what happened?”

Hud sips his drink, “ugh, needs orange juice.”

“Not too much,” Cooper says without turning around, “remember the Huddy Walbangers? Not good.”

Amber smacks her hand on the metal rim of the window.

“The hell happened guys?”

Cooper says, “One of them got fra diavlo and bitched that it was too spicy. It’s the fucking devil’s pasta! Fuck them.”

Amber looks at the clock, thinks about her shitty alternator, the dwindling chances of getting out before ten o’clock or clearing a bill for the double she’s worked. Cooper’s pacing now, shaking the pans up and down the line, tasting sauces with his finger, immune to the boiling heat. Hud tastes one.

“Fuck. Salt, Cooper. Fucking smoker’s palate.”

“Hey, focus man. You never fucking focus.”

Hud adds some orange juice to his drink and sips it again with a smile.

“Yeah, there it is.”

Cooper turns to Amber and adds, “oh, and get this, one got the special but it turns out they don’t like grouper. Or walnuts. So walnut-crusted grouper was probably a bad call.”

“Did you burn it?

“Hey, fuck you Amber. I’m good at my job.”

Without warning, Amber is crying, pushing past another waitress, through the double doors, the kitchen, back towards the office, shouting, “Go to hell.”




In the office, Amber checks her phone, curses, tosses it on the desk into a pile of comment cards and invoices. The GM walks by, sees her crying, and doubles his step out towards the kitchen. She can hear him shouting, muffled by kitchen noise at first and then louder as Hud follows him into back room.

“You can’t drink the cooking wine, we have cameras.”

“They don’t stop you from molesting waitstaff.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Amber can hear Hud hesitate.

“Nothing,” he says, “fucking nothing. Whatever.”

“Hud, I mean it. One more signature cocktail, and you’re done.”

“They sell no wine before it’s time.”

“It’s fucking cooking wine. For cooking. I see you drink it, I fire you.”

“Sure, sure. Okay. Sorry.”


“You wanna try one?”


“Hudgaritas. They’re pretty good. Fresh lime.”

The GM sighs.


There’s a quiet pause and the sound of lips smacking.


“Shut  up, Hud. Go back to work. Stop drinking the cooking wine.”

“Tell me it was bad.”


“Go on, say it. Tell me. Say, Hud, that’s a terrible drink.”

The GM laughs quietly.

“It’s not the worst.”

Hud laughs, a strange and slightly strangled pitch.

The GM shuffles off. Hud pokes his head into the office. Amber is sitting at the desk, fixing her mascara in her compact mirror.

“Hey, sorry about Cooper. He didn’t mean you.”

Amber looks at him.


“Bad at your job. He didn’t mean you were bad at your job.”

“It’s fine.”

“And, sorry about your mom. We heard.”

Amber nods.


“How’s she doing?”

Amber starts crying again.

“Jesus,” Hud says, “prognosis negative, huh?”

Amber looks at him.

“What do you want, Hud?”

“I’d like to sail around the world.”

Amber manages a weak laugh. Hud scratches his beard, sighs. Cooper shouts at him from the kitchen. Hud crouches slightly and hands Amber his drink.

“Here. Good for what ails you.”

Hud springs to his feet and bounds into the kitchen. Amber sips the drink. It’s not bad. Fresh lime.




At the hospital, Amber sits in the waiting room, murdering the nurses one by one. She stabs one in the eye with a scalpel, chokes another with her own stethoscope. She make one eat a box of staples and then stuffs her into an MRI machine and cranks it up. The one at the desk, the one who’s been making her wait over an hour now, she gets death by a thousand syringes.

 “Ms. Jones?”

Amber looks up from her chair, shaken from her bloody daydream, and manages:

  “Yeah? Oh, finally.”

  The nurse rolls her eyes and comes around the desk.

  “Visiting hours are over. So   it took some time.”

  Amber looks at her.

  “Well, my mother’s hours are almost over. So, yeah.”

  The nurse’s face stiffens and then goes red.

  “I’m sorry, I am. I –”

  “It’s okay.”

  The nurse has a floorplan chart in her hand but Amber waves it off. She knows the way.




“Hey, mom, sorry I’m late.”

Her mom looks up at Amber, confused at first. The meds, Amber thinks. Her mother’s eyes are more yellow and red than white. Her skin looks like rotting wood. Amber shakes her head and tries not to think about, tries not to breathe in the smell in the room – disinfected shit, recycled air, mortality – and sits by the side of the bed.

    “I got stuck at work.”

Her mom takes a ragged breath and sits up.

“I’m not going to die, you know.”

Amber chokes back a bleating cry, wishing she’d taken a to-go cup of Hud’s drink.

“I know, Mom.”

“No, you don’t.” Her mom struggles up in bed, leaning back against the stack of cheap pillows, “You don’t know. You keep beating the nurses over the head with it. 'My mom is dying, so get off my case.' 'My mom is dying, so I can smoke in the stairwell if I want.'”

Amber smiles.

“Yeah, well, Nicorette is a scam, and smoke breaks are a thing. Shit, you remember.”

“Yeah, the doctors won’t let me forget. Apparently having cancer is my own fault. Shouldn’t have been a waitress, too stressful. Shouldn’t have gotten pregnant so young, shouldn’t have smoked cigarettes. Vectors. My whole life was goddamn vectors.”

“Maybe you can get in on one of those Phillips Morris class action lawsuits.”

“I think that ship has sailed. Plus I have money.”

“Bullshit you have money. What is it, buried in the yard?”

Her mother laughs.

“Remember when you stole my wedding ring and buried it?”

Amber shakes her head.

“We’re not doing this. Memory lane. No.”

“I’m not dying, Amber. Relax. I’m just saying. You were a funny kid.”

“Yeah. I was hilarious. You have money?”

“A little. This,” her mom gestures around, “will take a healthy chunk out of it, but you’ll get a nice little chunk when I die.”

Amber blinks at her.

“Don’t quit your job yet. I’m not dying for a while. Twenty years, at least.”

“I… I don’t know what to say.”

“Well, that’s a shock.”

“When, or I mean, how?”

“Governor Tillsman.”


“About fifteen years ago, he came into the restaurant.”

Her mother looks at her, lips pursed, edging on a grin. Amber opens her mouth slowly, mumbling:

“Oh my god. Oh my good god.”

“We had a nice time. He wasn’t a governor then. Just a lawyer who liked martinis. Among other things.”

“Gross, mom.”

Her mom shrugs, smiling – for the first time in weeks – and laughing.

“Don’t be a prude. Your sister thought it was coooool.”

“You told Rose?”

“She’s less judgmental.”

“She has no judgement. She’s incapable of being judgmental.”


“Mom. You screwed the governor?”



“Okay, yes. And, well, we kind of filmed it.”

Amber puts her head in her hands.

“Mother of the year. Of the century.”

Her mom reaches out and touches Amber’s arm.

“I was a kid.”

“You were a mom. With a kid. With me! Jesus. What, is he Rose’s father?”

Amber’s mom looks bashful.

“Holy shit. He knocked you up, and paid you off.”

Her mom nods.

“How much?”


“Does Rose know?”

“Rose isn’t the brightest.”

Amber sits there quietly, wishing again for a drink, or a cigarette, or all the cigarettes in the greater Carolinas, and then slowly starts laughing.

“I was supposed to have an abortion,” her mother says, “but I looked at you, and – well, you know what a piece of crap your father was, but you were still such a joy, such a beautiful baby girl – and so I couldn’t, I didn’t, and after I had Rose, there wasn’t anything he could do but pay up.”


Her mom shrugs.

“Luck. I picked up that shift on a whim. Could have been your Aunt Lisa.”

Amber nods.

“She’d have a hundred cats. A billion.”

“She would.”

“So, why tell me now?”

“I want you to go back to school.”

“It’s a little tricky.”

“I’ll make it easier.”

“But why now?”

“I wanted to see what you’d do, on your own.”

“You let me dangle?”

“It’s not life-changing money, but it’s enough for school, and to help with bills a little. You could work part-time. I want to see you succeed. To be happy. I know you don’t like help, don’t like to play the game.”

“I don’t.”

But I think sometimes, because of that, you just quit.”

"It’s my best move.”

Her mom exhales sharply, almost a laugh.

“Maybe I could help though. Just a little help. Just a nudge.”

Amber reaches out and takes her mother’s hand, cool and clammy.

“Mom, I couldn’t. You need medicine, this room, doctors.”

   “That’s taken care of, baby. There’s extra. Enough extra.”

“What about Rose?”

“She wants a Camaro.”

“Of course she does.”

“I want my girls to be happy. Rose wants a car. You need a new one, too. That piece of crap you drive won’t last another winter. But – I know, I know – you won’t let me buy you a car. So let me do this. School. What do you say?”   

“I’ll think about it.”

Her mom smiles again.

“That means yes.”

Amber sighs.

“Okay, yes.”

Amber stands up and kisses her mom on forehead, ignoring the sickly sweet smell of her damp skin. 

 “What can I do, to thank you?”

“Stay and watch a movie with me?”

Amber stares at her mom.

“I’m a cheap date. Always was. Come on.”

Amber sits down, picking up the remote. She holds her mother’s hand in one hand, scans the channels with the other.




Amber huddles under the delivery awning with Hud and Cooper, watching as waves of rain sweep across the empty parking lot. Hud rinses out a little metal bowl and puts a handful of pulled pork in it, tucking the bowl under the bushes that fence in the restaurant.

“Looks like brunch is rained out,” Cooper says. “Suck-a-dick Sunday.”

“I’m going to eat so much Lox,” Hud smirks. “I’m going to be cured from the inside out.”

Without looking at her, Cooper says,  “Put in your two weeks, huh?”

“No,” she says, “Just dropping down to part-time.”

“We heard you’re fucking rich,” Hud says.

“You wanna, uh,” Cooper puts his cigarette out, “maybe buy us a restaurant? We’re tired of cooking this clown food.”

“We’re tired of living in Clowntown,” Hud says.

“We're right downtown. Downtown clowntown,” Cooper sighs.

“I’m not rich,” Amber says. “Just enough to maybe go back to school.”

“I recommend Oxford,” Hud says, “very prestigious. Very British.”

Amber puts her cigarette out.

“I think maybe community college.”

Hud flicks his cigarette into the river running through the parking lot. He glances at the food bowl under the bushes and says,  “I hope Slops is okay.”

Amber pictures the cat, sodden and shivering, and feels a pang.

“Where does she go,” she asks, “when it’s shitty like this?”

“Ah, she’s a wild animal,” Cooper says, his voice pure admiration, “a wild fucking animal. She’ll manage. Kill a grown man and burrow into his chest cavity if she had too.”

Hud nods and says:

“Fucking A. Alright, well, let’s go play a quick game before dinner prep.”

Cooper and Hud hustle inside, leaving Amber staring out at the flooded forest behind the parking lot, thinking about the scraggly little cat. She reaches into her apron and takes out her phone.

Why didn’t you tell me about Mom?


About Mom and the Govenor? The Money? Your new car?

lol r u on drugz

Rose, I’m serious.

szrly on drugs

Mom told me


She told you, a while ago. Why didn’t you tell me.



seriously i don’t know wtf u r talking about mom just rambles lol drugs about ridick shit

What? Call me.

yeah the fat cab driver doctor told me itz the meds or something

Rose, call me?

wit tha boy, getting busssssssy

Amber stares at her phone, her head feeling heavy and dull. She calls Rose’s cell but it goes right to the same old message. Rose has never set up her voicemail. She’s text only. It’s impossible to actually talk to her.




Inside, Hud and Cooper have their board set up on the bottom of an overturned stock pot, big enough for Amber to bathe in. Cooper is talking loudly, almost shouting, oblivious to Amber.

“You can’t fucking pass, you have to move, asshole.”

Hud throws his hands up.

“Whoa, whoa. Ease up, Kasparov. I think you were the one who amended the rules to include checkers jumps.”

“That wasn’t a serious game.”

“This isn’t a serious game. There is no such thing as a serious game.”

Cooper stares at him. Hud grins.

“I pass.”

“You can’t pass. You can’t just not think about it and pass.”

“I can. I did. I did think. I’ve been over it. I looked at each piece, each possible option. I can’t move my bishop because then your rook puts me in check. If I move my knight, you’ll take it, and I’ll have to take your bishop to protect my queen, which you’ll take with your knight the following move. My pawns are jammed up, my rook is trapped, and if I capture en passant then your queen puts me in check. So, I’m fucked if I move, if I make any move at all, they all suck, it’s a big bag of dicks. I think there’s actually a word or it.”

“Zugzwang,” Cooper says.

“No,” Hud says, “that’s not a fucking word.”

“Yes, it is. Seriously.”

“No. No way. That’s jibberish.”

“Zugzwang is a word. It’s German. It means you have to fucking move.”

“Well, I don’t want to.”

“Then,” Cooper picks up his King and taps it on the board, “if you concede...”

“No,” Hud says, “I don’t concede. I pass. Chess is supposed to be war, like a metaphor for war, and in war you can wait, wait for the other guy to move, like a counter-puncher. I want you to walk into my punch. So I’m waiting.”

Cooper shouts.

“Goddamnit, just take the game seriously!”

The GM comes out of his office.

“What the hell are you doing? We are open to the public!”

“What public?” Hud looks at the GM, adding, “It’s a monsoon out there.”

“Fuck this,” Cooper tosses the board, sending pieces flying, “I’m tired of you not taking shit seriously. The drinking, the fucking around, this is why we’re here, fucking wasting time, cooking bullshit food for this asshole.”

Cooper storms out of the kitchen, banging pots and pans on his way. The GM stumbles out of the way, looking hurt and mouthing the word ‘asshole’ to himself. Hud looks up, first at the GM, and then at Amber. He sputters at first, and then collects himself.

“He’s just worried about the…it’s nothing. He’s fine.”

Hud kneels down to retrieve a few of the pieces from under the sinks. His eyes are wet.    




As Amber walks up to the counter doctor rounds the corner, a short, balding man, glancing angrily at the nurse.

“Ms. Jones–”

“I know, I know, visiting hours –”

“Nevermind that – there’s something I need to speak with you about.”

“Oh, Jesus, what?”

“Can you come this way?”

He walks down the hall, checking once to see if Amber is following him, and holds open the door to an empty room. Amber pauses, looking the man up and down. He has dark skin and heavy features; he looks passive, unmoved by all the life and death around him in this building. Amber shrugs and walks into the room.

“I’m Dr.   Patel,” he says, not offering his hand, “I’m your mother’s attending.”

“Okay. What’s this?”

“I didn’t know you’d be coming. I was hoping to catch you tomorrow, to explain…”

“Explain what?”

“Your mother’s symptoms.”


“Confabulation, mainly. Your sister mentioned it, offhand, and we had one of our staff psychologists run some tests. Basically, she’s experiencing some pretty severe long-term memory loss, in part from the medications she’s on, but also from the cancer itself. She’s – well, it seems she’s not even aware she’s doing it – she’s inventing. Things, events, people, to sort of fill in the gaps.”

Amber stares at the doctor. He looks like he’s half-heartedly selling her a shitty stereo. Slowly, his monotone words sink in, taking shape and meaning.

“She doesn’t,” she says finally, “she doesn’t have money for treatment?”

“She has some insurance, but it doesn’t cover everything, and we’ll need to discuss that, as well.”

“Discuss what?”

“Well, at a certain point, our options are limited…by finances.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“There are options, medical loans, payments plans, we have a staff of advisors…they can, assist, that kind of thing.”

“Okay, well. Thanks.”

The doctor looks anxious, awkwardly glancing at the door, and Amber feels a perverse glee in causing him discomfort.

“Didn’t have an exit strategy, did you?”

The doctor looks down at his clipboard, fiddling with his pen for far too long, then finally looks back up at her.

“Well, if there’s nothing else, I have my rounds.”

“Yeah, sure,” Amber says, “me too.”




Amber listens to three rings before she remembers, curses, and tosses her phone at her bed. It bounces off a pillow and smacks against the nightstand, cracking the screen.


Amber picks up her phone, feeling the jagged fissures over the screen. Trying to text gingerly while in a fit of rage is not easy. It literally hurts to talk to her sister, Amber thinks.

Why the hell didn’t you tell me?

There’s no response.

Seriously. You couldn’t have told me?

u didn’t tell me when she got sick

Not fair. I didn’t want to worry you.

well ditto

Not cool. I thought she had money. I dropped down to part time.

dumb lol when have we ever been lucky

Goddamn Rose.

im 2 sbr 4 this need a ride to the ABC store

Amber stares at her phone, her fingers aching.

da struggle is for realzzzzz

Amber nearly throws her phone again but this time just squeezes it tightly, listening to something crystalline crunch and break inside it. After a moment, her phone buzzes again.

sorry sis i am

Amber’s head goes numb and quiet.

seriously i am

It’s okay, nevermind, forget it.

no i fucked up im sorry i can try to get you some shifts with me

No. We’ll kill each other.


It’s okay. Really. Call me later?

wut r u amish now?

Call me later. Please?


Thank you. I love you.

lol love you too l8r bitch

Amber sets her phone down for a minute. She can’t even think of which drug would be appropriate for a time like this. All of them, maybe. She picks the phone up again and calls the restaurant’s office line. The GM picks up.

“De Nico’s, this is Seth.”

“Hey, it’s Amber.”

“Hey, what’s up, did you not get your cash out?”

“No, no. I did. I just wanted to know, if it’s possible, could I go back on full time?”

    The GM groans.

“I just did the schedule again. You said –”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry. I made a mistake.”

“Jesus, Amber. I’ve already got spots filled.”

“I know, I know. Next week?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. I can’t just, move everything around. I don’t know. Maybe some closing shifts.”

Amber’s throat goes dry and tight. It hasn’t been long enough since her last closing shift with the GM. Cameras or no cameras, it hasn’t been nearly long enough at all. And it isn’t nearly long enough until rent is due.

“I don’t know, Seth.”

“Aw, come on. Might be nice?”

“Yeah. Nice. Maybe.”

“Come by tomorrow night, we’ll take a look at the schedule.”

“I’m off tomorrow.”

“Well, if you don’t –”

“No, no. I’ll drop by.”




As Amber pulls into the parking lot, she sees them – Hud and Cooper – standing next to the dumpster. Hud is holding something tight to his chest, a bundle of tablecloth, and Cooper is digging into the ground between two shrubs. As she gets out of her car, Cooper stops, the shovel driven into the ground, and Hud hands him the bundle, gently. Cooper takes it and steps back a few steps. Hud takes the shovel and starts digging. Cooper leans forward, pushes his scraggly beard against the bundle in his arms, as if whispering to a swaddling infant. His shoulders tremble visibly.

Amber knows what has happened, and she wants to walk over to them, to say something, to comfort them   somehow. But she also knows it is their private grief and not hers, as her grief is private and not theirs. There is nothing to say, nothing to do; not here, not this time. It starts to rain, a fine cold mist. She turns away and heads inside.

  The GM looks up from his desk.

“You look nice.”

Amber shrugs.  “Going out later.”

“Oh yeah, where? I could meet up.”

Amber shrugs. “I’ll text you.”

The GM smiles.

“Why don’t you close the door?”

Amber glances out into the back room. The kitchen is quiet. Most of the waitstaff have left, or are having a quick drink at the bar up front. Amber closes the door.

“It’s been a while,” the GM says, “too long.”

Amber sits on the edge of his desk, her skirt riding up, and stalls,    “What’s up with Hud and Cooper?”

The GM laughs.

“Oh, that. Their pet cat died. They’re pretending to be all broke up about it.”    

“I don’t know about that.”

“Oh no, you should have seen them. Cooper sang ‘the pipes are calling,’ brogue and everything. Hud make a cross from pieces of broken bar stools.”

“I don’t think they’re joking.”

“Everything is a joke to them. But, forget about that.”

The GM reaches up, touches Amber’s shin lightly, traces the bone in her leg up to the knee.

“What,” he says slowly, “do you think about coming back on all nights. Like the good old days?”

Amber shivers.

“I don’t know Seth.”    

“Come on,” the GM leans forwards, kissing Amber’s leg just below the knee. The GM’s not ugly.  In fact, he’s attractive. About as attractive as prostitution is ugly, she thinks. But there’s her mom, and school, and her car. The horizon, slipping away, as if she’d slept through dawn and now has   only sunset to look forward to.




The GM sees her to the back door.

“So you’ll text me?”

Amber nods, fixing her skirt.


As Amber turns, laying her hand on the door knob, the door is wrenched out of her hands. Hud and Cooper are standing there, soaking wet. Cooper says,  “So, thanks for letting –”

Cooper stops and looks at the two of them, the smudge of makeup, the loose collar, and he laughs, like a loud animal bark. Hud says nothing. He just pushes past Cooper and Amber and punches the GM in the face, twice, two sharp blows that leave him holding his face and cursing. The GM has six inches and fifty pounds on Hud and when he strikes back Amber swears she can hear Hud’s ribs snapping. The GM punches Hud in the stomach, the side, and the back, holding him with one arm and hammering him with the other. But Hud doesn’t stop, shoving the GM against the wall, punches flailing wildly, some hitting the wall, some striking flesh, some catching nothing but air. Still, it’s enough to overwhelm the GM, who drops to the ground covering his head with one hand and holding a broken nose with the other hand, blood trickling between his fingers.

Hud stands over him, breathing heavily. He spits blood and says,  “I’m putting in my two weeks.”

The GM looks up at him, managing to mumble,  “You’re fired.”

Cooper walks up to Hud, resting one hand on his shoulder, smiling faintly.

“You can’t fire him, he quit.”

The GM glares at Cooper, who adds,  “I quit, too.”

The GM turns to look Amber. She shakes her head. Cooper holds Hud by the side and helps him back outside into the rain. Amber watches them go, then turns slightly to the GM. He’s sitting on the floor now, still holding his nose.

“You quit too, I suppose.”

“It’s my best move,” Amber says, walking after Hud and Cooper, pulling the door shut behind her.

Ben Schachtman

BENJAMIN SCHACTMAN is an ex-patriot of New York City, currently hiding out in an anonymous town on the Carolina coast. He's an instructor at the Eckleburg Review Workshops , and his work has appeared in print in Anobium, The Conium Review, Dig  Boston, Confingo (UK), and the Bad Version, and online at Slush Pile Magazine, Sixfold, Pif Magazine, and others.

Visit him at BenjaminSchachtman.com.

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