Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Ghost City Review, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk Fiction, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Lotus-eater, Crêpe & Penn, Levitate, Door Is A Jar, and Yellow Medicine Review. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Sierra to the Extreme!
Sierra liked to eat ice cream during blizzards. She’d make snow angels and draw funny faces on them.
In the Spring, she liked to bask in the grass for hours and hours, as if the insects were her friends. She’d talk to trees and will rainbows into the sky.
In the Summer, she’d run to the edges of town and party until the morning sun greeted the horizon.
In the Fall, she’d dance through whirlwinds of leaves, watch horror films on rainy nights, and read scary stories in the dark.
When the worst Spring came, the doctors found something growing inside of her body. Sierra thought it looked like a tulip.
When the worst Summer came, Sierra couldn’t spend much time outside, and she could only dream of being in a different place.
When the worst Fall came, Sierra lost all of her hair. She dressed up in a different Halloween costume every single day of the month. And the next month, too.
During that last Winter, Sierra went into the hospital and never came home. The weight of silence was strong enough to shatter mountains.
Every time I see a snowflake, I think of her. Every time a flower blooms, I think of her. Every time the heat swelters, I think of her. Every time a leaf falls, I think of her.
My name is Stella and I miss my twin sister so goddamn much.
Claudia and Mark stand bewildered in the refrigerator section of the local market, gazing at the vast varieties of milk.
“There’s so many to choose from,” says Claudia.
“Let’s just get the regular one,” says Mark.
“What does regular even mean anymore?”
“The 2% one. That’s what I always had as a kid.”
“Joaquin Phoenix says that it hurts the cows.”
“The cows? You’re not even a vegetarian.”
“That doesn't mean I can’t still be concerned about the cows!”
Claudia opens the refrigerator door and reaches for a carton of Almond Milk. “What about this?” she asks.
“I read an article about how Almond Milk is bad for the environment,” answers Mark.
“Really? I think we should be safe with Soy Milk then.”
“No way!” exclaims Mark. “Remember when Soy Milk gave me the bubble guts at your sister’s holiday party?”
“I guess I tried to wipe that out of memory.”
“I certainly tried to wipe it out of my butt.”
Claudia rolls her eyes. “What about Oat Milk?”
“I thought you said you cared about the animals!”
“I said Oat Milk, not Goat Milk!”
“Fine. Let’s just get it.”
Mark grabs the Oat Milk and the two walk toward the cashier with an equal sense of relief and frustration.
“Hello,” says the cashier. “Do you need a bag?”
Mark says sure, Claudia says no thanks. At. The. Same. Time.
Claudia peers at Mark from the corner of her eye and mutters. “Why do we need a bag? It’s just one carton of milk. The milk is being stored in the carton. It has its own carrying method.”
“But my hand will get cold,” says Mark.
“I’ll carry it then.”
“What if it falls off the seat in the car on the way home and gets all dirty?”
The cashier adjusts her glasses and glances up at the clock. She has the I can’t wait until my shift is over look on her face.
“Fine,” says Claudia. “We’ll take a small bag.”
“Paper or plastic?” asks the cashier.
“Plastic,” says Mark.
Claudia scoffs. “You should know that plastic is bad for the environment. Weren’t you just claiming to be an expert?”
“You said a small bag. The paper ones are big.”
A disgruntled line of people begins to build behind Claudia and Mark.
“At least we can recycle the paper bag,” says Claudia.
“You’re right,” says Mark. “I don’t want to accidentally recreate an American Beauty scene with the plastic bag. I hate that film.”
“I like that film.”
“I could never watch it again because Kevin Spacey is in it.”
“Good point. But does that mean the whole film is bad now? A lot of other people probably worked very hard on it.”
“It’s bad whether Kevin Spacey is in it or not.”
Just then, a voice from the back shouts “Hurry up!”
“Paper is fine,” says Claudia.
The cashier hands them their paper bag and they exit the store. Applause bursts out from the line of people behind them.
Claudia and Mark drive home as “Sail Away” by Enya plays on the radio. The bag of milk rests snuggly in the back seat.
Mark clears his throat. “All I’m saying is that if milk is all we argue about, then I think we have this marriage thing in the bag.” Claudia smirks as they pull up to their townhouse.
“Let’s hope so,” says Claudia.
The two get out of the car, head inside, and hang their coats on the coat rack. “Oh shit,” says Claudia. “We left the milk in the car.”
Mark sighs. “I’ll go get it.”
“No,” says Claudia. “I can do it.”
“Ya’ know,” says Mark. “From now on, we should just play Rock, Paper, Scissors in these types of situations. It would be much more efficient and we’d avoid all these petty conflicts.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to flip a coin?” asks Claudia.