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Flint and Shannon

Flint and Shannon

by Beth Goldner



Flint posted a flyer in the student union building at Penn. Ride share to Gaffney, South Carolina. Leaving May 11th. You’ll be on the back of a Harley. No gas money wanted, but you pay for your own hotel room. Flint was going to see his brother Keith, who lived in a facility for the mentally handicapped. Flint was frightened by this prospect: he was forty-two years old and had never met Keith before. By taking a passenger, he couldn’t chicken out once the ride began. He’d feel too accountable to get a stranger to a promised destination. If he took a friend, he knew he’d be able to turn the bike around with no sense of guilt or any real consequence.

Flint was hoping a guy would respond to the flyer, but Shannon was the only person who called. The problems began immediately. When he arrived at her dorm, she was wearing shorts and a tank top. He told her she needed to change into jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. She balked. If you crash the bike we’re screwed anyway, right? Why worry about road burns if I wind up brain dead?

Her limbs were spindly sticks and she wore her long hair in a ponytail, the top layers dyed red as a fire engine and the underside black. Her green eyes were those of an antique doll, focused in that unnerving way that makes you feel like your mind is being read. She had a full mouth and rakish smile, with a voice that was scratchy and entirely too loud. He was relieved she would be behind him. He couldn’t have kept his eyes off her otherwise. This was not sexual. She simply baffled him.

Two hours into the ride, as they crossed the Mason-Dixon line into Maryland, she yelled into his ear that when they got to Virginia, they should get off I-95 and drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Talking while riding on a motorcycle bordered on impossible, but through the years, Flint and his friends and girlfriends had learned to adjust the volume of their voices to accommodate for wind and speed. Shannon was countless miles away from figuring this out. He couldn’t blame her. But, still, this girl isn’t what I bargained for, he thought.

“I want to see some bears!” Shannon shouted into his ear.

“No need to yell. I can hear you just fine.”

“Sorry!” she yelled.

“No need to apologize. But you are still yelling.”

Shannon kept readjusting herself, trying to find a comfortable position. It was the one thing about her that didn’t bother Flint. Even though he was fat, he had a perfect center of gravity, and her shaking-about posed no risk for his losing balance on the bike. He danced ballet as a boy, during his single episode in the foster care system, when he lived for nine months with the Delvecchio’s, an affluent family in Spartanburg.

Shannon gave him a quick tight squeeze on the shoulders.

“Please,” she said, her voice coming down several decibels. “Can we look for some bears?”

Flint thought about Keith, how he wasn’t going anywhere. Maybe he wore a diaper. Maybe he didn’t feed himself. Flint didn’t know if he would see any resemblance, if he would see his own mouth or nose in Keith, if he would see his mother’s brow, or her eyes. Flint had never even seen a picture of Keith. He didn’t even know Keith’s middle name, and Flint became overwhelmed at how quickly his bike was taking him not just to Keith, but to the minutia of kinship that takes decades to accumulate. Flint was only going in the first place because his mother had died three weeks ago. And even though he hadn’t spoken to his mother in years, he was compelled to at least see what remained of his mutual flesh and blood. Indifference frightened him more than the anger and fear surrounding the situation.

Flint nodded his head up and down with exaggeration, ensuring Shannon understood he agreed to her request.

“Oh, Flint, I want to see the whole world. Even just some mountains and bears are part of it. The whole wide world,” she said, whooping, and he could feel her raising her arms upward.



Taking Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park proved to be more challenging than he expected. Flint hadn’t driven mountain roads in years, and the inclines and declines made him nauseous. The yellow dividing lines were new, and their brightness hypnotized him as the road snaked. He took the bike slowly around curves.

“I’m gonna pray for some bears,” Shannon had said when they stopped at their first lookout, which was a half-circle of stones stacked waist high. The mountains looked like the shoulders of Roman gods, pushed up against each other, clouds casting shadows on them.

“Prayer is pretty useless,” Flint said.

“Don’t ever say that,” Shannon said, smacking him on the shoulder. “You probably need God more than me.”

“What are you talking about?” he said, louder than he meant.

“You had it hard. I can tell. I’m sensitive to this.”

Who the fuck does this girl think she is? he thought.

“I went to India for a semester abroad,” she continued, “and we had to do service on the streets of New Delhi. I know what hardship is. I mean, I know what it looks like, even just in a person’s face, you know? I saw street kids. They do horrible things to them, like cut off their arms to make them look pathetic, so that people will give them money.”

Flint stared ahead.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I think I might have sounded like an asshole, telling you what hardship is. I didn’t mean to be like that.”

“I know, Shannon.”

“But I do know what poor people look like, what people who had it hard look like.”

Flint loved her in that moment, for her youth, for being so annoying but too alive to dismiss. Moments after they were back on the road from the third lookout, Shannon gripped Flint’s shoulders.

“Holy mother-fucking fucker. Would you look over there?” Shannon hollered.

They were on a long stretch of road that was flat. In the distance, a football field’s length away, was a large black figure. A bear, without a doubt. He was big, lumbering, and closer to the shoulder of the road than Flint expected a bear to be. Shannon couldn’t contain herself, and she shifted and pointed and hollered. Flint slowed down.

“Pull over, pull over. Stop, stop, stop. Now, now,” Shannon said, smacking her hands on her thighs.

He couldn’t remember if it was a black or brown bear that was more dangerous.

“Look at that motherfucker!” she yelled, this time in his ears.

“Just shut the fuck up, already!” Flint yelled back.

He felt her body slump behind him and he filled with shame. He never yelled at a woman before like that, certainly not a girl he had known for less than one day. He saw the bear look up at them. The bike wobbled as he came to a stop on the other side of the road, putting down the kickstand.

Plié, relevé. Plié, relevé, he thought, an old ballet call he repeated in his mind when he needed the world around him to be quiet.

“I’m sorry,” he said to her, turning around several times and repeating his apology, but keeping an eye on the bear, which was about eighty yards away now.

“Yeah, okay,” she said, looking at her hands. “I know. I’m loud. Everybody tells me that. I’m trying to outgrow it.”

Flint knew that any more apologies would make everything worse.

“He’s bigger than I thought a bear would be,” he said.

“Can we get closer?” Shannon asked.

“Looks like he’s beating us to the punch,” Flint said.

The bear kept walking toward them, and Flint thought how odd it was that, even at a distance, the bear’s eyes looked like those of his foster mom, fixed and determined, convincing Flint he would be loved. They watched the bear in silence. The bear raised his snout and sniffed, closing in on the fifty-yard line.

“Let’s go, Shannon,” he finally said.

“Relax. These bears are people habituated. I’ve read about it. They don’t see me as any different from them,” she said.

The bear stopped, shook his whole body like a dog, all the while keeping his eyes on them. Flint turned the bike on, and revved the engine. Shannon pushed her nose into his back, laughing to herself and, saying loud enough for him to hear, but not too loud, “Yes, yes, yes, I saw a bear.”

Flint accelerated too quickly, and the bike leaned too far to the left. He thought, We’re going down and I never met Keith and this bear will eat Shannon. But Shannon wrapped her arms around his large belly, and, as if by instinct, leaned her body far to the right for counterbalance, waiting for that sweet spot when it was time to bring herself up again.



They were eating hamburgers at a Stuckey’s rest stop in Lumberton, North Carolina. They had spent the previous evening in a Best Western in Roanoke Rapids. They shared a room. Shannon had enough money for her own room, but she was afraid to sleep alone. The door opens to the outside, she said. Some lunatic robber wouldn’t even have to get past a lobby. She cranked up the air conditioner and walked around in flannel pajamas, telling Flint that she studied Japanese her first year of college because it was becoming the language of business, but that she wanted to be a Marxist now, so she was switching to German. He didn’t know what it meant to be a Marxist and what knowing how to speak German had to do with it, so he just nodded his head. Flint wouldn’t use the cot stored under the bed. He claimed he had a bad back, that it was better for him to sleep on the floor. In reality, he was embarrassed by the thought of how loud the cot would squeak as he tossed and turned before sinking into sleep. He stayed fully clothed, not even removing his belt, which gouged into his belly. He barely slept. The thin carpet of the floor smelled moldy and Shannon’s snoring was as loud and grating as her voice.

When they left Roanoke Rapids, Shannon didn’t complain once about needing to pee, or the way the vibration of the bike can make your brain shake after a few hours. She didn’t complain about the exhaust fumes or chapped lips. But once they were off the bike, she didn’t shut up, about anything and everything.

“That was pretty close with the bear,” she said. “Would have sucked if you made us spill. Kerplat, or, more like ker-splat.”

She was eating her burger so quickly that Flint worried she’d choke. She pushed her plate toward him, told him that she hated fries, that he could have them.

“But, you were going ultra-slow, so we’d probably only break a few bones, a shoulder or some ribs,” she said. “I broke my wrist once, when I was five.”

“How’d that happen?”

“I was learning to ride a bike.”

“No center of gravity?” he said.

“Nope. Afterward, my mom started me on ballet lessons to see if I could become less of a klutz. I still remember it all.”

She got out of the booth, circled her arms in front of her as if she were late in pregnancy. She bent down with her knees, rose back up onto her toes, teetering, up and down, over and over. Some teenage boys sitting at a booth across from them laughed at her. She turned to them and asked them what was so funny. Their faces froze and Flint laughed at all of them.

“Punks,” she said, smiling at Flint.

She continued the movements, her body swaying.

“Lessons didn’t help that much, obviously,” she said, sitting down.

“Plié, relevé. Plié, relevé,” he said, mimicking a French accent.

“Well, holy fuck-a-moly, Batman. You know French?”

“Nope. But I took ballet for a while.”

“Seriously? You’re a dude.”

“I was just a kid at the time.”

His foster mom had insisted he try ballet. He had hated the clarinet and the trombone. You need to be grounded, Marcus, in something, she said. He fell in love with ballet, the deliberation of it, holding the barre, staring into the mirror and seeing himself as a fluid but positioned person. But then his mom went to rehab, and eventually got her act together enough for the government to give him back to her. When social services took him from Mrs. Delvecchio’s—she howled like a wounded animal—all he could think of was his ballet tights that he left there, and if he would ever again feel the world in equal weight and measure. Things with his mom had remained bad, but never bad enough to land him back in foster care. He graduated high school, moved to Philadelphia, became a garbage collector, married, had three boys, and divorced.

“I don’t believe you, Flint. Let me see your moves.”

He reddened.

“I don’t think I have moves anymore.”

He put his fork down and motioned for the waitress. He needed more coffee. He hadn’t rode for this long of a trip in years, and the degree of fatigue frightened him.

“Come on. Be bold! My professor who was in New Delhi with us said that every single thing you do that makes you uncomfortable is seeing the world. We’re seeing the world together.”

“Not exactly.”

“Well, you can be that way if you want,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I know that I’m seeing the world. ”

Flint was dropping her off in Rock Hill, South Carolina, before he headed west to Gaffney, just an hour’s drive, to his brother. Just thinking about the very word brother made him pause.

“Rock Hill, South Carolina, is not exactly the world,” Flint said. “What mind-blowing things will you see there?”

They had been together for a day and a half and he had yet to ask her why she was going to Rock Hill. It seemed the most obvious type of conversation to have, but Shannon found no interest in the obvious, and he was just as comfortable not explaining why he was going to Gaffney. Shannon was interested in the details of him hauling trash, if he ever saw a coworker fall into the compactor, who his favorite bands were, how often he would see his sons.

“I’m going to see my ex-boyfriend, Keith,” she said. “Seeing him is sort of like seeing the world. He’s from Bahrain. His real name is Hameed. His parents wanted to Americanize him and called him Keith when they moved here, when he was just a kid. But then he really Americanized himself, with me. Then they didn’t want him to be so American,” she laughed, her strange cackle piercing his ears.

“So, he broke up with me,” she said. “But I can’t just let him go. Not yet.”

“Does he know you’re coming?”

“No. I’m going to surprise him.”

Shannon was the dumbest smartest person he had ever met, but he knew she would only be this way once, for a short while. She would outgrow the dumb and settle on the smart. He believed that things can happen only once, things people think of as being patterns. Time in a foster home. Being stupid.

“My brother’s name is Keith. I’m going to see him,” Flint said, feeling an odd sense of pride.

“So, we’re both going to see Keith.”

“What’s your brother do?” Shannon asked, slurping her milkshake then gently wiping the corners of her mouth, folding the napkin back onto her lap.



“I guess you could say that. What does your ex-boyfriend do?”



“I guess you could say that,” she said. “He didn’t like college very much. He’s trying to find himself.”

She stacked their empty plates on top of each other, removing the dirty knives and forks first, putting them on a napkin. The din of the crowded restaurant had a similar effect as being on the bike, but Shannon’s voice seemed less loud.

“I’m not being creepy or trying to get into your pants,” Flint said, “but you’re a pretty girl, and smart. Seems like you wouldn’t have much trouble getting a new boyfriend.”

“Thanks, you know, for saying that. It’s like I know that, like I know he’s kind of a loser. He grows pot in his closet. But I just want to see him one more time. I think that seeing him will make me not want to see him anymore, you know?”



Three hours later, they arrived in Rock Hill. Flint exited I-95 and pulled into Flying J’s Travel Stop, where Shannon said that he should drop her off. Flying J’s was the size of a strip mall, with Rosie’s Family Restaurant, a gargantuan convenience store, and row after row of gas pumps. Flint pulled up to one, and they dismounted the bike. His ass was numb and his hands tingled. He shook them over and over. Several payphones were lined up outside the convenience store, and Shannon walked over to call Hameed to announce her arrival. Flint wondered if he should call the facility in Gaffney where Keith was, just to tell them he was coming. Flint filled the tank and watched Shannon at the phone booth. He gripped the handle of the hose tighter as she kept dialing, waiting, hanging up. She did this for several minutes then walked back to him. She told Flint that he was probably at the mall, that she was probably going to only stay a few days with Hameed, that he would buy her a plane ticket home, that it was all going to work out so perfectly.

“Let’s get a goodbye beer,” she said. “I’ve got some time before he gets home. It’s not like you and I are going to see each other again.”

“That’s fine.” Flint said. “But, I’m buying. And I’m sticking around until this ex-boyfriend of yours comes to get you.”

Flint kept shaking his hands.

“How very gentlemanly of you. But stop flapping your hands like a retard.”

Flint’s eyes filled, scaring him, how this response was so sudden. Shannon leaned her hand on the bike and looked confused.

Flint had once asked his mother if she drank so much because his brother was a retard. They were in the car together, and Flint was sitting in the back. He had just spent the day with his cousins while his mom was visiting Keith. Flint couldn’t understand why his mother would not let him meet his own brother. Flint’s mom shifted her entire body around, except for her head, and her left hand, which stayed on the steering wheel. With her eyes fixed on the road, she heaved most of her body over the seat and punched him so hard on the shoulder that the bruise ached for weeks. She was stone sober, and she never hit him again.

“My brother’s retarded,” Flint said.

“Oh,” Shannon said, nodding her head up and down. “Oh, I see. Well, what’s it like to spend time with somebody who is retarded? I wonder if it’s like spending time with street children in India, you know? Like do they even know how much better things could be?”

Flint was relieved that she didn’t apologize.

“I don’t know. This is the first time I’m ever going to meet him. I never met him before.”

“That’s weird. You never met him? Are you scared?”


She drummed the base of the gas pump, staring at the gasoline stains on the ground.

“You know, Flint, I hate college,” she said, stopping her drumming and crossing her arms across her chest. “Except when I went to India, but I hate college so much that it scares me every day. I know about being petrified.”

“You’ve got everything,” he said, hoping to cut the edge of bitterness that he couldn’t control.

It’s not her fault, he told himself. None of this.

“I know. I have opportunity. Blah, blah, blah. I really do know I have it good. But I want to see the world. College really isn’t the world.”

“Finish school. The world isn’t going anywhere.”

A pack of Harleys pulled up behind Flint and he nodded at them as they dismounted.

“Well, I’m trying to see the world no matter where I am. Its why I came here on the back of bike instead of taking a plane.”

Flint shrugged and started shaking his hands again.

“You scared or something?” Shannon said.

“Of what?”

“Of seeing your brother?”

“Why would I be frightened of my brother?” Flint said, feeling saliva build in his mouth.

“Well, you’ve never met him, and he’s retarded, so that’s like a double whammy. Plus, he’s not technically your brother. Yeah, you’re related to him. But he isn’t your brother in the brotherly way.”

“I guess,” Flint said, staring at the bikers filling their tanks, a few of them smoking cigarettes, ignoring the signs not to.

“It’ll be okay,” Shannon continued. “If you only knew how frightened I was in New Delhi at first, seeing those street people.”

“What did you do about it?”

“I just held my breath for the first few days. I couldn’t even talk.”

“I can’t imagine that.”

They both laughed.

“But then it started to be okay. And after a few weeks, it became normal. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing, for something like that to become normal to a person. But you can’t help anybody or anything if it doesn’t become normal, you know?”

After the other bikers filled their tanks, they walked over to Flint and Shannon, talked about the rains heading down from the north, what bike dealer Flint had in Philly. Shannon told them she was Flint’s daughter. When they left, Shannon put her hand on Flint’s shoulder.

“Do you want me to go with you to see Keith?” she asked.

“Yes,” Flint said, and it came out so fast, and he didn’t know how he could take it back as quickly as he had said it.

“Well, no, actually,” he said. “My problems aren’t yours, Shannon.”

“Well, that makes no sense. Because your going to see Keith isn’t a problem. And it isn’t a problem for me to go with you.”

Flint couldn’t look at her in the eye.

“What about your Keith?” he asked.

“You can drive me back here when you’re done. He’s not going anywhere.”

Although only a few hundred yards from the gas pumps, Shannon hopped on the back of the bike when Flint drove into a parking space in front of Rosie’s Family Restaurant. Shannon ordered an egg-white omelet with three side orders of bacon and a glass of skim milk. He offered to buy her a beer, but when he said he wasn’t going to drink one, not with her getting back on the bike with him, she declined. When they finished, Shannon suggested they drive by Hameed’s house on their way out of town, just to see if anybody’s car was in the driveway, that she’d gone to his house for Thanksgiving and knew where they lived. Flint wanted to say No, but he stopped himself and thought, Dear God, I’m a grown man and she is a just a girl, and she is supposed to be obsessing about a boy she loves, even if he’ll crush her.

Hameed lived in a leafy neighborhood that boasted plantation-style homes with sprawling yards. His house had a balcony on the top two stories, big white columns supporting each roof. Flint parked on the street a few houses down from Hameed’s.

Shannon dismounted, leaving on her helmet, walking a few paces from the bike, arms at her sides. She looked like an astronaut, lonely for Earth. Flint got off the bike and walked up to her. He left his helmet on, too, hyperaware of his breathing, trying to control it. He imagined Hameed as another bear that Shannon wanted to see with desperation, to claim ownership, a victory.

“I wonder if he’s in there,” Shannon said, finally removing her helmet, Flint following in kind.

“You could go knock on the door.”

“I’m just going to stand here. I think he’ll sense that I’m here,” she said, staring at the house. “He’ll still have to wait for me, even if he comes out, because I’m still going with you to see your brother. It would be good for him to wait, don’t you think?”

“Do you think it’ll make that much of a difference?”

“What are you trying to say?”

Flint could see out of the corner of his eye a tear falling down her face. He wondered what it was like to raise a daughter, if saying these types of things caused a girl to feel anger or panic or relief.

“Anything’s possible,” Flint said, and he reached for her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.



Flint knew not to rush her. They left Hameed’s neighborhood, and drove through Rock Hill until they found a miniature golf course. This place is the kind of place that Keith would go to, Shannon said, looking over her shoulders several times, and by the fifth hole she announced that she was bored and hungry again. They rode to a Denny’s, and Shannon made the waitress seat them in the back of the restaurant, in a booth that faced the door. Like a mobster, she said to him. Gotta know everybody whose coming in and out. She ordered two sundaes and ate them slowly, saying little to Flint. When she finished the second sundae, she belched loudly, sighed deeply, and asked if they could go to the mall. I need some new lipstick, she told him. When Flint pointed out a pharmacy across the street, she said they could check both places, that maybe she could get two tubes. In the pharmacy, she bought four tubes—pink, red, brown, and nude—and then asked the cashier for directions to the mall.

Flint hated malls, the lighting, the lack of carpet to absorb the sounds. He always felt silly at malls, surrounded by focused mothers and young people weighed down with bags of every imaginable purchase, clothes and perfume and watches and handbags. He felt self-conscious, as if there were nothing at all for a big man like him would need to buy. They walked both floors, bypassing the department stores. Flint didn’t offer to go into any of the shops, nor did Shannon lead him into any. They repeated their path three times. Shannon finally sat them down on a bench next to two fake trees, facing a sporting goods store. Large signs announced a season finale sale.

“We’re gonna need to get on the road soon. I don’t really like driving in the dark,” Flint said.

“You never see guys alone at the mall much, do you?” she asked, as if he hadn’t spoken. “They’ll come with their wives. Or their girlfriends.”

“I suppose,” he said.

“When Hameed was still at Penn with me, we’d go to the King of Prussia Mall on the weekends. He’d always buy me shit. Lots of shit. He’s loaded. But his parents wouldn’t let him have a car in West Philly, because the place is a ghetto. So, we’d have to take a bus to the mall. He said the bus was for losers.”

Flint and his ex-wife spent the first two years of their marriage living in West Philly, relying on buses as their mode of transportation. At the time, he was making next to nothing as a security guard, his wife a secretary at a real estate office. He eventually got his job with the Department of Sanitation and, fifteen years later, when he was making more than he ever expected for a garbage man, he bought his first bike. For the first month he owned it, he wouldn’t take it on the street. He’d just get on, start the engine, rev it, grip the handlebars and stare ahead.

They sat on the bench for what seemed like hours. An elderly couple passed them several times. They wore tracksuits and white sneakers, swinging their arms as if they were speed walking, but they moved so slowly.

“People should grow old together without having to try, shouldn’t they?”

No, Flint thought, but he looked at Shannon and her messy hair and her fingernails bitten to the quick and tired eyes and said, “Yes. You’re right.”

And before the couple passed them again, Shannon stood up.

“Okay, buddy,” she said. “We’re ready to roll.”



The ride to Gaffney should have taken about an hour, but it began raining soon after they left Rock Hill. They arrived at McLeod State Mental Health Facility after nine o’clock. The receptionist gave them a tired grin.

“You’ll have to come back,” she said. “You can’t just walk in this late and see him. We need to set this up with the social worker and case manager.”

Flint scratched his belly, embarrassed by the sweat stains under his armpits and the way his hands continued to shake. The facility was ten stories high. Flint wondered how many people lived there.

“But, it’s his brother, ma’am. Do you understand?” Shannon said.

“I can schedule something for tomorrow.”

Shannon took Flint’s arm.

“How early?” Flint asked.

“I can get somebody here by eight o’clock or so.”

“Fine,” Shannon said, looking at Flint and nodding. “That’ll work.”

Shannon called Hameed from the pay phone in the lobby. After several attempts, she told Flint he must not be home yet.

“Why don’t you leave a message?” Flint asked.

“They got rid of their answering machine. I was leaving too many messages.”

They stayed awake through the night playing five-card draw. When the social worker and case manager finally appeared, Flint filled out paperwork and Shannon patted him on the shoulder, saying it would be all right, reminding him that it may be difficult to see Keith, but just this first time. The social worker led them through locked doors to a spacious room with low lighting. The room had puffy couches and large tables, with a television mounted on the wall. The social worker pointed to a man in the middle of the room. There he is, she said.

Keith was tall and frightfully skinny, with a shock of gray hair and a wide grin like his mother’s. He wore blue jeans and a jean shirt and a jean jacket and black clogs.

My God, he looks so old, Flint thought. He looks like me. Will I look like that when I’m old?

Shannon walked right to Keith and shook his hand.

“Nice outfit,” she said to him. “I like your shirt. I’m Shannon and I’m a friend of your brother’s. That’s your brother over there. His name is Flint.”

“Marcus,” he said, finding it hard to look at Keith, scared that his eyes, too, would be like his foster mom’s. “Flint is a nickname.”

“What better person to know your nickname than your brother.”

“Yes, this is a nice shirt,” Keith yelled to Shannon. “Thank you.”

His voice was exactly like his mother’s but in a deep baritone, and so loud. How come he was so loud?

Shannon turned to Flint and said, “Come on over here. This is how you do it. He’s just another person like everybody else. I learned how to do this in New Delhi.”

Flint took a few steps forward.

“Keep coming, Flint. Tell him you like what he’s wearing.”

Keith tugged at his shirt, looking at the floor, saying, “Thank you, again. Thank you.”

Flint walked closer toward Keith and Shannon, and he stopped a few feet from them. Flint stared at Keith’s hands, which were just like his. Flint imagined them gripping his bike’s handlebars.

“That’s right, Flint, you got it,” Shannon said, and she started clapping.

And then Keith looked at Shannon and started clapping, too.




Beth Goldner is a protocol associate, developing clinical trials in radiation oncology. For fifteen years, she worked as a managing editor in medical publishing.

She is the author of a short story collection (Wake) and a novel (The Number We End Up With), published by Perseus/Basic Books Group. Her books were well received by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Review, New York Times, Boston Globe, among others. She has also taught creative writing at Rosemont College and Boise State University.

A native of Philadelphia, she currently lives outside of the city with her one-eyed mutt, Millie.