Two books on the rumpled bedsheet: Petr touches their covers as if reading with his fingers. Difficult Loves and Laughable Loves, side by side. Calvino and Kundera. He has tried (for months) to hear what dialogue exists when they’re side by side on his dingy bedsheet.

“I stare at them like this and I try to listen, but I never hear them speaking.”

Jacob, in perfect silence, embraces him from behind, but says nothing. One finger—as brown as any pecan—traces the whalebone pallor of Petr’s arm, finding Petr’s faint, ruddy freckles, as if counting stars at night.




J.C. Howell is a fiction writer living in the Chicago area with a few short works published in small-press local anthologies. He has taught English as a Second Language in the Czech Republic and much of his current work draws inspiration from Central- and East-European literary traditions and history.