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Right of Way

by Andrew Wingfield

Winner : 2010 Fiction Contest
 

Up the sidewalk the two of them came, the boy ugly, the cat beautiful. Nita judged them an odd couple, opposites attached. The cat—a sleek calico, white with patches of orange and black—veered up the driveway toward her and she knelt to pet it.  The boy slunk past.

“Pretty cat,” she ventured.

The boy kept going, as if he hadn’t heard, which gave her a chance to change her mind, to think better of reaching out to him. But she recognized something in his abject posture, a mood she felt from time to time but had stopped seeing in the mirror in the weeks since she’d begun to show. On her, pregnancy was a persona, a disguise. 

It had gotten predictable. All the way across the country, at every stop, the fellow motorists she encountered, the gas station attendants, the convenience store cashiers and coffee shop waitresses and motel clerks—all of them had smiled versions of the same upbeat smile, eflecting back the glow she gave off, no matter how awkward or scared or snotty she might feel. No matter how displaced. 

“Hello there,” she said louder, and the boy stopped, turned. “Your cat. What’s her name?”

He shrugged.

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Andrew Wingfield is the author of the 2005 novel Hear Him Roar and the 2010 short story collection Right of Way. His stories and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, the Antioch Review, Resurgence, and other magazines. He teaches in George Mason University's New Century College and lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
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