Life, in the global sense, thrives when conditions are favorable. When they are not, living organisms die… or they adapt. Those who adapt survive, and those who survive become our heroes. In these unfavorable days, we are compelled by stories of adaptation and survival: a woman whose years of silence betoken not just suffering but resistance; a boy who mourns the murder of his mother by bathing his baby sister; a boy who finds beauty in the grotesque and emulates one of nature’s hardiest creatures; a person who knows that the response to pain must be love—love for self, love for others. These characters have shaken us and rebuilt us, and we are honored to bring them (and their creators) to a world that needs them. Be strong. Be whole. Be love.

Jonathan Freeman-Coppadge
Fiction Editor


Our collection of stories feature characters we cherish. Characters whose struggles pulled us in from the first line to the last—and stayed with us long after finishing their stories. In an ever more connected world where many of us feel less connected, these stories offer the rare opportunity to intimately bond with characters as they make their way in the world, experiencing triumph as well as loss. It has been a joy and privilege to collaborate with the Fiction Editor in the selection of these stories. We read every submission and took great care in the selection process. We are honored to usher in these seventeen stories for Oyster River Pages’ second issue. May your hearts brim.

Eneida P. Alcalde
Fiction Intern


The Stories

2 affection-art-background-532438.jpg

Eight Hearts

Stephanie Rael

The Shadow

How strange, my heart, that fist-sized organ locked away inside my chest, pumping, working, keeping me alive, more than alive, that enigmatic cluster of cells, that lump of flesh, something so much a part of me but that I will never see or touch. A beating, living thing, shrouded in darkness, destined to remain in that mysterious cavern, tucked away from the world, the outside, the sun. It is me and I am it, and yet still my heart is as foreign to me as if it were a tuber swimming in the black depths of the sea...

The Lost ones

Bill Gaythwaite

I’d gone to an enormous and historic theater in midtown Manhattan because Roger Sample’s musical The Lost Ones was being given a special one-night revival as part of a summer concert series. A guy from work (we were fact checkers for the Associated Press) had invited me, explaining in a conceited manner that he knew “Roger” personally and had obtained several free tickets from the celebrated composer himself. I was slightly worried that this man, whose name was Rich, might be interested in me. A crush would have been awkward. Not only did we work together, but he was technically my supervisor and also well into his thirties, which seemed geriatric to me at the time...



1 animal-avian-beak-162365.jpg

Wingbeats of the mute

Phillip Sterling

Seven mute swans cruise like old-timey pleasure boats upon the surface of Boardman Lake. I watch them through a scrim of fog. A perfect photo op, some would say, and no less beautiful for the regularity of their appearance. Pictures of mute swans have graced the brochures of Lakeside Condominiums from the start, well before Paula and I moved in. They’ve since become an attraction. Paula herself often claimed that we moved into 37A for the swans...

1 antique-clock-clock-face-69357.jpg

Time, with bernie

Yermiyahu Ahron Taub

Except for the ticking of her mantelpiece clock, no sounds could be heard. There were no footsteps coming from the floors below. This was one of those rare interludes when the house was truly quiet. Tick-tock, tick-tock the clock sounded, its pendulum swinging back and forth. Although it was designed for a mantel, the clock was on an end table which would better have held lamps or books or a crystal candy dish. There was no fireplace in this room, and therefore there was no mantel upon which to place this rather substantial clock. Some might call it “ungainly” or “clumsy,” Malkah Rumshevitz acknowledged, but the clock nonetheless pleased her...

1 blur-clean-close-up-579902.jpg

In the Pink

M. Clarkson

You were such a girl. Every year growing up it seemed to be more—more pink, new lace ribbons, skirts with gigantic daisies—there in that mock horse-paddock neighborhood. Alamo Ranchette North, the builders called it. Five-acre mini-ranches, big enough to board a horse or two—a stage-set version of real ranches, the kind we saw on TV—on Dallas.

You wouldn’t hang with our pack—Mack, Emmett, and me—even though we had girls too—Abby, Susan, and Joelle—because we slung water balloons and made mud pies. Because we got dirty...

3 country-field-flora-1545.jpg

In every shade of yellow

emily shue

Calpurnicus stretched his legs behind him one by one and sighed. He glanced back at his sled and smiled slightly at his small but beautiful collection. It had been a successful day. “Toads,” his mother had said, “are neither hunters nor gatherers,” as she peered down at the dirty, torn scraps of petals held out to her. And she had been right. No matter how hard he tried, there was simply no way to carry it all.

Of course, this was not entirely what his mother meant...

1. afterglow-art-backlit-556669.jpg

I am a walking star monster

Michael J. Brien

In the beginning, I touched music through the songs—the brown-cloaked voices coming over the wall and falling into its shadow. By then I had already learned to leave the yard and go where I was told not to go. Early mornings I was called by the voices. I had learned to hold the top rail of my crib and not let go. Jump up and down, up and down, up and down, until my wobbling legs learned to stiffen and I was over the rail and down the other side, along the thin bars that led to the bottom rail, and then to the floor. The bedroom door open and welcoming. Climb the chair near the front door where Daddie took off his rubbers, turn the deadbolt, turn the porcelain knob, and enter into the still dark of morning coming. My feet covered by my onesie, I played in the notes that sprawled in the grass at the base of the old stone. Quietly, on their bellies, the notes slid in the arc of the day’s growing shadow until they hit the slant of sun. Then they vanished...

3. architecture-boat-bridge-981709.jpg

A short dictionary of misunderstood words

Caroline swicegood

By the time they reach Venice and realize that Shana’s passport is missing—most likely either dropped or stolen on the train from Prague—they have spent enough uninterrupted time together for Shana to realize they not only come from different lives, but have completely different understandings of the most basic things.

To Shana, a party is something that happens in backyards: first your parents’ backyard where you have birthdays when you are young, filled with balloons and water guns and cake; then your friends’ parents’ backyards when those parents are out of town, filled with beer and tank tops and, eventually, the sound of a police siren out front; and finally, your own parents’ backyard again, when you come over for Sunday barbeques after church, and sit in folding lawn chairs, and spend the afternoon laughing and swatting at mosquitos...

Photo by MKatarina988/iStock / Getty Images

Yellow House

Stuart Silverman

He’d been stretched thin all morning, a thin gray wire pulled to fineness, though by what anchored, and where, was past his seeing. In the oily light seeping through the window, he first folded a burlap-brown filter along its slant edge, and then along the base at a right angle to the vertical. Opened by an index finger, it unfolded, for a moment an origami flower, and became a truncated cone. He poured into it a harvest of dark grains, coffee he had ground for twenty screeching seconds in a white Krups machine. He would top this off with a small measure of cocoa, a mud-brown fluff whose sweet tang eddied in the air as he lifted it from its cardboard box...

1 black-and-white-close-up-dark-167964.jpg

what's behind you

Jenny Ferguson

You know who killed your mother. You’re fourteen, not stupid nor blind to truth.

His name is Eddie Whitewater.

Not your father, or your sister Ide’s.

He showed up drunk one night with your mother three years ago, and a year after that, maybe less, the baby arrived, at home...


Next Stop, Sarah

Kara Goughnour

I’ve dreamt about my teeth falling out for five nights. It’s never the same. On Monday, I lose four incisors biting into a glossy apple. On Tuesday, I fall up the concrete stairs that lead to the locker room. I stand, blood dripping from my chin and spurting from my mouth as I babble, the whole baseball team suddenly surrounding me, shaking their heads in disapproval. On Wednesday, I fall down my apartment stairs alone, the blood from my gums puddling around large metal jugs of dried lavender and glass jars full of dehydrated chamomile...


Clara Comes HOme

Dorothy Place

The chair’s rockers edge over the porch floor boards until one of them comes to rest in an indentation and grinds away at the dry rot. It comforts Clara with the sound she thinks might be termites gnawing away at a tasty bit of oak—a sound imperceptible to everyone except to those who only listen. Settling into the gentle back and forth motion, she looks out over the rows of tomatoes running north toward the horizon. 

Clara hates those tomatoes, hates the enormous expanse of flat land cracked open by the unforgiving sun like her girlhood lips rubbed raw by the icy wind and freezing temperatures of upstate New York... 

1. armchairs-blur-business-296883.jpg

Third Grade

Jill Caugherty

Susan’s daughter Macy has two weeks left of third grade. The classroom mom has emailed several reminders about the end-of-school party, inviting parents to serve ice cream and snap photos. At least, Susan thinks, she has contributed to Mrs. Richardson’s class gift: a forty-dollar check, which she tucked into Macy’s backpack.

The party, however, is a different story. It falls on a Wednesday afternoon, smack dab during an executive review, and she can’t simply leave the meeting with what her boss will perceive as a flimsy excuse...

1. alone-boy-college-455.jpg

Professor Roach

Ron Dowell

Like demigods, cockroaches scurried across the ceiling, down the wall, and disappeared into crevices and cracks. Jubilee Washington lay on his side then turned onto his back, breathing fast. Behind half closed lids, his eyes gyrated.

“Wake up, wake up Jubi. She’s coming,” a voice whispered in his ear.

“What?” His eyes pulled open just as the cercus of a German cockroach disappeared over the edge of his bed sheet...

1 background-board-brown-261106.jpg

backyard girls

Katherine C. Sinback

Kathy glistened. The baby oil sheen spread from her pale pink toenails to her face, highlighting the field of pimples on her forehead and chin. Shannon watched a droplet of oil mixed with Kathy’s sweat meander down the meat of her calf and stop at the knob of her ankle, suspended like a held breath before it released, darkening a dot on the wooden deck. Shannon blinked, refocused her eyes on the book in her lap to read the same paragraph over again, still unsure why her friend’s sunbathing body was such an irresistible puzzle. Kathy’s backyard deck was ripe with the smell of Johnson’s Baby oil mixed with Cheetos...

Days of Ripening

Bill Pruitt

It’s fifteen minutes till closing when I hear the garage door open. Sal Monaco is making his delivery. I am filling out a deposit slip from the day’s receipts, and I must decide if I will stay with my usual routine of going out on the floor, which now means having a minimum fifteen-minute, mostly one-way conversation with Sal, or staying in the office, which would delay me putting away produce, as well as keeping people from coming in. I decide to face the music and say hi to Sal. I actually like his company. He tells good stories. But I have to stop what I’m doing to hear them...

2. abundance-apples-blur-349730.jpg

1. abstract-art-blur-980859.jpg


Ari Koontz

It takes a few minutes for the water to get hot enough to scald bare skin, but Astrid knows how to be patient. She leans against the shower wall, watching the steam billow up through the air and bracing her toes on the edge of the basin. She counts down from one hundred. Closes her eyes. Then, with a shiver of adrenaline, she pushes her body forward off the tiles and into the downpour.

The shock of first contact is more ice than fire at first, a freezing of every single nerve that almost stops her heart...