The Visitors

by Dustin Pellegrini

The visitors came dressed for darkness.

Alfred watched from his bedroom window as they shuffled up the drive. If the moon hadn’t been so clouded over, he’d have sworn they were shadows.

Alfred and his mother lived alone out in the country, their nearest neighbors only swamps and trees. Their last visitor, the Dr., left only a few days before and they weren’t expecting anyone else. Yet here they came all the same.

They were getting closer.

Alfred saw now that each of them carried something, swung it as they walked. He picked out the head of a hammer, bigger than his own. The point of a pick, ragged from dirt and rocks. And there, in the faintest shard of moonlight, the glint of a shovel’s face.

He got up onto his step stool to follow them through the window. They were only a few steps from the front door now, he had to warn his mother.

DOCK

DOCK

Alfred pictured the shovel banging against the door. Could they pry it open?

DOCK

DOCK

He ran to his bedroom door, ready to shout for his mother, don’t let them in.

DOCK

DO-

Too late.

His mother let out a cry, wailing like he had never heard. He braced himself against his door, slowed his breath.

What could he do? There was no one to help, no one to call. Alfred slipped to the floor, tried to come up with a plan.

With his ear to the wood, he heard the tools crash downstairs. He heard the hammer drive nails that must have been longer than his fingers. Outside, he heard the pick and the shovel bite into fresh earth. And between every swing, his mother cried out with fresh howls of pain.

Seconds.

Minutes.

Alfred chewed through his lip and tried to shut out the sounds as his mother’s sobs grew weak.

When he could take no more, he ripped the door open and flung himself down the stairs, his eyes shut at the terror of finding his mother in pain.

The house was empty, but the front door stood open.

Alfred hurried outside and there his mother stood. There they all stood, forming a circle in the yard. The tools lay quiet on the grass and his mother shook as one of the visitors spoke under his breath.

Alfred approached, took his place next to his mother, and saw her pain.

There, in the fresh wooden box, in a freshly dug hole, he saw himself. His arms crossed, his eyes closed. Alfred watched his mother pass one last kiss from her lips to his, then took her hand as the men shut up the box and reached for their tools.


Dustin Pellegrini is a writer living in Chicago. He studied Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, has had his work read at Chicago’s Story Week Festival and currently works at a nonprofit. You can find more of his writing at dustinpellegrini.com

The Next Breath

by Dustin Pellegrini

Tonight, like too many other nights, there was the feel of his arm, long and heavy, pressed down over her hip and the wide berth of her thigh. His fingers, in their usual spot, chose not to move, which meant they chose not to let her move.

But then there was also the light in the corner. A tiny clown face with a red Rudolph nose. It sat on the floor, nearly swallowed up by his clothes, the rough pile he always left them in so close to the door. Shoes, then belt, then pants shirt underwear. His socks were down past her feet, hogging their own heat, too far for her to reach and get warm. She hated the AC when he came over, cranked up to where it spit out droplets that hit the hardwood and pooled there, turning it an uglier brown until she could finally get up in the morning, mop it up with his old t-shirt. The one he had forgotten and she had, months ago, hoarded.

She remembered holding it close to her the morning after he left it, crumpled between the bed and her head, his smell coming into her, staying inside. She shut her eyes thinking of it now, going red even in the cold of the room. She couldn’t wait to get up and wipe her floor with it. With him.

That would be all she could do, she knew. So it would have to be enough.

But there was the clown light in the corner that she could find, focus on, no matter what time it was when she woke up.

She remembered his voice biting into her, his fist against her kitchen counter, pounding like a train switching tracks. POOM POOM POOM POOM.

The cabinet swung like a shot put. The things smashed. Her shirt torn from her like a weak trash bag losing its handles in his grip.

But there was also her breath. Strong. So strong she could take in the World, fill herself up with it, and push his arm, heavy like an anchor, up and away.

She took big breaths all night just to feel it, feel it go away, feel her body working as one thing apart from him.

But there was only so high she could lift it, hold it, before she would deflate. Everything would come back down, forced by the impossible weight of his arm, and there she’d be, empty, covered by him. Wearing him. His weight. His words. The constant feeling of him in the room. Even when he’s showering, or on his way over there’s the thunderclap sound of the water splashing down him, his footsteps coming up the stairs. Even during the day, when he’s gone at work, there’s his moppy shirt, his crushed cans in her recycling bin, her dented kitchen counter and the cabinet door hanging limp from his grip.

But then there was also the next breath.


Dustin Pellegrini is a writer living in Chicago. He studied Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, has had his work read at Chicago’s Story Week Festival and currently works at a nonprofit. You can find more of his writing at dustinpellegrini.com

Mugged

by Dustin Pellegrini

The night I got mugged was a Monday. I had only been up at school for about two weeks and I remember not realizing that until other people pointed it out and kept repeating it. Like it made a difference somehow. Like it mattered. I remember getting sympathy for it from people I didn’t even know. Feeling uncomfortable at their touch, the hugs they forced on me. Their knowing looks they tried to pass over to me. Like they understood. But they didn’t.

I remember feeling the bite of the gun barrel as it made solid contact with the back of my head, smashing down clean like a hammer driving a nail in one swing. I remember not telling people about that part after hearing my brother’s reaction to it. Dad translated it to me first. How Tyler was a hair’s length away from driving up here with every hunting rifle he had to take revenge for me. I remember thinking this was just something dad had said, but then believing every word of it when it was said in my brother’s heavy, panicked voice. How I had to calm him down, convince him not to want to kill on my behalf. How his voice came out in screams between buckets of breaths. How it sounded on the phone like he was driving with the window open and I was afraid he was already making good on his word.

And as I was talking him down, I remember thinking, ‘Let him do it.’ Part of me wished he would, but I let that sink back down into my guts. Now, I only wish I could have responded with his anger, his pure frustration at how unfair it was, instead of with my silence.

‘It’ll be okay,’ I told myself. ‘Turn it into writing. Make it something. Rise above it.’ But I couldn’t help but want to sink. It’s hard to hold it in and just try to float up, it would have been nice to just tread water at their level or just dive down further and hold my breath for a minute or two like Tyler could. I just wish I could give in and do something like him.


Dustin Pellegrini is a writer living in Chicago. He studied Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, has had his work read at Chicago’s Story Week Festival and currently works at a nonprofit. You can find more of his writing at dustinpellegrini.com