Before Theresa even opened her eyes, she knew the rain had stopped. The air hung still and silent, devoid of the near-ceaseless pattering that skittered over her roof in the cold months. She knew that the gray dawn sky would soon be filled with gaggles of geese. She knew squirrels would stir from their winter nests.As a Kentuckian living in south Florida, the state of Oregon is an ongoing mystery to me. The summers are some of the most lovely I’ve ever encountered, temperate and blue-sky-clear all the day long. The region’s long tradition of producing strong coffee, craft beer, and crisp white wine is also equally enjoyable. But the winters are positively hellish, and I say that as someone who studied for four years in Chicago. The sky turns to slate, a color promising snow but only delivering a dour drizzle that continues unabated for months, the world becoming a damp patchwork of gray and green that's colder in its own insistent way than any snowstorm. And I’m not even going to get into the area’s sociopolitical preoccupations, which I find completely perplexing. (What do you mean I can’t legally pump my own gas?!) Still, my wife is from Oregon, and as I’ve gotten a little more familiar with it over the years, I’ve found the region creeping into my fiction.
She also knew that it wouldn’t let Richard lie still.
“Fostering” started as a story my mother-in-law shared with me. (My wife’s parents maintain a homestead farm that’s big enough to almost entirely sustain them, yet small enough to render it manageable.) One day, she explained how something had killed two of their sheep, a lamb and a ewe that didn’t belong to one another. This was problematic in ways I didn't expect, because it left the surviving lamb without any means of sustenance and the surviving ewe at risk for mastitis. Apparently, sheep aren't keen on adoption. The solution was simple, if more than a little macabre: They skinned the dead lamb and made its hide into a coat for the living one. Over the next week or so, the ewe would come to accept the foundling simply because of it bore the scent of her dead offspring.
The horror scribe in me couldn’t let that gruesome image lie.
“Fostering,” a story about the compromises circumstance and time can convince us to make, appears in Acidic Fiction. You can read it for free here. Many thanks to Sharon Roy and Michael Roy for their help with the details of farm life, as well as Scott Garbacz and Acidic Fiction editor Steven Davis for helping whip the manuscript into shape.