April’s Justice

FeaturedApril’s Justice

The point of focus was sixty yards away, four-and-a-half feet above the ground, centered over the wheel ruts of the frozen dirt drive where the drive crested the hill. There was nothing at that point, nothing but the chill, gray December air. The air was held steadily on the tip of a bladed front sight. The blade was couched snugly in a tight “U” notch—the rear sight of a 1903 Springfield .30-06. Inside the rifle’s chamber, a small lead ball waited impatiently for a slight contraction of the muscles of the finger on the trigger. On command, the ball would spin madly out of the barrel’s biting, spiraling grooves and, within a fifteenth of a second, hiss across the short distance. Should a man happen to be walking up the drive from the road at that moment, it would be his misfortune to cross the path of the ball—with his chest.

The thought gave her satisfaction, but she didn’t smile. Her cheek was pressed hard against the rifle’s walnut stock, the occasional snowflake that landed on her face melting there, unnoticed. The cold, oil-cleaned barrel lay steadied across the top of a neat stack of firewood. Over the summer, she had bruised her shoulder again and again as from varying distances she blasted jars and tins to smithereens. The bruises were yellow now; the weapon had become familiar, a constant companion, like the quilted blanket she had carried with her everywhere as a child.

Moments earlier, she had been putting the animals away when she heard an approaching motorcar on the main road. The sound itself would have been acceptable except for its sudden cessation: the farm was the only one along the desolate nine-mile stretch of winding West Virginia road, and no one stopped here, not anymore. She waited behind the firewood, unmoving, watching the tip of the rifle’s sight for something to step into the condemned space above the crest of the drive. From the barn behind her one of the horses snorted restlessly. With her thumb she slipped off the rifle’s safety.

A hat appeared, then a head beneath it. Her pulse jumped, and she worked to slow her breathing, to steady her hands, adjusting her aim. She was unprepared for the other two hats, one rising on each side of the drive, outside the ruts. Okay, first the middle one, then the left, then the right. The magazine held five rounds—she could afford to miss only twice. She practiced the move, sliding the sight a fraction of an inch each way. No, it’s better just to go straight acrossleft, middle, right. She practiced the revised move twice and held her aim on the place where the chest of the man on the left would appear above the rise within two seconds, and then within one—

A shimmer of silver flashed from the middle man’s chest. She recognized the sheriff. The man on the left was Caleb, one of his deputies. She didn’t recognize the man on the right, but judging by the hat and badge, he too was a deputy. She practiced the move again—left, middle, right.

“April?” the sheriff called out. “April?” he called again, warily.

The trio slowed as they neared. They hadn’t spotted her yet. Caleb and the other deputy looked as though they expected ghosts to fly out of the cabin. Twenty yards out the men stopped, the sheriff observing the wisps of blue smoke rising from the chimney.

“April, this is Sheriff Holsapple. Come on out—I need to talk with you for a minute.”

She had never liked the way Deputy Caleb watched her body when she was in town, with that lewd twist sneaking up at the corner of his mouth. She sighted in on the spot and wondered what his face would look like without it. The trigger pressed invitingly against her finger. With the rifle trained on him, she stepped out from behind the woodpile. The blood drained from the deputies’ faces. The three men stood as frozen as the pines behind them.

The sheriff’s lips pursed wearily. His shoulders had dropped, his hands hung loose and quiet by his sides, except for the faint tracing of his right thumb which seemed to have a mind of its own. If she were going to shoot Caleb first, he might have a chance to draw. She could tell that he wasn’t sure if he would or could, that he was thinking that they really shouldn’t have come up here, that they should have just left her alone. He was right in thinking that. In the thick stillness, they all knew it.

“Come on now, April,” the sheriff ventured. “I’m only here to help.”

“I don’t need your help, Sheriff.”

He sighed. “This is important, April. Look, at least lower the gun. It’s too damned cold out here for us all to be sweatin’ like this. We’ll just stand right here, and you can stand right there, and I’ll say my piece and we’ll leave, okay?”

She lowered the muzzle of the rifle but kept her eye on Caleb as she turned towards the cabin.

“Please come in, Sheriff,” she said. “You must be thirsty.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

Caleb exhaled, arching his eyebrows at the other deputy as if to say, “See, I told you she’s nuts!” Hesitantly, the two followed the sheriff up the steps of the porch.

Once inside, April leaned the gun against the hearth and, from the kettle on the stove, portioned what remained of the hot apple cider into three cups. The men removed their hats and sat at the sturdy oak table. She served them silently before backing away to the wall, within reach of the gun.

“April, I believe you know Caleb, and this is Tommy Shifflett, my new deputy. Tommy just moved up from Tennessee a few months ago.”

Tommy was a handsome, green-eyed young man not much older than April herself. She granted him a curt nod. Caleb received no acknowledgement. 

“What’s your business, Sheriff?” she asked.

The sheriff set his cup on the table and considered his words carefully.

“Yesterday afternoon, about five miles north of here, a man got away from a Mercer County deputy who was taking him up to the Charleston prison. A posse with dogs searched the hills all night, and today we expanded the search, but he must have holed up somewhere. Now, I doubt you’ve heard, but there’s a blizzard blowing in—“

“I know.”

“Well, I expect you would, but anyway, this fella is wearing just regular clothes—no coat, hat or boots—and we figure if he wants to live through the night, he’ll likely have to come down out of the storm and find shelter.”

“And you think he’ll come here?”

“Not necessarily, but here’s as good a place as any.”

“What did he do, Sheriff?”

He glanced uncomfortably at the deputies. “The man hasn’t been convicted yet, but if the charges are serious enough to take him up to Charleston rather than risk the locals lynching him before he can be given a proper trial, then it might be prudent to—“

“Sheriff, what did he do?”

The sheriff sighed, “It doesn’t really matter, April—“

“It was murder, wasn’t it?”

“Well, yes. Yes, it was murder. . . .”

“And what else?”

He looked around the cabin as though searching for a way out, his eyes pausing momentarily on the closed door to the cabin’s only other room. When he looked her in the eye again he grimaced apologetically.

April turned away. Through the window, the snowflakes were bigger now and beginning to fall more thickly. The fire in the fireplace had died down. She laid a handful of kindling on the glowing embers and watched as a small flame leapt to life.

Shoot him, April. Shoot him now!

Caleb chuckled. “The fella’s swearing they’ve got the wrong man, but don’t they all say that? Why, just last month over in Fayetteville, the uncle of that girl who disappeared was claiming that he had only been—“

The sheriff silenced him with a swift, hard look.

April retrieved the rifle.

“Will that be all, Sheriff?”

“Yes, April, that’s all. I apologize for the interruption. Thank you for your hospitality. Come on, boys, let’s get back to town before the roads get too bad.”

The deputies filed out, the sheriff hanging back.

“You know, I’ve got a daughter your age still at home. I’m sure she would love some company. You’re more than welcome to come spend a few days. . . .” He studied her face. “Well, you know where we live if you change your mind. You take care now, April.”

Caleb chimed in from the porch. “Miss April, I’d be more than happy to stick around and keep an eye on things for you tonight—“

“—said the fox to the hen,” muttered Tommy.

Caleb punched him hard on the shoulder.

“Shut up and walk, both of you,” barked the sheriff.

April watched from the porch as the men crossed the yard.

“What’s he look like, Sheriff?”

He turned and regarded her, the undersized girl in the oversized coat with the rifle made for war.

“He’s a tall fellow with dark hair and light blue eyes. They say you can’t forget his eyes. He’s wearing a plain white shirt and brown trousers, unless he’s stolen some other clothes, and he’s got some kind of bird tattooed on his left forearm.”

The deputies’ hats disappeared first over the crest of the drive, followed by the sheriff’s. The car’s engine started and faded away into the distance.

The low clouds were coming in dark and fast from the north. The storm was going to be a bad one. The horses had sensed it. Dancer had almost thrown her that morning. She slipped the gun’s safety on and went to the barn to put out extra hay and water for the horses and cows, enough to last. In her grandfather’s day there had been a blizzard that drifted the snow so deep it had taken him three days to dig from the house to the barn. The new roof she had put on the chicken coop had yet to be tested by the weight of a winter snow: for good measure, she hauled a fence post from behind the barn and wedged it beneath the coop’s center beam. After putting out more feed and water for the chickens and pigs, she tied a burlap bag over the well’s hand pump and closed up the barn and the sheds. As she was latching the door to the chicken coop, the hens raised such a frantic cackling a person would think they were being buried alive.

There was little to be done for the cabin itself except to secure the shutters. Its sealed logs and thick planks of pine were impregnable to the harsh mountain winters. The doors and windows were tight—there wasn’t a single draft. As a child, April had felt completely safe in this house, tucked away in her bed high in the loft, though the storms had howled only a few feet above. She still slept there, on the mattress on the loft’s floor, above the bedroom now seldom entered, no longer used, its featherbed shrouded beneath the embroidered white spread, the brush and comb on the vanity untouched, lying where they had been laid.

From the porch she stood and looked beyond the yard, searching the shifting shadows of the dark and scraggly woods. Dead brown needles carpeted the stands of pine, while those yet on the trees absorbed what winter light they could, their hue a fading memory. The scattered hardwoods stood bare, each lonely and silent amidst its neighbors, limbs naked to the chilling breezes that portended the slashing winds to come.

There was a sharp crack—a branch tumbled from somewhere above, slapping and twisting across the lower limbs until it hit the ground, shattering its brittle fingers.

She reached out to find the porch post, hefting the rifle in her other hand. Let the storm come. Let the man come. She was ready. She went into the house and lowered the iron bar across the door.

* * *

After preparing and eating her dinner of squirrel stew, spoon bread and baked apples, she worked on her mending until her fingers tired, then settled into the rocker by the fire to read.

Somewhere in the English countryside, beneath a cascading willow in a flowering spring meadow, a pair of young lovers sat on a blanket plotting their elopement, but it was next to impossible for her to eavesdrop on them for more than a few sentences as the winds had begun to tear at the cabin’s eaves and to test the shutters’ latches. She laid the book aside, pulled her knees up to her chin and wrapped herself in the quilt her grandmother had made. As the minutes and hours ticked away on the clock on the mantel, she rocked, watching the fire.

The wood seemed to be burning more drily and quickly than usual. At this rate, the provision next to the hearth would be depleted by sometime the next morning, and there was less than a quarter of a cord remaining on the porch. After watching the fire awhile longer, she reluctantly extricated herself from her cocoon, donned her coat and boots, lit the lantern, and lifted the bar from the door.

The wind ripped the door from her hand and slammed it against the wall as a sheet of stinging snow whipped around her and into the house. Slinging the rifle over her shoulder, she pushed her way out, succeeding in pulling the door shut only when the wind slackened momentarily.

There was over a foot of snow on the ground already, and it had drifted twice as high against the side of the cabin. Leaning into the gale, she waded out across the yard, the driving whiteness within the sphere of her lantern’s light stinging her eyes. She brushed the accumulation from the top of the wood stack with her coat sleeve, chiding herself for not having thought to move more wood to the porch earlier in the day. One couldn’t afford to make such mistakes, living alone in the country. As she struggled to carry a dozen high armloads back to the porch, she found herself angry with the sheriff for having distracted her from her preparations, angry that he had brought Caleb along, angry with Caleb for existing—and for being possum-ugly to boot—angry with herself for allowing herself to be distracted, angry with herself for being angry. From the improved supply on the porch, she replenished the stock by the hearth and, using what strength was left in her legs, forced the door closed again. Sinking back against it, she shuddered, thoroughly soaked and chilled to the bone.

Once she had recovered sufficiently to strip out of her wet clothes and hang them from the mantle to dry, she bundled herself in the quilt and brewed a cup of sassafras tea. With the rocking chair pulled as close to the fire as she could bear, her hair dried quickly, but even after her body was warmed through, the rim of the teacup chattered against her teeth. She picked up her sewing, but her fingers wouldn’t hold steady. The wind wailed against the shutters, pressing, tugging, probing unrelentingly. She tried her book again but found her eyes drifting over and over to the beginning of the same paragraph.

There was a thudding bang from somewhere outside—from the direction of the barn perhaps. It could have been anything, a falling branch hitting the chicken coop roof or one of the horses kicking something over. She thought she had heard a whinny. Hopefully, the animals were okay, but she wasn’t going back outside, not tonight. It helped to watch the shifting patterns in the coals. The lick of the yellow and orange flames helped warm her soul as the tea warmed her bones. She needed a dog. Maybe in the springtime she could find a puppy. It would need to be a large breed, a good farm dog, maybe a shepherd or a retriever or a hound. A big cuddly mongrel would be fine.

Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.

The tea spilled over her lap and the cup burst into pieces, scattering across the stone hearth. She froze. She couldn’t move.

Oh, my God, I have to move. I must move—now!

She stood, grabbed the rifle and swung it around to the door. She struggled momentarily to keep the quilt from falling away and exposing her body, but the priority for her hands was elsewhere. Raising the rifle to her shoulder, she clicked off the safety as the quilt dropped to the floor.

Good. That’s good, April.

Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.

Her heart plunged—impossibly, the iron bar was leaning against the wall. She had forgotten to put it back after bringing in the wood. There was no other lock on the door. None had ever have been necessary.

Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.

The shuttered windows precluded anyone from seeing in, but she couldn’t see out either. If she ran to bar the door, it would take both of her hands to lift and move the bar—she would have to set the rifle aside. She wasn’t going to do that. There was nothing left but for the doorknob to turn.

Shoot him, April. Shoot him now!

The fear coiled around her vision and tightened until all she could see was the doorknob, with blackness and the cursed memories closing in around it.

It had been a beautiful summer evening in the mountains, the kind of evening that made a person never want to leave. Mama had fixed a scrumptious-smelling venison roast for supper, with fresh vegetables from the garden, and Papa had just come in from his field work. The two were already seated at the table when April dashed in from a swim in the creek. She went straight to the stove and was about to serve herself a plateful of the roast when the man stepped in through the open doorway.

Strangers stopping by wasn’t a rare thing that summer. The paper said the country was in a depression, and there were plenty of men out of work. Many of them passed along the road on their way to look for a job in the mines or on their way back from learning that there weren’t any jobs to be had. Mama had fed many a hungry man in exchange for his mucking out the stalls, slopping the hogs or some other such chore. Papa wouldn’t have minded so much except that Mama never turned away anyone, regardless of any suspected or evident deficiency of character. She didn’t check after the men on their assigned work, and not a few had weaseled a meal without lifting a finger. Mama would only shrug and say, “Judge not that ye be not judged.”

Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.

The knocking was more urgent now, the door vibrating with each sound. There was a scratch in the right edge of the doorknob’s brass. April watched the scratch intently, waiting for it to move, up or down.

The man who had walked into their house that day had looked about like any other to April, except for the scar through his eyebrow, but her father had seen something more. Unfortunately, her father was seated at the far end of the table, against the wall, in the wrong part of the room to do anything but hope that his daughter would listen to him.

“Get the rifle, April,” he had told her, quietly but firmly.

She had reached above the hearth and had taken the rifle from its place. The big bolt-action weapon was the same model her father had carried in the war. He had taught her how it operated, and she had even fired it once, though the recoil had knocked her on her back and she hadn’t touched it since. She knew enough to slide the bolt rearward and forward again to chamber a round.

“Shoot him, April. Shoot him now!”her father said.

Her mother was beyond shock. “Put that gun down, April Anne! God forgive us! Please don’t mind my husband, sir—he was in the war and sometimes—”

The man was walking towards April, watching her intently. She glanced down to make sure the safety was off.

“Shoot him, April,” her father ordered. “You have to do it now!”

She looked at her mother, then at the approaching man. She raised the rifle and pointed it. Her finger trembled but wouldn’t pull the trigger. She started crying. “Papa, I can’t!

The man grabbed the rifle from her hands and chuckled. “Should have listened to your old man, young lady.” He swept the gun around and shot her father through the chest. “And a woman as saintly and charitable as your dear mother here must be looking forward to meeting her maker too.” He shot her and watched her crumple to the floor before turning to April.

“Now, don’t you worry, angel—” he took her chin in his hand—“I’m going to take you on a little trip to heaven too, and if you behave yourself, you’re gonna live to remember it for a long, long time. I think I’d like that.”

She refused to remember the rest.

Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock.

I’m ready this time, Papa. Oh yes, I’m ready.

She was glad she had left the bar off the door. She wanted to shoot him. She needed it. Her mouth was dry. Why hadn’t the scratch moved? How long had he been knocking? She glanced at the clock. It was a quarter after eleven. All you’ve got to do is turn the knob, bastard.

The gun was heavy, her arms were tiring. Without taking her eye or aim off of the door, she pulled the rocking chair around, rested her foot on the seat and supported her elbow on her knee.

A posse had caught up with the man with the scarred eyebrow three days later. They hung him on the spot and left him swinging. When April found out, she rode the twenty miles to the place alone and shot five holes through the body. It hadn’t helped.

The townspeople attended the burial of her parents beneath the oak in the south meadow. She hadn’t told anyone what the man had done to her, but they all knew. She saw it in their eyes and heard it in their voices whenever she had to go into town. The young men were the worst, the way they watched her body, imagining themselves in the man’s place.

It was twenty-five after the hour. There had been no knocking in the last ten minutes. Had he gone to the barn to look for a weapon? He could be returning to the cabin with the ax by now. Maybe it wasn’t the murderer. But no one in his right mind, probably not even Caleb, would be out in this storm. She dried her palms on her bare leg and waited.

Five minutes more and she could stand it no longer. She dared to lean the rifle against the rocker for just long enough to slip back into her clothes, which were still damp.

“Who is it?” she called, approaching the door.

There was no answer.

“Who’s there?”

Only the wind answered. Taking a deep breath, she reached for the doorknob and, in a single swift motion, turned it, pulled, and leapt back to aim.

The only thing at the door was the storm. She peered out. The snow was freshly scuffled on the porch. Someone had been there, but she could see nothing more through the blowing curtain of white. Hurriedly she slipped on her coat and lit the lantern. He wasn’t going to get away this easily, not this time. He was too close to get away. She ventured out into the night, lantern held high, the rifle tucked under her arm.

Though the wind was drifting the snow too fiercely for anything like footprints to survive for long, there remained a faint trail, a shallow trench leading away into the blackness beyond the lantern’s light. She followed it in the direction of the barn for several yards and looked behind her. The house was already lost in the darkness and her own steps were quickly being covered. She squinted, blinking against the crystals forming on her eyelashes, already regretting not having changed into thoroughly dry clothes. She had to hurry. A few years ago there was a man in the valley who, in a blizzard not unlike this one, had wandered in circles for hours before dying only twenty feet from his own door. She couldn’t see more than two or three feet in front of her or behind.

The tracks veered to the left and seemed to miss the barn altogether, if her sense of direction and distance still served her, but the shallow impressions were becoming indistinguishable in the blowing drifts. She was thinking that she was heading down the hill in the direction of the creek when she tripped over something and fell headlong, dropping the rifle and the lantern as she went down. She knew what the thing was before she hit the ground. Mercifully, the lantern landed relatively upright in a snowbank and stayed lit. She scrambled for the rifle, digging it out of the snow and turning it on the object.

The thing was indeed the body of a man. He was lying face down. The snow had drifted up over his windward side. She poked at his ribs with the rifle. He didn’t move. With the rifle’s muzzle, she scraped away some of the snow from his back. He wore no coat. His shirt was white, his trousers brown. She scraped the snow from his left arm and, still employing only the muzzle, pushed up the shirt sleeve. The skin, blanched of most of its color, provided a stark field of contrast to the small, stylishly crafted tattoo of a falcon.

Shoot him, April. Shoot him now!

“Yes, Papa….”

She lowered the muzzle into the curls of dark hair on the back of the man’s head. A thought tried to cross her mind, but she forced it away. Laughing aloud, she said to the night—

“This is for Papa, and for Mama, and for me.”

The frozen trigger felt blood-warm against her finger. The nightmare would now be over. She felt the mechanism’s resistance and the familiar give. The same thought tried to surface again but it was easier to ignore the second time.

But there was a different fear now, a tiny thing struggling to be heard, like the faint cracking in a mine before its collapse. The warning was of something worse than what the other man had done to her, worse than what any man could do—and she was doing it to herself. She sensed the danger, the imminent shredding, crushing and burying of the innermost workings of her mind, a crippling such that it would never work the same for her once the damage had been done. With the pull of the trigger, a part of her soul would die, and she would never be the kind of woman she had always aspired to be. She couldn’t escape it, she couldn’t deny it: if she killed the thought with the man, she might as well then turn the gun on herself. She considered it. 

She hated to do it—hated it so much that it made her scream aloud—but with the scream she willed the thought to mind:

He hadn’t turned the doorknob.

Not having her consent, this accused murderer and rapist had refused to attempt to enter her home, even though the alternative meant his possibly freezing to death. He hadn’t even turned the doorknob. He hadn’t turned the knob. . . .

She leaned down and brushed the snow from his face. His eyebrows and eyelashes were encrusted with ice. His cheeks and lips were colorless. She knelt and put her ear to his back. His heart was still beating.

She laid the gun aside and set the lantern in the snow.

* * *

It was another late evening on another winter day, and April was sitting in the rocking chair by the fire, doing her sewing. Over the years, eight additional rooms had been built around the cabin’s original two, but it was the same rocking chair and the same fire. Her granddaughter, Cindy, sat on the sofa next to the rocker, sipping sassafras tea and staring moodily into the embers. Cindy was seventeen now, the second daughter of April’s third son.

“What’s the matter, honey?” April ventured.

“Nothing, Grandma.”

“I’m thinking it’s probably something.”

Cindy only sighed.

“Boy trouble again?”

Cindy frowned into her tea. “Grandma, there just aren’t any good men left out there. Every time I think I’ve got the right one, he turns out to be something different altogether. If he’s not lying to you outright or trying to take advantage of you, he’s putting on some kind of a front. You just can’t trust them. I hate men.”

April smiled to herself. She had been a year younger than Cindy that fateful night, thinner and shorter too. It had taken her over an hour to carry, roll and drag the man to the porch, up the steps and into the house, where she had stripped off his clothes and thawed him by the fire. To stay awake, she had spent the hours until dawn guessing at what his name might be, imagining nearly every one but the right one, as it turned out. It wasn’t until early afternoon of the next day that he finally began to stir. As she waited for him to open his eyes, she was holding the blade of the kitchen knife against his throat, just in case. In her other hand was a cup of hot broth.  

“Would you like to hear a story, Cindy?”

Cindy perked up. “Sure, Grandma!”

“Shhh, we must keep our voices down or we’ll—”

But it was too late. Grandpa had been snoring softly in his recliner, an open book lying on his chest. His chin had nodded at the sound of their voices. He opened his eyes. Seeing the way his wife was looking at him, he smiled and dozed off again. She had hidden him away for two months, until the crime was confessed by a former farmhand of the victims. And every time he opened those eyes, April fell in love with her Justice all over again.

“Cindy,” she asked softly, “have I ever told you the story of how I met your grandpa?”

*          *          *


“April’s Justice” is from my Lunch Break collection of poems and short stories, now available in paperback and Kindle editions.

“Well worth the price. If you haven’t read any of Quent’s stories yet, I almost envy you. I’m waiting eagerly for more.” – Dianne Durante, author of the *Forgotten Delights* series

“Could you read these during your lunch break? Yes. Will you want to? No. You won’t want to rush yourself. You’ll want to pour yourself a glass of wine, snuggle into your favorite chair, turn off your phone, and spend every luxurious minute that you can immersing yourself in these stories.” – Elizabeth O’Brien, author of *English Grammar Revolution*

“…it is fuel for the spirit; it is an affirmation of life and what is good. That he writes beautifully and imaginatively adds to the reading pleasure.” – Michael Wilkinson, Sculptor

Enjoy more of my poetry & short fiction in my latest collection, My Kingdom, now available in paperback and Kindle editions. ~

I could not put the book down! I read the poems out loud to my kids as though I am Cyrano on stage! Inspires me to be the best I can be! Love it! ~ Heather Pendaris

If you enjoy life and a positive view of mankind, if you are a valuer and enjoy reading uplifting works, you’ll love this collection of short works by Quent Cordair. This is a great book when you just want a short read that will leave you feeling better than when you started, when you need a little emotional fuel. No need to read it as a whole, just enjoy a little morsel when you need it. You will find yourself going back for more, over and over. I have thoroughly enjoyed Quent’s longer works, but they are a deeper dive. This collection can be enjoyed even if you have only short spurts of time available for reading. I highly recommend it. ~ Steve M.

I can only say, if like me you admire human independence and have a belief that each of us are sovereign individuals and that the greatest joy can be found in seeing something admirable, reward yourself with a few hours of pleasure. Buy the real book .. read … enjoy. ~ Garrett Seinen

The My Kingdom collection is now available in paperback and Kindle editions. ~



If you prefer novels, I write those too. I recommend starting with Genesis, the first part of my five-part Idolatry saga. ~


Part I of Idolatry

In the twilight of the Roman Empire, a sculptor struggles to keep an 800-year dream alive while honoring the love of his life and raising his adopted son. Part I of the epic five-part Idolatry saga, the story of a wealthy young heir and a devout Christian girl who find themselves at the heart of a 2400-year struggle for the soul of Western Civilization.


“Beautifully written, on the order of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, with the historical insight of James Michener, it brings to life a time of great thought, great art, and its clash with religious fanaticism. Cordair writes with a poet’s sense of scene and nuance and gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of a sculptor; I found this an exciting and easy read.” ~ Alan Nitikman

Enjoy Genesis in paperbackKindle, or Audiobook today. ~


Quent Cordair Fine Artwith galleries in Napa, California, and Jackson, Wyoming, was established by artist Quent Cordair in 1996. As a premier provider of contemporary Romantic Realism in painting, sculpture, and drawing, QCFA has grown to serve an international clientele of private and corporate collectors. Explore our select offerings today at cordair.com. ~

The Robin’s Nest

FeaturedThe Robin’s Nest


“You seek love,” Amelie said, finally, emerging from her long silence. She was studying a ladybug that had lit on the hem of her skirt to wind its way purposefully, probingly along the line of silk stitches. She hadn’t once glanced at Catherine since they’d stopped to sit on the garden bench. “Love is always worth finding, yes,” she continued, “but it is trust I want. If only I might trust again. Trust is more precious than love, you know, more essential. Love depends on trust. Without trust, love is helpless. But with trust, love can soar. Oh, and how love can soar! Only let me find trust again.”

The ladybug paused. It opened its wings once, twice. When it flew, Amelie’s breath caught, her fingers opened reflexively, as though to catch and hold the tiny creature, but her hands remained firmly in her lap, her back straight, head erect as she followed its flight until it was lost in the buzzing haze. She pressed on, the words coming like an intoned rite over the laying of flowers on a fresh grave.

“When trust is broken, when trust is shattered, love can only stare in dumb wonder at the shards of its own reflection, rendered helpless again. When trust has crumbled into dust, to be carried off by the wind, love may persist, love may live on, but it can exist only as a bloodless shade, veiled in torn longing, shrouded in aching need, condemned to floating through the empty and echoing rooms, retracing the steps over and over, touching all the places again and again until the boards and posts are worn and polished smooth. When trust is gone, yes, love may live on, refusing to die, unable to depart, the unevictable tenant of a broken and empty heart.”

Her eyes had remained dry, the tears all long ago cried.

Catherine shifted closer and slipped her arm through, taking Amelie’s hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Amelie didn’t pull away.

They sat just so for a while, silently, watching the bees work the crepe myrtle tree, flower by flower, the robin building her nest, twig by twig. When they spoke again, it was of things of much and little consequence, but nothing of love or trust. They talked together until the shadows grew long and the primroses were opening to the evening dew. As the rhythm of the crickets’ song enveloped them, they fell into another long silence, a silence as natural and right as the first had been awkward and strained.

“We should be getting back,” Catherine suggested, with little conviction and less desire. “We’ll be missed.” She felt a faint tightening in Amelie’s fingers.

“If we must.”

Still, neither of the young women rose, neither moved, neither wanting to risk breaking the spell, the spell with its suggestion of a possibility of something so unlikely that it might exist only in their imaginations, a possibility neither of them had anticipated, much less dared hope.

But in a moment that had passed unnoticed that afternoon, the prospect of a better, brighter existence in the world had been conceived. Somewhere within a warm and hidden fold of the make-shift womb of clasped palms and interlaced fingers, the seed of something wondrous and impossible had germinated and begun to take form. To many in their respective worlds, to most perhaps, what these two might dare hope to claim in that twilight hour would seem too meager a treasure, a coin too common, a half farthing one mightn’t bother to stoop to retrieve had it fallen in a gutter. But for these two who had seen so much, two who had suffered more than any two should, two who had endured more than most could—two who had managed to survive in near complete isolation, on little more than sheer will, stripped of any and all hope—what they might possess in the moment, even if it proved only fleeting in the end and gone on the morrow, was enough.

In the last of the twilight, as they walked back to the manor, they were arm in arm, holding hands still, neither of them caring much at all, in truth, whether they had been missed. Consequences be damned. Before parting, they promised they would return on the afternoon next, to the bench at the end of the garden, to the sacred privacy of the primroses and crepe myrtle, to check on the robin.

It was only after they had parted, after Amelie had disappeared from view around the corner of the stables, that Catherine’s legs folded beneath her. She sat in the middle of the path, one hand holding her body off the ground, the other clutched to her heart.

Though Amelie’s tears had all long been cried, Catherine’s first had yet to be shed. Her tears flowed now, the first and the rest.

She might have found a friend.



Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the story. “The Robin’s Nest” is from the My Kingdom collection of flash fiction, short stories, poems, and short plays for stage & screen, now available in paperback and Kindle editions. ~

Save the Tigers (free fiction)

FeaturedSave the Tigers (free fiction)

Judging from my social-media feeds, some of my friends are either reaching the bottom of their entertainment barrel or have already poked right through the bottom and started digging. (I wouldn’t name any of the TV shows being mentioned, but let’s just say that even the tigers are reportedly embarrassed to be in one of them.)

Let me help. I’m going to start making some of my 5-star fiction free to download, for a limited time, to help get us through these surreal days with minds and souls intact. I’ve made “Mujahid” a complimentary download through midnight Pacific tomorrow, April 5, 2020. You can read it on any smartphone, iPad, laptop, or desktop using Amazon’s Kindle app.

A wonderful new review of “Mujahid”:

5.0 out of 5 stars. “Efficacy, brilliantly dramatized. I read this screenplay during a layover in the city it is set in, Chicago. Somehow that brings the story closer. It’s a tight, powerful, well done screenplay that dramatizes the fact that your choices and actions do indeed make a difference. As I finished reading, getting to cruising altitude out of Chicago in that collection of a million parts each individually decided upon and assembled into a jetliner taking me affordably across the entire continent in less than a day, I got to observe a toddler stand up on his mom’s lap in the row ahead of mine. He was reaching up and learning that the buttons and vents above him had predictable, repeatable reactions to his manipulations, and his joy at the discovery was brilliant to behold. This resonated so powerfully with what Quent dramatized in his screenplay. The scope of my abstract understanding of human efficacy was expanded, and my perception and appreciation for the joy of it in the concrete was also expanded. Thanks for that, Quent! And hey, without all that “waxing philosophical,” it’s a rocking good tale, too!” ~ Erik Wingren.

Thanks, Erik!

To enjoy “Mujahid” today, click here.


The Gravity Field

FeaturedThe Gravity Field

She lay naked, face up, head to the north, feet to the south, arms outstretched, hands east and west, eyes full of stars. Beneath her back the lumped clods of dirt and broken carcasses of last season’s grain, moist from the night’s dew, served well enough for pillow and mattress, meshed with her hair, pressed against her bare skin. The cloudless sky offered no protection. She needed none. She took in the universe until she found her place again in the solar system, in the galaxy, feeling the earth and all its round wholeness—the mountains, the oceans, the molten core—not beneath her but behind, between her body and the sun. She had worked to shift her perception until she experienced the earth’s sphere as it was, tilted, turning on its axis, her body held against its side by gravity alone, its surface curving down and away below her, leaving nothing beneath her feet but the great void. But she wouldn’t fall. She was as attracted to the earth as it was to her, and she was dazzled by the distances the stars had come that night, each and every one, to kiss her body with light.

She lay there until the earth began to chill. When she rose, she brushed the straw and dirt out of her hair, off her body. She dressed and walked back to the limousine, shoes in hand. Her driver would follow the car’s tracks back out to the road. She might not return for another year, or for three, but she would return, as she always did. Why else, but for this, would she have bought the field?

*          *          *

Enjoy more Quent Cordair flash fiction, short stories, poems, and short plays for stage & screen, in paperback and ebook editions. ~

For the Woman Who Has Everything

FeaturedFor the Woman Who Has Everything

I wrote “For the Woman Who Has Everything” before I knew I’d have a stepdaughter named Sarah. Crisp early-winter mornings will often call the opening scenes to mind. The story was selected for publication in the ART Ideas magazine, once upon a time, and later included in my Lunch Break collection, which is still available in paperback and ebook.


Sarah woke to silence. Thin lines of moonlight lay in diagonals across the floor and rose in needles up the walls. She listened for awhile. The only sound was the soft crush of her hair against the pillow.

She slid her legs from beneath the layers of blankets and let her feet touch the chill of the hardwood floor. As she walked, a line of moonlight slipped around one ankle, then the other, ascending deliberately, scanning and measuring her body in strict undulations. At the west window the moon caught her fully, a slender white animal beneath the new winter’s sky….

Read more…

My favorite “illegal-immigrant” story is FREE today ~

My favorite “illegal-immigrant” story is FREE today ~

A fan favorite, and certainly one of mine, “The Seduction of Santi Banesh”  is free to download today through Monday midnight Pacific (10/21/2019).

Santi’s story: “While traveling to America with her family for the first time, the daughter of a third-world diplomat makes a life-altering decision during a layover in San Francisco.” From the reviews: “… a delicious pleasure to read … a joyous journey of discovery … The ending is one of the most perfect I’ve ever encountered, summing up the benevolence of the whole experience with its simplicity and inevitability.”

“The Seduction of Santi Banesh” was first published in the 1994 summer issue of the Atlantean Press Review. The Kindle edition of the story is FREE TODAY through Monday midnight for U.S. readers. To download your complimentary copy, visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B006596U8G . Thanks for everyone’s generous reviews — they’re greatly appreciated.


~ Quent Cordair

p.s. Say ‘hi’ to Santi’s little brother for me. Love that kid.

My Kingdom ~ free Kindle copies for review

FeaturedMy Kingdom ~ free Kindle copies for review

My Kingdom for a review — literally! Today I’m giving away three Kindle-edition copies of My Kingdom in exchange for short reviews. Even just a sentence or two will do. Average reading time: four hours. Your mileage may vary.

Sample snippets of reader-reviews of My Kingdom posted so far, to whet your appetite:

“…a highly recommended soul-quencher.”

“…an homage to the mind of man.”

“…a mind-engaging symphony of deliverance … Quent Cordair presents a benevolent universe and a gallery of heroic individuals fighting for an ideal life. Ultimately, it is a love story. It is real and, if you reach for it, it can be yours.”

“There is a refreshing benevolence in all of Cordair’s work, not sugar-coated, that is captivating, profound…”

Be one of the first three to volunteer in the comments, with the understood commitment that you’ll do your best to post a review on Amazon within the next 14 days, and a copy is yours!

Thank you!

Preview all the posted reviews of My Kingdom, now in paperback and Kindle editions, on Amazon.

Quent Cordair’s My Kingdom is a select collection of poems, short stories, flash-fiction works, studies and musings from the author’s notebooks, short plays for stage and screen, special scenes from the Idolatry, and for the first time in print, the acclaimed short story “The Match,” together with the short screenplays “Mujahid” and “At Home with Heather James.”

“For me, an artist’s studio can be as fascinating a place to visit as the gallery or museum in which his finished work is displayed. Practice sketches, studies, exercises, works in progress, casual pieces created solely for the artist’s own pleasure—while perhaps never intended for sale or public exposure—can be as wondrous and interesting as finished works that have earned the artist’s signature. Over the years, I’ve been encouraged by fans to publish the writer’s equivalent of such studio work—written sketches, descriptions, dialogues, style and period exercises, scene and character studies, musings, selections from works in progress. This collection includes, in addition to an assortment of such, a variety of shorter, finished works, from poems to plays, dating to before publication of the Lunch Break collection. To one and all, welcome again to my world, my way. Welcome to My Kingdom.” ~ Quent Cordair

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thanks so much for each and every review! “A screenplay jihadists will hate and civilized people will love…. Set in Chicago during the holiday season, the story involves a conflict between Husam, a young Muslim man who takes Islam seriously, and his younger brother Jasim. The conflict escalates after Husam is handed a heavy bag by a bearded man and gets on a bus heading downtown…. How is the conflict resolved? In an immensely satisfying way—as fans of Cordair’s work would expect.” — Daniel Wahl, The Objective Standard.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R8QP8NI

For Memorial Day, a short story

For Memorial Day, a short story

The Sculpture That Won the War

by Quent Cordair

From a letter to a sculptor
Sept 27, 2001

From the Lunch Break collection

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a sculptor who had only the face to finish of a magnificent statue, his masterpiece to date. Frustrated by his limitations and increasingly dissatisfied with his efforts to bring into existence the perfection in his mind’s eye, his progress on the artwork had foundered and stalled. His workshop had fallen silent. Indeed, as the days and weeks and months drifted on, the statue was in danger of never being finished at all.

But on a crystal-clear morning, a morning seemingly as peaceful as any other in living memory, a shocking event occurred: the sculptor’s country came under attack. It was a morning of sudden and unexpected terror, of cold-blooded murder that left thousands dead and the populace reeling.

Over the next days and weeks, a miasma of insecurity and anxiety settled over the land, ubiquitous and inescapable, visible on the faces of the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the strong and the weak, the eminent and the obscure. Their sense of wellbeing had vanished overnight; their paradigm had shifted, ostensibly forever. In response to the attack, some wanted to stand and fight; others wanted to kneel and plead; most wandered through their hours fearful and confused, unsure of what to do. While the government drafted plans for war, the citizenry went about their daily routines as well as they were able, anxious for what the fractured future might bring for themselves and for their loved ones, wanting to do something, anything, to combat the pervasive sense of helplessness, yet uncertain of what, if anything, could be done.

The sculptor knew that his country was in greater need than ever of emotional fuel, and he knew what could help provide it. His country was fighting for her life—she needed vision and inspiration to survive, to defend herself, to remember what she had once been, to conquer, to rebuild, to thrive once again. With renewed vigor and determination, he threw his efforts into doing what he could do, contributing with what he did best. Days and nights, coffee and curses, dejection and perseverance, but finally—satisfaction, satisfaction that he had done what he could do, as well as he could do it.

Within a few weeks of the enemy’s strike, the sculptor sent his finished clay to the foundry; within a dozen weeks thereafter, the foundry delivered the finished bronze to the gallery; the gallery, in turn, delivered the artwork to the client who had commissioned it.

The delivery brought in the balance of payment to the gallery which, due to the widespread economic uncertainties subsequent to the attack, was on the brink of closing for lack of sales. The buyer, upon receiving the sculpture, was so delighted with the finished work that he was motivated to place yet another significant commission with the gallery, and the deposit toward the new commission kept the gallery open for a few precious months more. Over that period, the economy stabilized sufficiently that regular purchases began to trickle in again, just enough that the gallery would never again be quite so close to failing.

In the spring after the sculpture was completed and delivered, an eight-year old girl was passing by the gallery with two of her friends. Upon catching a glimpse of the art on display in the window she drew her friends inside, and as they browsed the cornucopia of treasures within, the girl stopped before a lovely figure, a bronze sculpture patined in white. It was a smaller casting of the sculptor’s larger masterpiece. She fell in love with it, and she was all the more enchanted and delighted when she discovered, upon reading the tag at the artwork’s base, that she shared the sculpture’s name. She could hardly afford the sculpture itself, of course, but she spotted a photographed image of the piece framed and hanging on the wall nearby. It too was available for purchase. She checked the price—she couldn’t afford the photograph either. But she did have five dollars. She approached the gallery manager to offer what she had, wondering, hoping. The manager dug through her filing cabinet and found, from a recent mailing campaign, a postcard that featured an image of the sculpture. She gave it to the girl, smilingly, without charge. The girl went home and slipped the postcard into the edge of the mirror on her bedroom wall.

*    *    *

A young pilot cruised silently through the cold night sky, the diamond dust of stars twinkling above. The blanket of clouds below stretched ahead toward a rumpling rise in the distance, marking the boundary of mountainous terrain beneath. His sortie consisted only of himself and his wingman, in two stealth fighters. According to the screen in front of him, they had just crossed the border into enemy territory. It wouldn’t be long now.

The mountains ahead bristled with anti-aircraft batteries.

War had been declared on those who had supported the terrorists and their atrocious acts. The ground war was proving more difficult than anticipated, with the enemy forces scurrying back into the crevices and caves of the mountains at the slightest provocation. The enemy’s military leader, the very swine who had devised and overseen the terrorist attack, was proving elusive, but a disillusioned member of his inner circle had been susceptible to bribing, and the leader’s location had been leaked. The caves in which he was thought to be hiding and their surroundings had been bombed incessantly over the past days, and on this evening, an intelligence satellite had picked up a small convoy attempting to leave the area under the cover of darkness. A forward spotter on the ground confirmed that it was indeed the enemy leader, who could disappear into another system of caves within minutes or hours.

The jets had been scrambled immediately, and now the pair were within a short thirty miles of their target. They rolled onto their sides and slipped like diving nighthawks through the clouds and to the height of the peaks before turning into a craggy-walled valley. By design, the cutting-edge craft were nearly undetectable by radar, but a watchful enemy soldier, at first spooked by the two shadows streaking silently above, frantically radioed ahead a warning. Anti-aircraft fire began tracing upwards, trying to catch the fleeting apparitions. The pilots dropped lower so as not to offer a silhouette against the night sky. Without warning, a missile from below caught the wingman’s craft, and it erupted into a comet of flame, dropping away without so much as a sound from the pilot’s radio.

The young pilot who remained fought to stay focused. All of his reflexes wanted to pull the stick back and shoot straight up to the sky, to rise above the fiery tracings that would surely find him too at any moment, to live to fight another day.

Deep in the canyon, radio reception was intermittent and broken. He might have heard his commander’s order to pull up and out, but he might not have heard it either. If he climbed, he might be able get a fair shot at the convoy from altitude—if he survived the incoming fire to which the altitude would expose him—but it was the enemy leader himself, the black heart and soul of the enemy forces, who was traveling in that convoy. When would there be another chance if the pilot missed or if he were shot down before being able to make another attempt? How long might the war drag on if the leader escaped? The images that had been seared into his memory on that accursed morning came again—the hijacked airliners crashing into the skyscrapers, the innocents plunging from the heights to their deaths, the buildings collapsing, the vacant despair on the faces of the survivors.

He thought of the postcard in the breast pocket of his flight suit, of the delicately looped handwriting in violet pen on the postcard’s reverse, of the girl who had sent the accompanying letter. He switched off his radio. Steeling himself, he kicked the plane over on its side, banking hard around a canyon corner, flying lower yet, the bullets from small arms pinging into his craft’s underbelly.

The infrared radar confirmed the vehicles of the convoy on the road ahead, speeding toward a pass so narrow that even if he were on his side he wouldn’t be able to follow them in. He dropped lower, the dust from the road boiling in his wake. Either of the laser-guided bombs on board would get the job done, but he wouldn’t be able to gain enough elevation in time to guide one in on the first pass, and he wouldn’t be able to complete a second pass before the convoy scattered.

He hadn’t even met the girl. She was a student in a class of fourth graders that had adopted his unit. They had sent a package of homemade baked goods and letters. Her envelope had found its way onto his bunk just the evening before. The letter opened with the generically respectful “Dear Sir—” He recalled the words written on the back of the enclosed postcard and the tiny violet heart after the girl’s name. On the front of the postcard was the image of a sculpture, the embodiment of innocence and delight. It was the only mail he had received in weeks. It was enough.

“Okay, baby, this one’s for you. . . .”

He armed both of the bombs and aimed the nose of his black angel at the rear vehicle in the convoy ahead. In his final seconds, he thought of the target, of the enemy leader, and realizing something, he chuckled. With the fire of hell in his eyes, he said, “Live by the plane, die by the plane, mother f—”

*   *   *

On a cloudless morning in the thin mountain air, an American soldier walked through the scattered wreckage at the site of the strike. Pieces of wood, metal and clothing were scattered about the perimeter of the blackened gouge in the road, three hundred yards long. It would go down in history as the place where the head of the hydra was killed and the tide of war had been turned. The platoon was combing through the wreckage for any of what might remain of the leader’s papers and effects. Of the pilot’s body, they hadn’t been able to find anything, though small pieces of the plane were identifiable here and there. But the oddest scraps can survive such conflagrations: after the attack that had brought down the buildings and started the war, one of the terrorists’ passports had been found in the rubble below.

The soldier lifted a piece of twisted metal and noticed in the ashes beneath it a postcard, its edges curled and seared brown but otherwise unburned. On the front was the photo of a sculpture, an elegant figure in white, beckoning to be followed into a world of wonder and happiness. The soldier smiled. He turned the photo over and read: “Dear Sir, this is how I used to feel before the war. I hope I can feel this way again someday. Thank you for fighting for me. — Joy”

The soldier tucked the photo into his breast pocket and slung his rifle over his shoulder. Kicking aside a half-burned turban, he walked down the road and took in a chestful of clean air. For the first time in months, he allowed himself to think of home.

* * *

Copyright 2001, 2012, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.

The Sculpture That Won the War is included in the Lunch BreakLB cover mockup 060212a 72 dpi collection of short stories and poems by Quent Cordair ~

In Lunch Break, adventure, suspense and romance rule the day as the protagonists pursue their ends with passion and perseverance. The collection includes stories originally published in *The Atlantean Press Review* and *ART Ideas.*

A billionaire struggling for hope searches the world for love…. A country girl with a rifle stands ready to deliver justice…. A former banker washes windows on the side of a skyscraper…. The daughter of a foreign official is lured into the heart of San Francisco…. The son of a wealthy divorcee helps recover her lost soul…. In the aftermath of a terrorist attack, a sculptor’s work inspires and uplifts…. A teacher pursues an elusive assassin…. A family man follows his own course in preparation for apocalypse….

“…well worth the price. If you haven’t read any of Quent’s stories yet, I almost envy you. I’m waiting eagerly for more.” – Dianne Durante, author of the *Forgotten Delights* series

“Could you read these during your lunch break? Yes. Will you want to? No. You won’t want to rush yourself. You’ll want to pour yourself a glass of wine, snuggle into your favorite chair, turn off your phone, and spend every luxurious minute that you can immersing yourself in these stories.” – Elizabeth O’Brien, author of *English Grammar Revolution*

“…it is fuel for the spirit; it is an affirmation of life and what is good. That he writes beautifully and imaginatively adds to the reading pleasure.” – Michael Wilkinson, Sculptor

Enjoy your own Lunch Break today!



Don’t miss GENESIS, Part I of IDOLATRY “Beautifully written, on the order of Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth, with the historical insight of James Michener, it brings to life a time of great thought, great art, and its clash with religious fanaticism. Cordair writes with a poet’s sense of scene and nuance and gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of a sculptor.”   5-STARS — Alan Nitikman

Genesis cover art 051115c

In the twilight of the Roman Empire, a sculptor struggles to keep an 800-year dream alive while honoring the love of his life and raising his adoptive son. Part I of the *Idolatry* series, an epic story in five parts. Now available for Kindle, in paperback and on audiobook…

“It is extremely difficult to believe that this is a novella when you finish it. You feel like you’ve followed the entire burning course of an epic romance, the life of a young bright mind carelessly following a difficult road, and a dramatic plot against anything glorious. Cordair had a way of bringing tears to my eyes in his previously published short stories. He has a way of creating scenes of emotional wonder and then forcing you to linger on the emotion in sorrow or defiance or happiness. … Cordair leaves us with the feeling that any obstacle, any voice that says with any amount of force that we can’t be exactly what we want and know we ought to be, is too small to care about – and the consequences of ignoring such a voice can never be so bad.… Cordair’s craft is a triumphant inspiration, the kind a soul can yearn for more of in whatever part of the tale comes next.” 5 STARS — Joseph Hampel

Genesis is now available for Kindle, in paperback, and on audiobook on Amazon here… 

For the Woman Who Has Everything

For the Woman Who Has Everything

Sarah woke to silence. Thin lines of moonlight lay in diagonals across the floor. She listened for awhile. The only sound was the soft rustle of her hair against the pillow.

She slid her legs from beneath the layers of blankets and let her feet touch the chill of the hardwood floor. As she walked, a line of moonlight slipped around one ankle, then the other, ascending, scanning and measuring her body in strict undulations. At the west window the moon caught her fully, a slender white animal beneath the new winter’s sky.

To the north the terraced lawns twinkled with frost as from a sprinkling of ground glass. To the south the meadow’s tall grasses were broken, the stalks strewn like fallen soldiers, the stumps standing like nails on the hills. Below and before her lay the expansive gardens, where the moonlight was caught in webs of shadow beneath the bare rose bushes and in chains of diamonds beneath the arched trellises. Beyond the gardens the shadows converged in venous networks that covered the forest floor and stretched down to the lake. The black water held a solitary, struggling prisoner, the twin sister of a star above. Beyond the circle of the horizon lay the borders of the estate. Within, the only movement, the only sound, the only life was the faint beating of Sarah’s heart.

She wrapped herself in her robe and stepped into her slippers. The bed hardly looked slept in. In the long hall, the moonlight floated in slanting shafts from the skylights to oblique rectangles on the wall. It was still her habit to pause at each of the children’s rooms. In Kelly’s, the moonlight glinted from a fleet-footed Mercury atop one of the running trophies. The stuffed animals waited patiently on the bed. Kelly was doing well in law school, her holiday visits were rare. In Paul’s room, his model airplane hung in a banking climb above the darkened computer. Paul was piloting his own plane now from one development project to the next. The last Sarah had heard, he was somewhere in Argentina. In Jonathan’s room, his first sculpture, a lovely nude, reclined on the dresser as comfortably as the day he had placed her there. He had been so proud of that first effort, and rightly so. Jonathan lived in the city now with his wife and two young children, adjacent to his new studio. They hadn’t been out to see her in a while. Sarah had hinted that perhaps she might come in to the city for a visit this weekend, but Jonathan had demurred, saying that he was trying to finish an important project before a deadline, that they would be out to see her when they could. Of course she understood.

At the end of the hall, the desk light in her office illuminated the neat stacks of papers. It was the one light in the house she left on at night. After toiling into the small hours beneath its glow, it was always there for her when she woke before dawn, the lightship guiding her back into its harbor. On her desk, the day’s priorities filled three pages of yellow pad. The computer screen blinked an urgent message from Hong Kong. A text from the Zurich office wanted her to call immediately, before the close of their business day. She found herself staring blankly at the pencil lying on the desk. A moment earlier, she had meant to pick it up, but her hand was still on the back of the chair. She switched off the light. Through the window, behind the silhouetted branches of a towering fir, the sky was shifting to a somber charcoal grey. She drifted on.

The library’s fireplace was empty and cold. The leather recliner loomed in the shadows. Sometimes she could still smell the burning oak mingled with the sweet scent of pipe tobacco, and the boys would be perched on the arms of their father’s chair, with little Kelly nestled into his lap, his golden baritone holding them in rapt attention as he read. Last year, Sarah had called the movers to take the chair away, but when they arrived, she wouldn’t let them touch it. The chair remained, the sole monument to the years. He had taken his books with him. She had tried filling the spaces on the shelves with figurines, vases and curios.

In the great room, her finger followed the edge of the grand piano. Across the floor where she had danced, she moved in a straight line, on through the foyer and into the dining room, hearing again the laughter of friends and the clink of champagne glasses as she passed the table. In the kitchen she circled the island, the home’s heart from which all had flowed and to which all had returned—had once returned. Its veined granite lay bare and clean. The surrounding chairs, which had been nicked and worn, were repainted and re-covered. She opened the French doors to the patio—the cold splashed her face and hands, spilling around her wrists and ankles, rising beneath her robe, around her bare legs.

The morning mist had settled over the back lawn, wetting the frost. Her daily routine led down the flagstone walk to the greenhouse, where reflexively, she turned to wind through the boxwood hedges that led to the gardens, following the serpentine route that allowed inspection of each well-groomed plot. The pruning was finished. The perennials were trimmed and mulched. The tulips, larkspur and peonies had been tucked under. In the vegetable and herb beds, the clods of earth lay belly-up to the sky, awaiting the blanket of snow. There was nothing left to be done.

By the time she reached the back of the gardens, the night’s shadows had dissolved in the dawn’s silver twilight which seemed to rise from the earth itself, the moon a paling wafer lingering in the haze above. Along the path through the stands of maple and birch, the moss on the trunks glistened with frosty dew, the carpet of dead leaves and rotting branches offering up the crisp pungency of decay. Ahead, the water lay like polished slate beneath the diaphanous shroud of mist veiling the lake’s far shore.

She paused at the gazebo, where the swing for two hung empty and still at the end of its chains. It was there that Douglas had left her sitting, too stunned to cry. From the supply in the lidded bench she took a fresh towel and draped it over the railing. Beside the towel she draped her robe. Below the robe she arranged her slippers.

This year, the ritual of her morning swim had extended past the end of summer and on through the autumn months. She couldn’t say why. The water’s embrace was simply something she needed, like the light on her desk. When she reached the middle of the lake, she would float awhile, then exhale and let her body slip quietly beneath the surface to sink slowly down through the ever colder, darker depths. The feeling of the mud closing about her feet had at first sent her kicking upwards for light and air—but it was only mud, she had been telling herself, the same as the stuff in her garden beneath a rainy day, where all things that have had their season inevitably return to rest. She had been staying down longer of late.

The path to the water’s edge passed through the outermost feature of her landscaping, a circular haven of evergreen hedges. She stopped there—startled.

There had always been the stone bench on the one side, but she had never found quite the right ornament for the view opposite. Her first thought was that the style of the sculpture was unmistakable—and then she couldn’t think anymore because her body was straightening to match the bearing of the marble figure, an ageless beauty in a summer dress, hands resting lightly on the hips, looking out into the world with strength, resolve and a peaceful joy. Gazing at it, she could feel her son’s hands gently pushing on the small of her back, pulling her shoulders, lifting her chin. It was a perfect likeness of her. It was her own lost soul, and as she stood before the vision, it filled and filled her. The base was engraved:


For the woman who has everything —

Happy birthday, Mom.

— Jonathan

She had been standing there for longer than she knew when the morning’s silence was broken by the sound of a horn from the direction of the front drive, followed by the shutting of car doors and the laughter of children—Jonathan’s.

She hadn’t expected them. She turned and walked briskly toward the gazebo. There was hot cocoa and muffins to be made. As she tied the belt of her robe, she glanced back to the lake. As soon as it froze over, she would be out on the ice with the children, teaching them how to skate. She removed the remaining towels from beneath the bench, tucking them beneath her arm as she turned toward the house.

Above the circle of evergreen, the first snowflake of winter drifted down, turning a fine pirouette. It came to rest on a sublime marble cheek, and melted there.

*          *          *


Copyright 2012, Quent Cordair. All rights reserved.LB cover mockup 060212a 72 dpi


“For the Woman Who Has Everything” is one of 16 stories and poems in the Lunch Break collection, now available in paperback and on Kindle.




2015-12-04 14.27.24

In the twilight of the Roman Empire, as the darkening forces of mysticism descend on Western Civilization, the daughter of itinerant traders is falling fast for a local boy—the apprentice and adopted son of a sculptor. The old master, concerned for the boy’s future, recalls his years as a younger man in bustling Alexandria, where he had found the love of his life before having to flee the threat of religious persecution. Now, having finally rebuilt his life and career in a village far away, an enemy from the past reappears, threatening all he holds dear.

“Beautifully written, on the order of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, with the historical insight of James Michener, it brings to life a time of great thought, great art, and its clash with religious fanaticism. Cordair writes with a poet’s sense of scene and nuance and gives us a great deal of insight into the mind of a sculptor….” ~ Alan Nitikman

GENESIS is Part I of the 5-part IDOLATRY saga. Now available on Amazon…

“It is extremely difficult to believe that this is a novella when you finish it. You feel like you’ve followed the entire burning course of an epic romance, the life of a young bright mind carelessly following a difficult road, and a dramatic plot against anything glorious. Cordair had a way of bringing tears to my eyes in his previously published short stories. He has a way of creating scenes of emotional wonder and then forcing you to linger on the emotion in sorrow or defiance or happiness. … Cordair leaves us with the feeling that any obstacle, any voice that says with any amount of force that we can’t be exactly what we want and know we ought to be, is too small to care about – and the consequences of ignoring such a voice can never be so bad.… Cordair’s craft is a triumphant inspiration, the kind a soul can yearn for more of in whatever part of the tale comes next.” 5 STARS — Joseph Hampel

Genesis is now available for Kindle,

and in paperback and audiobook editions.