Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain

by Laton Carter


A bird in my backyard sounds like it’s choking. It isn’t my yard, the apartments all share it, but still—it feels like it’s there for me. Just one maple. Grass, some geraniums for a border. You’d think I’d see it, but I never have. The bird only sings. I don’t mean strangulation. I mean that single falling grace note proceeding the central pitch. It drops like a warble.

If you stare at a sofa long enough, it becomes a country. The seams, the cushions, the backrest, they’re territories. All the people who’ve sat there are tourists. Some more than others, and the ones who return become residents. Look at that face. His deep set eyes, the buried self. I don’t know what to call it and have it be right: self-loathing, self-doubt. It leans out to be fixed.

I never let my license expire. Cosmetology sounds a lot like space, but it’s lids and brows, cheeks and a jaw. You get to draw on them, watch the surface transform into something it isn’t. Make-up is a damn better protection than a gun. Drink your coffee and think about it. It doesn’t make sense until it does.

The tablets in my mouth at first were bitter. Then you don’t notice a thing. The grandmother I’m holding is a pillow. Her breast against my cheek is all I want just for a little while.


Laton Carter’s fiction appears or is forthcoming in A-Minor Magazine, Atticus Review, The Boiler, Indiana Review, The MacGuffin, Necessary Fiction, and Split Lip Magazine. Carter works in a middle school in Western Oregon.


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While Patsy Cline is generally credited as the first female country singer to sing about divorce (1955), it took thirteen more years for the word itself to appear in song. Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” (1968) chronicled the taboo of divorce before the misconstrued “Stand By Your Man” made Wynette a household name. This piece of fiction, which borrows its title from a Reba McIntyre song, attempts to compress Wynette’s humility in the face of pain.


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