JUST OUTSIDE THE TUNNEL OF LOVE by Francine Witte

And Benny Jones telling me about Darlene. In other words, he pulled me through to unlove me. 

Something about how love is a crispy pepper one minute, but then it goes wilty and soft. I told him I’m not a goddam pepper and get to the goddam point. 

Problem is, I gave Benny Jones my heart too fast. My heart is a bristle I keep in my pocket and I can never wait to give it away. 

Benny Jones sat in the boat in the Tunnel of Love, all squirm and tangle of words. Friends, he was saying, and didn’t mean to. 

Then he pointed to a pin’s worth of light right there in front of us. “That’s the future,” he said. “It gets bigger and brighter the closer we get. All beautiful and warm.” I told Benny to shut the hell up. If we’re not a thing, we’re not a thing, but don’t go making a movie out of it. 

When we did get outside the Tunnel of Love, into the future Benny Jones had promised would be warm and bright, I didn’t see anything. I didn’t feel anything. Just thought back to that summer at my grandma’s house, when her old dog, Punch, got a fever and she was going to shoot him. How I stroked Punch’s tan fur, telling him, it’s okay boy, when I knew damn well it wasn’t. My heart wriggling around in my pocket even then with no damn place for it to go.


Francine Witte's poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, Passages North, and many others. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and (The Theory of Flesh.) Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) will be published by ELJ September, 2021. She lives in NYC.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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