“Happy Hour” in Minerva Rising

header_20140213Great news on the writing front! Minerva Rising Issue #5, containing my piece “Happy Hour,” is now in print. I’d love for you to read what I’ve been working on, and also to support this independent literary journal. Minerva Rising’s motto is “Celebrating the creativity and wisdom in every woman.” To purchase a subscription or buy individual issues, please click on this link.  Thank you for your support of women writers.

Here’s a preview of “Happy Hour”

Roni picks up her vodka tonic, takes a long swallow, wipes her mouth with the back of her hand.

“I wasn’t sure what it was at first,” she says, setting down her glass. “I thought it might be a turtle. But then it swam up close and stopped, maybe ten feet from me, and I saw it was a river otter. I smiled. I thought it wanted to play. ‘Hello there,’ I said, or something like that, and it growled.”

She shakes her head. “Yeah, that scared me. The otter went under then—I could see the water swirling towards me. I started backpedaling. The next thing I knew, it was biting the hell out of my legs.”

“Oh my god,” I breathe, “that must have been horrible. What did you do?”

“Screamed. Kicked. I tried to push it away—that’s how this happened.” Roni holds up her left hand; half her little finger is gone. I had been wondering about that.

“I got bit about a dozen times.” She pulls up her pant leg to show me, and I notice she has stopped shaving her legs. Sure enough her calf is riddled with scars: punctures and a couple dark crescents. “There’s one on my thigh that took fourteen stitches.”

I peer at her leg, look back up. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Roni, and studying her today is a pleasure I wasn’t prepared for. Like most women who are good-looking in their youth, she has grown more striking, as if now that her beauty is fully formed, she has taken possession of it. I would recognize that face anywhere, though much about her has changed. Her skin is very tanned for one thing, not those orangey tans you bake or spray on, but a weathered tan that shows the white laugh lines around her eyes. Her dark hair, which she used to wear in a long smooth braid, is now short and choppy. She is bigger, too, filled out with muscle; her arms are spectacular in that lime green tank top. What surprises me most is her smile—there’s an upper tooth missing on the side of her mouth; I can’t stop focusing on it. How long has she let that go?

“Jesus, Roni. How did you get away?”

“Someone in a boat heard me and zoomed over. They smacked the water with a paddle till the otter swam off. I had to get rabies shots.”

“Ewww. In your stomach?”

“No, they don’t do it that way anymore. Still hurts though. They give you shots in your hip when you come in, and then you get five more in your arm over the next month.”

“So they knew the otter was rabid?”

“No. You can’t tell if an animal is rabid unless you test its brain tissue.” She frowns. “I don’t think it was rabid, I think it was just protecting its young.” She lifts her drink and takes another swallow. “Otters have their pups wherever they can find cover—piles of driftwood, old beaver dens, log jams. I’d been fishing near the shoreline, near this huge fallen tree. I got hot, so I dropped anchor and went for a swim.” She flashes a grin, and the gap in her teeth comes back into view. “Wrong time, wrong place.”


Published by

Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Lillian, Alabama. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel, LOST SISTER. Her short story collections, SURVIVAL SKILLS and LOVERS AND LONERS, are available online. STRANGE COMPANY, a collection of short nature essays, is available in paperback as well as digital and audio editions.

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