by Kerry Langan

SHE STRETCHES HER fingers, sets them on the keyboard and begins to complete the online form:

Dear Senator,

            Yet again, small children have been gunned down in their classrooms. You have an A+ rating with the NRA. You have accepted more than $3 million dollars from the NRA. You are part of the problem; you are enabling the murder of children. This is my 9th email to you in two weeks and you have responded to none of them. None.

            But I see you on Twitter complaining about the price of gas. Gas? Really? While you’re complaining, tiny caskets are being made for slain children. The caskets will be closed at the funerals because their bodies were mutilated by an AR-15. Some parents had to wait for DNA testing so their children could be identified. . .and you’re whining about filling your gas tank.

            You’re only in office for 7 more months. DO SOMETHING! How many more children are going to die unless you DO SOMETHING?!

Alice Penshaw

When she tries to click on the circle next to the statement, “I am not a robot,” a message appears, “Confirm Humanity.” A picture divided into 16 boxes appears on the screen in grid format with the caption, “Click on all squares with bicycles.” She squints, studying each small image to click on those with a bike, but one has just a part of a pedal. Does that count? Should she click on that? Another has just the reflector on the back fender of a small two-wheeler. Does that one count?  It’s not the whole bike but it’s a part of one. She clicks on these fragmented images, and finally presses “Submit.”       

Immediately, another grid of pictures appears with the caption, “Click on all squares with trucks.” A single image of a highway is chopped up into the 16 boxes. She searches for the trucks, large and small, and starts clicking. But there’s a tiny part of a tire in one picture, not really the truck itself, but it’s still part of the truck, isn’t it? Should she click? She starts to cry. Nothing is whole, not the children who huddled together in their classroom and now lie disassembled in little caskets, and not these trucks on the highway. Everything is broken; everything is in pieces.

She finally presses “Submit” and it takes at least half a minute for the response, “Thank you for contacting my office!” to appear. And there is a picture of the senator, a man in his 60s with remnants of acne scars on his cheeks, smiling, as if he really is delighted to hear from her. His teeth are white and straight, and his grin stretches wide over his chin.

She blinks and gathers the saliva in her mouth, rolling the sides of her tongue, moving the liquid to just behind her teeth. Angling her head back, she brings it forward quickly and spits at the computer screen, the knot of saliva sounding like “Spuck!” when it lands on his face. Slowly, a bit slides down and she stares at her saliva, the liquid bullet, until it reaches the absolute bottom of the screen.


Kerry Langan has published three collections of short stories, My Name Is Your Name & Other Stories, the most recent. Her fiction has appeared in dozens of literary magazines, including The Saturday Evening PostStoryQuarterlyWest BranchCimarron ReviewOther VoicesThe Seattle ReviewLiterary MamaRosebudBlue Mountain ReviewJMWWReflex FictionFictive DreamThe Fictional Café and others. Her stories have been anthologized in XX Eccentric: Stories About the Eccentricities of Women and in Solace in So Many Words. Her nonfiction has appeared in Working Mother and Shifting Balance Sheets: Women’s Stories of Naturalized Citizenship & Cultural Attachment, as well as various newspapers.