Splinter by Doaa Elhassan



J.D. Eames

Abby’s mad at me, but there isn’t anything to do about it. Between our homes we share a fence. It needs serious repair. Before her contractor begins the work, she needs my okay.

I watch her during her sunrise run as she counts the descansos along her path. This morning she stops to examine a new one: a large cross in bright reds, blues, and yellows, with embedded photos of a young mother, Sophia, who was killed in a head-on collision as she drove home from her nightly bakery shift.

Abby jumps over some rotting fence boards that have fallen across the sidewalk.

“Damn you, Marco,” she curses.

She’s thinking of me, though we’ve never met.

She must have gotten my name from her realtor. I doubt it was a neighbor. She moved in next door at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She encountered her new neighbors, waving from across the street.

She’s come to my house to find me several times—first, with a plate of cookies she left on the table on my porch. Normally I’d be the one to bring a plate to her as a welcome.

She must think I’m out of town, stuck, unable to travel home because of all the pandemic restrictions. Or else she believes I’m simply refusing to answer my front door, a recluse against the world, waiting out the virus.