Robert Swartwood

Summer of ‘84

New Jersey
Mama says Kim’s white trash, that I should stay away. So when Kim asks if I want to go for a ride, I say sure.

At an Exxon station I ask where we’re going. Kim asks if I want a cigarette. I lie and say I do.

The left rear tire goes flat just outside of Zanesville. Kim changes it herself, her muscles writhing underneath her sweat-stained tank top.

We sleep in the car behind a truck stop. Kim asks if I am scared. I say no. When she is asleep, I quietly masturbate.

A skunk lies dead on the side of the highway. Flies blanket it. Kim pulls over and stares for a long time. Then she laughs.

The sun dipping below the horizon lights up the bugs splattered on the windshield. I reach out and with my finger trace their chaotic pattern.

Kim asks if I’ve ever seen The Wizard of Oz. She says she is Dorothy, I am Toto. I look out my window and bark.

With the Rockies looming before us, Kim buys me a Coors Light. When I finish the entire bottle, she kisses me on the cheek.

The moon shining on her naked body, she asks if I think she is pretty. Then she takes my finger and guides it inside her.

At an Indian casino we hope to turn twenty bucks into one hundred. Kim leaves me in the car. She comes back with five hundred.

This is it? I ask, staring at the ocean. You’re just eleven, she says. What do you know? She lets me drive back home.

Robert Swartwood's work has appeared in Wigleaf, elimae, Hobart, PANK, and Monkeybicycle. He is the editor of Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, forthcoming from W.W. Norton. He blogs at


  1. I'm a simple soul. I like explosions and car chases, but that was superb. So simple, so effective. Love it.

  2. I the structure...and the story!