Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Volume 11, Number 1
Copyright © 2016
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to
in the Apple Valley
Review are retained by
the individual authors
Fiction by Martha Clarkson
The first blind date I ever had was with Dale, the driver on my
dad’s morning bus. The blue line. My father had called to tell me it
was “all arranged.” I was nineteen and living across town from my
parents, working the day shift at the plasma center. I’d moved out the
day my savings passbook showed enough money for an apartment.
My friends asked me if he was going to pick me up for the date in the
A green Buick pulled into the parking lot of my building,
headlights through the draperies of my first floor unit. Dale was bald
and looked much older than I—was in fact—and wore a maroon
polyester sport coat and a brown speckled tie. He bowed slightly at
the door. He said he was taking me to see Patton at the mall across
the highway from my apartment, where they showed old movies for
First we went to dinner at Elmer’s Pancake House, in the mall
parking lot. I didn’t know whether to order pancakes or steak. Dale
lived with his mother on the outskirts of town, just a mile from the bus
barn. He looked down at his lap during most of dinner, or just to the
right of my head. I knew I wasn’t going to see him again—he just
wasn’t my type—but he was trying so pathetically hard. He was from
the Midwest, the grandson of an egg farmer.
After dinner and before the war movie, while we were still at the
table with the butter dish shaped like a cow, he took out a red box.
“Happy . . . um . . . Thanksgiving,” he mumbled into his paper napkin.
The holiday was two weeks away. I hoped my father had not invited
Dale to join our family dinner.
Inside was a gold necklace—sections of braided chain, then a
gold bar, then more chain, all the way around. It was long enough to
double for two strands. A necklace my mother would wear.
I thanked him and smiled, my gut heavy. I felt bad he’d spent
the money but I couldn’t very well push it back across the table. The
waitress in the frilly apron brought our check and Dale paid it. We
drove across the parking lot to the theatre and made it through the
war. George C. Scott looked like my uncle and barked out orders
like my dad. I didn’t have to reject an attempted kiss at my door—
Dale was too shy. And I didn’t see him again, like I knew I wouldn’t.
I wrapped the necklace up for my mother at Christmas, because I was
too poor to buy gifts.
Fiction by Martha Clarkson
In line they’d argue in spit whispers about thighs versus wings.
Did he want a leg or breast—a discussion that almost always strayed
into something else, right there in the line. It deterred them from
further issues such as cole slaw or beans, eight pieces or twelve.
Even a decision on original or crispy was hard. She’d stomp her foot
once or twice. He’d fold his arms and look at the gumball machine,
a child in leg braces staring back at him.
They were like chickens running around the yard trying to avoid
When he was little, his mother fried up the one chicken heart
for a treat. Fine for his older brother, who was given this treat at
every Sunday dinner. But when he came along, she had a problem—
two boys, one heart. So she fried up a piece of gizzard and told him
it was a heart. He’d been eating gizzards his whole life, believing they
Counter-bound, finally, they both approach, both clench the
edge. The girl in the red apron looks at them with high school apathy,
her front a world map of grease splatters. He starts their volley, while
the girl readies her hand over the register’s keypad.
“Beans and cole slaw.”
“Add a breast.”
“Potatoes and gravy.”
“I thought that wasn’t on your diet.”
“An order of potatoes and gravy.”
The words zing out. What goes between them is like loose
bones thrown out for a dog. No tissue left, no muscle. Still, they’ll
try to repair—eat their chicken in a park where he’ll refer to it as
Kentucky Fried Colonel, trying to get a laugh.
Martha Clarkson’s poetry, fiction, and photography have been
published in Clackamas Literary Review, Seattle Review,
Alimentum, Hawaii Pacific Review, and other literary journals.
Individual pieces of fiction have also been selected as notable stories
in the 2007 and 2009 volumes of The Best American Nonrequired
Reading. Clarkson manages corporate workplace design in Seattle.
On “Driving Blind”:
In romantic-to-be situations, mismatches can be so painful, yet
it has to be tried in order for people to meet other people. I
wanted to capture the tense and awkward environment, that is
also laced with care. Still, it won’t work out.
On “What He Misses Most: Their Fights at Kentucky Fried Chicken”:
Kentucky Fried Chicken is a larger-than-life part of my sixties
childhood. Though it’s a happy memory for me, I wanted to try
using it to describe discord between two young lovers.
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