Return by Madeline Stevens

Editor Matty Byloos, Fiction, October 29th, 2015

"He only remembers that sex hurt her the first fourteen times..."

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He throws the front door open like one throws off a winter coat on a hot day, the heavy burden of the confined space no longer weighing him down. He looks out into the neighborhood and declares to his loyal followers, “Let’s go for a walk.”

It’s raining and December, but these crisp young people are numb with gin. “Where are we going?” they ask.

“To my ex-girlfriend’s. To Laura’s.”

But he does not remember where Laura’s is, and they all end up returning defeated and wet.


He throws the front door open and people appear behind him, staggering and a little blurry. They look at the rain slicing the air. “Let’s go for a walk,” he says, and no one objects, especially not Margot, who is clinging to his arm.

She only asks, “Where?”

“To Laura’s.”

They wander around in the rain for an hour, but he does not remember where Laura lived. He only remembers that sex hurt her the first fourteen times and that she curled up next to him afterwards, in the shape of a jagged half-moon.


He throws the front door open like a defiant child spilling a gallon of milk. He throws the door open, so they all stagger through the neighborhood and the rain.

“To Laura’s.”

But he does not remember where Laura lived, and she doesn’t live there anymore anyway, and he doesn’t remember where there is. All the houses look the same, with glass eyes and front doors exactly like the one he left open at home.

Margot is soaking. Margot has been clinging to his arm for an hour. And this Margot is a virgin too, and, if it has anything to do with it, even smaller than Laura.

They return to the open door.


He throws the front door open and decides to walk to Laura’s. Never mind that it is raining. Never mind that it is almost midnight, and he is having a party. He has had too much to drink, so he walks out of the front door, and everyone follows. They almost drown, and they don’t make it to Laura’s because all he can remember is one day, before he knew her name, they stood next to each other on the bus when it was crowded. He could smell her house on her jacket—something like cats and pancakes—and he had thought how obscene it was, that he should know that about her.

They return unsuccessfully home where he lays in front of the Christmas tree with 3D glasses on, looking at the large silver ornaments and saying, “I can see Jesus! I can see Jesus!”

Everyone laughs, and later, Margot lets him slit her open like a fish.

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Header image courtesy of Dr. Pavloff. To view his photo essay, “Aquatic Invasions,” go here.

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writer madeline stevensMadeline Stevens is from Boring, Oregon. She earned an MFA from Columbia University and currently lives in Brooklyn where she hosts and curates the Sundays at Erv’s reading series. You can find her stories in Blunderbuss Magazine and Scribd. She is also working on a novel.


Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).