I’m convinced tumors are like forest fires. They show up when they want and we’re not sure how they started, or we do know but it doesn’t really matter. A man jumps from a burning building and survives. We watch our mother fight cancer for years. But it’s like any trickthe first few times we stop, amazed; the magician stabs in his swords and the lady walks out alive. Even this gets old. We know there’s a catch. We know there’s something we can’t control. Some fires keep burning until they’re done. No one can contain them. What’s left is ghostly, barely there. Before the hearse, the hospice nurse cleaned our mother’s brittle frame, handed me a thin washrag.


Erika Mueller’s writing has recently appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Duende, and The Fourth River. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She serves as an assistant editor of Cream City Review.