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Kristen Radtke

Kristen Radtke is the author of the graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This (Pantheon, 2017). She is the managing editor of Sarabande Books and the film and video editor of TriQuarterly magazine. 

Illustrator

Illustration by Kristen Radtke

Backcountry

Winter 2017 | Fiction

When Ingrid was twenty-five, she lived for four months in a big house on the edge of an unfinished—never to be finished—ski resort. This was in Montana, on Adelaide Peak, twenty years ago. Richie, her much older kind-of boyfriend, and mastermind of the whole sad enterprise, had borrowed against his land to build the house, a baronial place full of grandiose touches like antler chandeliers and stone fireplaces and a drawer that warmed plates. It was the only structure on the mountain. After Richie went missing and Ingrid was left alone, all his expensive possessions started to seem foolish, and a careless contempt for them would steal over her—for him, too, who had been dumb or weak enough to probably die. 

Richie liked to say the house was ski-in, ski-out, even if skiing out took some work since there weren’t any lifts. If they wanted to go down, they had to climb up, earn their turns. After the search was called off, Ingrid hiked or skinned up Adelaide on the days when the weather allowed and skied different routes down, looking for some sign: a ski tip poking out of the snow, his blaze-orange beanie snagged on a branch. Truthfully, though, she wasn’t looking very hard. Going up, she often lost herself in the rhythmic jab of her poles, the cold air cycling through her lungs, the crows caw-cawing in the trees, the distant frozen lakes visible from the summit. Coming down, she got to thinking about her technique and line and sometimes forgot all about Richie until she was back at the house. Then the sight of it, stone and timber, dark and empty, reminded her he’d be spending another night out there, somewhere, either dead in the cold with the night creatures or, less probably but still possibly, alive and safe somewhere else, somewhere like the Cayman Islands, having abandoned her and his other problems with one tidy disappearance.

Illustration by Krit

Natural Disasters

Winter 2017 | Fiction

You’re clutching your left side when you arrive home late Friday evening. You bring some of the outside cold with you into the living area of the house. Small traces of snow run along the creases and folds in your coat, and flakes thaw along the fur trim on your hood. Your dress pants are soaked beneath the knee, snow lines the space between your shoes and your socks. Your toes burn and the inch-wide gash on the left side of your forehead continues to bleed. Alexa is making her way down the stairs as you enter. She stops at the sight of you. 

You think about what you have left out there, the dark-haired Latina woman propped behind her air bag who was motionless for what seemed like a long time but then began to groan and call out for someone—or something—in Spanish. The front of her vehicle was mangled, like a crushed soda can, and the entire passenger side of your Honda Accord had caved in on impact, the frame twisted into savage metal tentacles that clawed toward you as though summoning you to your death. You had climbed out of the car and cast your eyes over the pieces of shattered glass, spangled in the road’s track marks, iridescent under the streetlights. Having something to focus on had helped the shock subside, and your heart rate had begun to slow as oncoming headlights approached. That’s when you felt a sense of urgency and the need to be home. That’s when you shuffled toward the sidewalk, away from the wreck and its debris, and started on the quarter of a mile left between yourself and the house.

Illustration by Kristen Radtke

Four Stories

Winter 2017 | Fiction

In a Hotel Room in Ithaca

April, the housekeeper,

has left a message for me

handwritten in red ink on a piece of paper.

It is lying next to the coffeemaker.