Three Stories

Fiction by Sarah Mintz
Untitled (92), by Louis Gary. Copyright the artist. Courtesy the artist.

Hit Me in the Face with a Shovel

Banbury grew tired of thinking and knowing. He began to stare at things. Banbury lived in a white house with a red door and a tin roof. He inherited it from his adopted father’s great uncle Lemuel, who’d died 20 years prior, when Banbury was a young man. Banbury needn’t work another day in his life. He had the house. He had the car. He had Lemuel’s estate, which paid for land taxes, food, and books—if he wanted to read— and movies— if he wanted to watch— and records— if he wanted to sing along. Banbury had a good voice. He was not a bad singer.

Banbury would wake in the morning, eat two eggs, bacon, toast with peanut butter, and then he would walk to the post office. On the way home he would take the long route along the stream. Then he would sing to his favorite records, watch a film, draw a picture of some local landscape—as he lived in a picturesque village—then Banbury would read, nap, eat dinner, read some more, and retire for the night. On some days he met his childhood friend Woody Fleishman for morning coffee or afternoon cards. On other days he met Agnes Walker, his friend from his college years, and they would take a river walk together, or else they might play cards with Woody or else they might all get a drink at Barrymore’s and even see other old friends or acquaintances.

Banbury had nothing to complain of, had no complaints to be made against the world or its occupants, neither the municipal council, nor the world government. It was a small mountain town. It was a pleasant and picturesque mountain town. And all things lined up nicely for Banbury, who, for no reason one day had begun to stare at things and stand very still. At the post office one morning he received a flier for the hardware store. He looked at it. And he stood at his post box and looked at the red and gray flier until Mrs. Beaumont of the Mountain Mercantile said, “Sorry, there, Banbury,” and pushed lightly past him.

“Sorry, there, Mrs. Beaumont,” Banbury said, and moved out of the way, still clutching the hardware store flier that he’d been looking at but not reading. He took the flier with him to the river and sat on a grassy patch to make a more thorough investigation. Sales on mowers. He had a mower, but a new one might be better. Sales on juicers. He’d never juiced a thing in his life. Microwaves, toasters with precise settings, weed-control products, flower pots, rototillers, shovels, rakes, brooms, mops, and cans and buckets of all sizes. All these things could improve his life. If Woody came over the following day bragging about his patio furniture, what could Banbury say? He’d have nothing to say. He’d have to stand there, or sit, like a fool, silent and sullen.

“You’re falling behind, man,” he imagined Woody saying, though he couldn’t tell if it was likely or not for Woody to say such a thing. He couldn’t think about anything properly at all. The wind came and took the hardware store flier down the river, thus solving, for now, one of Banbury’s emergent concerns. It was renewed though, in similar fashion, when he arrived at home and thought he might be hungry. He opened the fridge. He looked at the food inside. He began to feel cold and silly standing there, door ajar, tiny light on. But he couldn’t decide. He looked at the contents. He had leftover spaghetti, he had sandwich meat and bread, he had milk, he had eggs, he had (outside of the fridge) a can of tuna and a box of saltines. Any of these things would do. What was to help him decide what to eat and when? How long could he go? How long could he put it off? Wouldn’t he know eventually by the pangs in his stomach? He couldn’t think about it. He was tired of thinking about it.

Banbury ate a cracker and took a seat on his couch. Hours passed. The TV remained off, all books remained closed. He looked out the window and could see the Aspen branches shivering in the breeze. He watched out the window until a magpie landed on a branch, and made Banbury smile. And when the magpie left, the smile remained. The smile remained until the darkness came and the tree branch could no longer be seen. Banbury ate another cracker, turned on a light, and looked at his bookshelf. He had many books. Classic books. Modern books. Best sellers. He had magazines, recipe books, comic books, and pamphlets. Banbury reached his arm out and had his arm lead him to the shelf which had been arranged in no fashion. He grabbed the first book his fingers landed upon and sat down with a 1984 copy of Company’s Coming. He opened it to the middle of the book and looked at the words. Each word registered as its own word. MIX, BAKE, PUMPKIN. But none meant anything in relation to the other. He spent several hours scanning the pages and retaining nothing. He ate another cracker and went to sleep.

Banbury stopped seeing Woody and Agnes. He stopped eating bacon and eggs. He ate saltines and he scanned books without reading. He kept the TV on, he kept the radio on. He heard the noise of both, but nothing gathered together to form meaning. For six months he stared out the window. He slept but did not dream. 

Then one day, Little Richie Flannagan was walking his dog before school when Chester the Golden Doodle ran up to a lump by the river. “Leave it, Chester!” yelled Richie, not knowing quite what he was looking at. When Richie got close enough he could see that it was Lonely ol’ Banbury, as the kids called him, stretched out by the river, laying on his back with his arms at his side, lookin’ like a suit of skin. 

“Mr. Banbury?” asked Richie cautiously. “Mr. Banbury?”

Banbury grunted, but did not move. Richie shook Banbury by the shoulders and Chester began to bark. “Mr. Banbury?” yelled Richie, panicking, starting to shake. But Banbury didn’t budge. Richie and Chester ran home and Richie told his parents that Lonely ol’ Banbury is down by the river looking nearly dead and not hardly moving nor speaking. 

After that the ambulance was called. Then the police. And then they brung ol’ Banbury down to the hospital, looking thin and yellow like a bit of hairgrass fallen by wind. 

The doctors asked, the nurses asked, but Banbury didn’t say much. 

“Mr. Banbury,” they said, “you’re emaciated.”

“Mr. Banbury,” they said, “you’re dying of starvation.”

“Mr. Banbury,” they said, “you have liver failure.”

And all the while Banbury lay there sleepily staring at the white walls, at the lights on the ceiling, looking at the pretty faces of the doctors and nurses, their worry and bustle over him seeming cute and quaint like a TV show he saw once about angels.

Several days later, Banbury woke up in a hospital room with nutrients being pumped into his arm, and Agnes and Woody looking down at him. “We did not know you was in a bad way, Banbury. We just thought you wanted to be alone.”

“I’m not bad…” said Banbury. “I’m nothing…” said Banbury as he dozed. When he woke again it was dark and a man sat in the corner of the room looking at him reproachfully.

“Lemuel?” Banbury asked the man who dissolved into a shadow of bush outside the window.

When Banbury woke up that morning, a young girl with braces and a round pink face with red blotches was sitting in the place where his adopted father’s great uncle Lemuel had been the night before.

“Hello, Mr. Banbury, sir. I’m from Rivermore High,” the blotched girl said with a loud cracked voice. “We’re here reading to invalids and dying people. Can I read to you, sir?”

“Am I dying?” said Mr. Banbury with the wonderment of a child, having experienced so many new sensations in the past few days or weeks—as he couldn’t account for time—that he felt almost pleased with the way things had ended up. He had an energy, a curiosity that he hadn’t had in years, and he said to the girl. “Read, child.”

The pink-faced, red-blotched, tow-headed, banshee-voiced girl read, “BRIGETTE Danforth had beautiful blond hair and a slight, delicate frame. And although her small stature suggested otherwise, she had a strong will and FIERCE personality. YOU SEE, Brigette had always been DIFFERENT than other girls-”

“What is this?” Banbury interrupted. 

Every Night at Midnight by Tracy Butterfield,” the girl crackled, “It’s my FAVORITE series. Oh, it’s so good. SO, so good, sir. It’s about a BEAUTIFUL, stunning, magical girl who falls in love with a werewolf, but she CAN’T be with him because the werewolves don’t trust people, because people were BAD to them before, you see, and they’re AFRAID for their society, the werewolves are, and for their whole entire SPECIES. But the girl, BRIGETTE, she isn’t LIKE other human girls. She has powers. She has something special. She has things NO ONE CAN SEE. She she isn’t like ALL THE others, sir. And SO, okay, well, I’ll go on…” The girl from Rivermore said.

But Banbury shook his head. He shook it low and slow. And then he laughed. He laughed hard while the girl with the book stared at him, her head cocked to one side, her finger upon the page. 

“It’s so stupid,” said Banbury before laughing himself to sleep. And he woke alone in a dark room beneath the shadow of Lemuel, and said again, “So damn stupid.” Banbury laughed. He laughed and ate from the tray at the side of the bed, and cried loudly into the hospital hallway, “Awful!” spitting pale anemic bread and potato from his mouth. He showered and said, “This shower head is weak!” and dressed and said, “These clothes itch!” And laughed and laughed and walked all the way home sniffing the diesel and gas from the engines, crying out “Terrible!” and chuckling. Banbury walked all the way down to the post office where a flood of fliers from the hardware store rushed forth from the box at which he cried “Silly! Awful! Brimming with it!” And Banbury laughed. He laughed and shouted all the way home and when he got home, he picked up a flier that had flown onto his lawn, he walked into the white house with the red door and the tin roof, and he smiled. Banbury smiled and smiled, and laughed and muttered. And then he made himself breakfast.

Suicide Note

“This is a particularly exciting time in Strategic Initiatives and Human Resources, as we seek to re-think and modernize the systems, processes and tools that are the foundations of municipal operations. We are committed to doing our best and ensuring positive outcomes for the organization and for the community. Our ideal candidate is personable, enthusiastic, organized, has advanced computer skills, and enjoys their work. You bring the skills, the passion, and the devotion, and we will provide you with a amiable, respectful, and collaborative work environment where you can flourish as a local government administrative professional.”


—Name in Blood

like most things

In July there was one day where we all laid out on the grass and let the water from the sprinkler hit us, but we didn’t move or play. I was only five or six and my mother was probably 20 or so and my father was probably 50 or 60 and my three sisters Janus and Jammy and Felicia were all the ages in between. It was a beautiful hot day. I remember that much. But what happened next, you’ll never believe. At first it was just a dog’s woof and then three more in a row: woof woof woof, and then there was silence. The sprinkler stopped making sound but still squirted forth. Mother tried to say, “Weeeell, that was weird!” but no sound came out of her mouth though we could all read her lips perfectly even though we didn’t read other lips, but just because we knew her so well we knew what sort of things she said and exactly how she said them. But after we didn’t hear her, we all noticed that even the buzz from the power line was not buzzing. So we were bewildered. We started to stand up from our spots on the grass on our front lawn all nice and cut short. The water from the sprinkler still hit us but it didn’t make us feel cool or calm anymore, it just pricked at our skin and then ran down our limbs slowly and meanly. My father looked angry, very angry. His face was turning red and in my mind, being small at the time, I said to myself, he’s been burnt up by the sun. But I think now maybe it was just his anger. But then, I‘ll tell you, this next crazy thing. We all heard a bark. Then three more barks: bark bark bark, and then all the sounds of the world funneled back in like we were in a toilet and the sound was the water flushing down and all around us: Whoooooshhhh whoosssh whooshh. There was the sound of the sky, did you know that the sky made a sound? You don’t know until it doesn’t, I bet. The sound of the power lines zoinggged and hissed. The sounds of the insects in the air, in the ground, and even the ones being eaten up by the loud birds, chuckled and crunched. The birds, you notice starting at the moment the sound whooshes back into the world and continually after without respite for the rest of your life—the birds are very loud, and they don’t care about you at all. We all held our ears; we couldn’t believe we’d put up with such harassment before. I cried, and Felicia and Jammy cried as well. Janus, being the eldest, was a great comfort to us. Particularly because of what became of mother. Nothing really became of her, but she was no comfort. She seemed a little uptight or on edge or something. I mean, I don’t think her personality was ever as good as it was before. We don’t say that, but it’s an unspoken consensus in the family. I imagine that even my father thinks it; my father, whose face stayed very red and who never spoke again.

Sarah Mintz

Sarah Mintz is a graduate of the English MA program at the University of Regina. Her work has been published with Book*Hug Press, JackPine Press, Apocalypse ConfidentialThe Sea & Cedar Literary Magazine, and Agnes and True. Her flash fiction collection handwringers was published with Radiant Press. Her debut novel, NORMA, is available now from Invisible Publishing (2024). Find out more at

Louis Gary

Born in 1982, Louis Gary studied at the Ecole Régionale des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles and at the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Marseille. He currently lives and works in Saints-en-Puisaye, France; over the last few years his work has been shown at Bikini (Lyon, FR), The Pill (Istanbul, TK), Semiose Galerie (Paris, FR). He is represented by The Pill gallery, Istanbul, Turkey.