Three Stories

Fiction by Austyn Wohlers
Hiding, by Casey Jex Smith. Copyright the artist. Courtesy MEPAINTSME.


I got a job delivering documents. The documents usually needed to arrive fast, within an hour or two of picking them up. One day I had to deliver documents all the way across town. There was another deadline I was juggling too, though I can’t remember what it was. But I was stressed. I sped through a wealthy neighborhood. Springtime, flowers, birds. I was listening to the radio because I have to when I’m driving. Otherwise I feel so lonely. I tried to overtake a slow car by passing it in the oncoming lane. Another car appeared around the bend. I sped up instead of slowing down. The butterflies were out, the children. The oncoming car honked, slammed on its brakes.

I checked my phone at the red light. I read an email about the other deadline. What on earth was it? I remember my stomach dropping. Meanwhile I had about nine minutes left to deliver the documents. The person in the car I had overtaken was shouting and yelling behind me. He might have gotten out of his car. He was calling me crazy. I pretended not to notice. The unknown deadline, it was so much more important.


Two hanging plants on your girlfriend’s mailbox, the railing of her covered porch. Twine ribbons. Cute. I didn’t do deliveries anymore. I just worked the shop. I tried the ribbons. One week my mother came to visit, and she brought her new boyfriend along. Dan.

Dan’s a guy who likes to talk. He leaned over the shop counter. I mirrored him. His forearm was meaty like a slab of marble. We talked about it all. Wines, youth, the campaign trail, the afterlife, the stock market, my mother’s quirks, her toy Doberman. My mom was looking at the houseplants. 

A customer came in, a young woman. Then I talked about other things. The colors of the pots with their boho names: soil, clay, sunshine, river, mica, fern. Buy a dracaena, get a spider plant. Design philosophies from feng shui to new minimalism. White walls, wood floors, brown brick. And green plants. Whatever she wanted. A care pamphlet, bamboo paper, no plastics, no refunds. Goodbye.

It was me and mom and Dan again. They were standing side by side. They had the same expression on their faces. What was it? Pride? One of them was going to say something. Are those colors real? Did you make up those deals? How much do those pots cost to make, really? What do you think would look good in the laundry room? Do you think there’s enough light in there? How about a discount?


Packages on doorsteps, curtains drawn or open, beer bottles placed in lawns, wood fences with gaps so wide dogs can stick their whole heads through. A Goldendoodle does. He barks at the dog I’m walking. Very fast, woof woof. We move along. It takes two hands and all my strength to drag him to the next house. He is a Weimaraner. 

Our walks are always a romp. The dog has separation anxiety. He starts our walks excited to try to sniff out his owner, then, a few minutes out, he figures she’s probably at home and tries to bolt back toward the house. His owner is at work. I usually take him as far as I can in one direction before he tries to run home, like a wind-up toy. 

We pass a dead robin in the grass. We pass a few more dogs. A few more houses.

We pass a house painter. He’s shaking his butt to some electronic track and the ladder is even swaying a little a little. He’s singing along with the sample. A gospel singer.

“Hey, nice track,” I call up to him. 

He keeps on swinging and swaying.

“You better watch out or you’ll fall!” I say.

Nothing. So far away. The money is great. The owner thinks I have a special talent, that I have a special bond with the dog. The dog is muscular, slender, panting. His orange eyes look like an owl’s. I know by stopping like this I’ve given him too much time to think.

Yoink. Time to go.

Austyn Wohlers

Austyn Wohlers lives in Baltimore, where she plays in the band Tomato Flower and runs the Near Future reading series. Her debut novel Hothouse Bloom will be published in 2026 by Hub City Press.

Casey Jex Smith

Echoing the delicate lines of traditional engraving, Casey Jex Smith's intricate pen and ink drawings unravel into phantasmagorical visions, populated by sprites and anthropomorphic flora. The influence of these psychedelic parables are rooted in the artist's devout Mormon upbringing. "At the centre of Mormon belief is an expanded narrative built around the Garden of Eden" Smith explains, "When you attend temple ceremonies, you watch films that go into this narrative in great detail, and they tend to be made using elaborate Hollywood-type sets of the biblical garden as paradise. It's a place I want to be in. Unintentionally it's also a sexually charged place where you and your perfect mate tromp around in the nude, eat fruit, and pet goats." ¹

His illustrational style can also be traced to the more low-brow influences of his adolescence, like the detailed drawings found in the earliest editions of Dungeons and Dragons. The artworks of in-house illustrators like David A Trampier, David C Sutherland III and Erol Otus were fantastically detailed and often bordered on the naive - they left their mark on the young artist. "The drawings were a little bit better than what the teenagers who were playing the game would have made themselves," ² states Smith. Though the mythical universe created by Smith is one of an accomplished draftsman, its true power resides in its visual density and a seemingly limitless imagination.

Casey Jex Smith received a BFA in Painting from Brigham Young University and an MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute. He currently resides in Provo, Utah with his wife and fellow artist Amanda Smith and their two children. His art has been exhibited at The Drawing Center (NYC), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF), Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UT), and Spring Break (LA). His work has been featured in ArtReview Magazine, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle,,, ArtMaze Magazine, and New American Paintings.

1, 2. Sharma, Manu. "Casey Jex Smith speaks of his sublime and fluid realms." Stir world, Feb 03, 2021.