Austin Smith, who lives in San Francisco, is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford and the author of four poetry collections, including “Almanac,” which was published by the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. His poems and fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Threepenny Review, and in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 83 and No. 100. His story “The Cave” appears in the Winter issue.
Relating the arrival of a new kid to a small farming community in Illinois, “The Cave” centers around its young narrator going to the boy’s house for dinner one evening. But around that event, which leads to them exploring a cave at night, is an examination of a child’s rural life, one not immune from the hardships true for children everywhere, including the menace of bullies. In the following excerpt, our narrator talks about the red-headed twin sisters who, for whatever reason, decide one day while getting on the school bus to single him out for their cruelty. The following is an excerpt from “The Cave.”