Five woodcuts, each depicting the same woman with bold, almost feral strokes. Eyelids lowered, nose indiscernible but for a slight texture change, and a bob cut of near-solid black. But it was the eyes, that angry but world-weary look, that led Ben to insist that Amanda get rid of them.

“We’re outnumbered,” he said, half-jokingly. “Two to one. If the creepy woodcuts rise up against us, we don’t stand a chance.”

Amanda, though, was skeptical. “What if we get rid of them and one of our friends finds one? We already showed everyone when we found them in the basement during the moving party. I don’t want to go to Jamie or Jim’s and see one of those on the wall just because we’ve got dumpster-divers for friends.”

“How about we burn ’em then?” Evan said. “Send those creepy faces right to hell, and maybe have a beer while we look into the fire. It’s about the only way we’re gonna get any wood in the city right now anyway.”

“Fair enough,” Amanda said, playfully tapping Ben on the nose. “You bring the beer, I’ll bring the boards.”

That night, they set up an old rusted-out barbecue–which had also come with the apartment–and used Ben’s cigarette lighter and some dryer lint to get a brightly burning fire going, onto which Amanda put the first of the five. They watched it burn, the woman’s face turning to coals and then embers, while nursing a pack of Pabst.

“How do you think they got there in the first place?” Amanda said, watching the last of the woman’s face being consumed.

“Lots of artists in this neighborhood,” Ben said. “Hell, that’s why we moved, right? Whoever was here before us got evicted, and we’ve got their spoils: a limited edition run of creepy lady woodcuttings, and a tetanus-flavored barbecue.”

“Yeah.” Amanda finished off her beer and hucked the can at the trash. “Time for round two,” she said. “We’ll set this one alight in her sister’s ashes.”

Ben nodded, and drew quietly on his own beer before he heard Amanda’s quavering voice from inside.


“What is it?” he said, following her voice inside and down the basement stairs.

Amanda gestured at the far wall, opposite the washer/dryer on the dirt floor, where the woodcutting had been lined up since they moved in.


“Am I going crazy, Ben, or are there six of them now?”

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