Kyle Mellen

mellen2015 Alaska Literary Award

Kyle C. Mellen’s fiction has appeared in American Literary Review, EPOCH, The Georgia Review, The Gettysburg Review, Green Mountains Review, Meridian, The Northern Review, Salt Hill, and Versal, and has received the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award from Mid-American Review. He holds a BA from Colby College and an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he taught from 2013-15 as a visiting professor of creative writing. Originally from New England, he has lived in Fairbanks since 2007.

Excerpt from The Eleventh Month

On a Monday night early in November Gaddis dumped his motorcycle in the ditch turning onto his road, and Hal drove out to haul the bike up. It was snowing and the roads were unplowed, would not be plowed for days. It was the wet, icy snow. When Hal made the rise before Gaddis’s road he felt the wheels spinning. Gaddis was standing there in the wash of the headlights with his arms crossed. He’d walked to the bar a mile away and used the phone to call Hal, but when Hal said he’d pick him up there Gaddis told him no, meet at the turnout.

Hal set the brake and left the engine running. He sat there a moment watching Gaddis and stretching his fingers. The truck’s heater wasn’t working. His fingers ached with cold and he didn’t know what Gaddis was doing on a motorcycle in this weather anyway. When he’d left the apartment the digital sign in front of the credit union said minus four degrees and Hal figured that out here in the valley between the hills it was at least ten degrees colder. But that was Gaddis. He stood out there with ice in his beard. Hal pulled his hat down to cover his ears and got out of the truck.

Gaddis’s motorcycle lay on its side in the ditch, a layer of snow covering it already. Gaddis nodded at him and Hal saw that Gaddis’s arms weren’t crossed but that he was holding his shoulder as if it had been injured.

“You all right,” Hal said.

Gaddis nodded back into the darkness where the headlights didn’t reach. “Come and look at this,” he said. “I found it in the ditch.”

Hal followed Gaddis into the dark tunnel of the road. Gaddis kneeled beside a small black duffel. Then he was unzipping the bag and looking up at Hal, saying, “Look at this goddamn travesty.”

Hal knelt beside him. The cold came up through the knee of his pants, through the double layer of long-johns and denim. It felt like he was bare-kneed in the snow. Hal frowned into the bag. With the dark and the snow cutting down it was hard to see. He angled his body to gain the truck’s faint light, leaned in closer. What he saw was a mound of small, furry shapes. Gaddis lifted one out and held it in his palm. Now Hal could see the closed eyes, the small slips of ears, the thin coat of brown and white. “Husky?” Hal said.

Gaddis nodded. He hefted the pup in his hand before setting it back in the bag and zipping it closed.

“They dead?” Hal said.

“Looks like it,” Gaddis said.