All the Things that Matter by John Roche Guerra


Gravel pings off the wheel well. Branches snap underneath the car. Marah approaches the edge and knows she'll get away with it. She steps on the gas and wonders if the airbag will crack her glasses, flinging needle thin points into her eyes. It doesn't matter. The car escapes the briars and the trees and launches off Ridge Rock Mountain. Tires saw through the night sky, and for a weightless second she's free, nothing else matters. She closes her eyes and whispers Jesus as the car tilts and hurtles toward an empty field. The airbag never deploys.


He approaches the glare of sideways headlights, pulls over, and calls 911. Dry grass crunches beneath his boots. Cars whoosh by the mountainside. Bitter, metallic air fills his lungs, and he clenches his flashlight as the breathing hurts. Smoke billows from the car's entrails. A limp arm lies against the windshield. Glass, earth, and blood mottle the woman’s hair, and he tries his damnedest to tip the car and get her out. It doesn't matter. Police lights and mountain peak diminish in his rearview mirror. The sheriff assured him there was nothing he could’ve done. 

“You’re back early,” his wife says. “Another bad night for bucks?” Onions and potatoes sizzle in the kitchen. The baby wails from deep within the trailer.

“There was a wreck on the way. It was God awful.” They hug and he fills his hands with that gray hoodie she got at the Fifty Cents Mall. He drove back to tell her. Swear to God he had decided to come clean. It doesn’t matter. They kiss and he releases the thin, limp fabric. The baby screams and he knows where he’d rather be. 

“Dinner’s almost done. You hungry?” The front of her t-shirt has become too tight for her stomach, exposing the stretched ring of her belly button. She zips up the hoodie as he stares. "Well?"

“Can’t stay. Gotta get back before it gets too cold.” He grabs a beer from the fridge and hustles to his truck. The shock of the wreck empties out of him as he pulls the shift stick and escapes.


She rocks her baby and eats her dinner and warms her toes by the orange-glowing space heater. The crash is on the news. Marah Hays. Possible suicide. But Ridge Rock is on the other side of the county, far away from her husband's tree stand. His muzzleloader is still in the closet, well oiled and polished in that blue, electric guitar case. The barrel is smooth and cool, but she knows she'll never get away with it.

It doesn't matter.

He’ll be back tonight, just like every Sunday night, empty handed and pitiful looking. He was never good at catching anything, and all the things that matter are under this roof. She nuzzles her baby's chubby cheek and swallows a bite of greasy potatoes. "Don't you worry," she whispers. "He'll be back. Empty and pitiful."

John Roche Guerra was born in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Miami, Florida. He holds a Master of Divinity from Catholic Theological Union, and he lives and works in Kentucky. He is the co-founder of the Berea Writer’s Circle and the Berea BookFest. “All the Things that Matter” is his first published short story.

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