Winter 2017, James H. Duncan

Desperate Ain’t Lonely

 James H. Duncan

Annalise turned the Taylor Swift down to a whisper to see if her girlfriend noticed. She didn’t. She only snored lightly and rolled toward the passenger window. Beyond the darkness hid the West Virginia forest and the steep drop off from the highway, a sea that rose with their ascent, later the descent, and then climbing again to slalom through endless peaks of the Appalachians.

They’d left Maryland behind an hour before and Annalise was only vaguely aware of their southwest progress to Nashville. What she did know was that now she could play Whiskeytown without complaint.

Her girlfriend hated something about Ryan Adams and called his voice a “caterwauling bitch fest,” preferring anything with a beat. Annalise held it against her in secret, one of the many things she held against her in secret, including her girlfriend’s adoration for reality TV and her inability to remove the pile of dirty clothes she’d shuck off and drop in front of the toilet every night until the pile was large enough to spill into the shower.

Faithless Street played low in the night and carried Annalise up another mountain until the lights of Bridgeport came into view. They disappeared again as the car sank below the tree line where the lights of town glowed a dim bowl of orange in the low clouds. They began to pass beneath street lights and traffic slowed them at every intersection even though it was almost midnight.

She pulled into a McDonalds and looked over at her girlfriend but didn’t wake her to go in. Annalise suddenly didn’t want to hear the throaty complaints of fast food, or see the dull sneer in the neon lights that seeped into their Honda hatchback. Instead, Annalise sank into the duct-taped seat and listened to Ryan sing about how bein’ desperate ain’t lonely, and she figured she could tell him a few ways in which he was wrong as hell.


James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review, a former editor at Writer’s Digest, and the author of Dead City Jazz, Berlin, What Lies In Wait, and other books of poetry and fiction. For more, visit


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