Fall, Freshman Year
Margaret Emma Brandl

Fall, Freshman Year

“So, like, there were plenty of people who could’ve done it. But Mr. Przybylak—he went and got one of the middle school directors from the stands. None of us had any idea what was going on, and then he, like, sat down right in front of us and turned to me and was like, you need to come with me to the hospital. And I knew.”

Our feet made soft noises in the snow. I breathed a cloud in front of my face.

“He drove me to the hospital. He told me in the car. He told me my mother was there already and that he’d get someone to bring me my schoolwork. He walked me to the waiting room where she was, and we ate for—weeks, meals cooked by all the band moms. People came over to clean our house, to work in the yard, to check that the Suburban was ready for snow.”

“I’m sorry,” is what I said, knowing it was lame and empty-sounding.

We walked on a bit longer before Marta turned to me. “He’s not gonna be here. We should call the other guys and see what’s going on.”

I followed her back to the car, ready to get out of the cold and wind. It was probably freezing now, or below it—even growing up Midwestern I was starting to suffer from it. In the car I stripped off my socks and shoes, wiggling my thawing feet under the glove compartment in the direction of the vent that blew weakly warmed air. Marta tried to call, but the phone just said, “Searching . . . .”


We were nearly back into town when the phone made a noise.

“What is it?” Marta asked.

The phone said, “1 New Voicemail.”

“Voicemail?” I repeated.

Marta told me the number to call and the passcode. “Be sure to press the number sign after you enter it,” she said.

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Margaret Emma Brandl

is a Ph.D. candidate in English specializing in creative writing (fiction) at Texas Tech University, where she teaches English classes and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Her writing has appeared in Gulf CoastThe Cincinnati ReviewPithead ChapelHobart, and other journals.