Cover Photo: An illustration of a couple from behind, seated in lawn chairs in the foreground as they face an outdoor orchestra beyond. Behind the pavilion in front of them is a forest. Above the couple hovers a small brown bat in midflight.
Illustration by Sirin Thada for Catapult

The Present

If she just had her family back, Nia thought. Together they could chart a way out of the breaking.

Chilling the wine might have been a mistake, Nia acknowledged, after she downed her second glass in as many minutes. She watched a woman and a girl kicking a ball back and forth, hard, on a clear patch of clover. She couldn’t imagine wanting to move. The September evening seethed brutally hot and humid, as if a hard rain, instead of falling, had melted into the air.

The pavilion loomed in front of them like a hollow mountain whose edges had been buffed smooth. When she was a child, she and Margaret and Nat, who were in college by then, came here every summer with their parents. After the macaroni salad and sandwiches and loose-skinned clementines, after the sun dipped low enough that her siblings crowded the citronella candle to read their programs, she used to close her eyes and wait for that peculiar near-silence, the crowd’s whispers little more than breath against skin, everyone placing their limbs precisely to avoid making a sound. Like a temporary kinship with her, so many people trying not to call attention to themselves. Often, drawn into the phenomenon, she forgot to listen to the music.

Take the long viewBut first take a shower

Carolyn Oliver is the author of Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble (University of Utah Press, 2022), winner of the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. Her writing has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Shenandoah, Copper Nickel, 32 Poems, At Length, SmokeLong Quarterly, Terrain, The South Carolina Review, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net in both fiction and poetry. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family. Her website is