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by William Cass

She was in her seventies. Him: early forties.  Lived in two small houses separated by her short hedge of rosemary. He rented; she owned. Edge of town, woods behind, tiny creek there.

They kept to themselves. A few words occasionally exchanged, but mostly just nods or a raised hand. Each lived alone. By the time he moved in, her husband long passed. His parents, too; his wife gone. He worked from home, he said, at something to do with software. She piddled: little garden out back, word searches, cross-stitch, romance novels, her soaps.

He began doing things for her without her asking. Straightened her mailbox post.  Trimmed the rosemary. Shoveled her walk. Mowed. Moved trash cans to and from the curb.  In the fall, raked under her birch tree in front.


In return, she left baked goods on his front step: lemon bars, tollhouse cookies, scones, pound cake. Knocked, then retreated. By the time he responded, she’d be heading back up her walk on her cane. Her husband had carved that for her, she’d told him.

Five years passed. Unremarkable, until late one spring night when an ambulance took her away. Clutching his robe, he watched from his front step. Silence afterwards. Fragrance of rosemary on a slight breeze. Sprinkling of stars. A hand lifted itself to his mouth. He shook his head.


She didn’t return. Still, he mowed. Watered her garden. Trimmed the hedge. A month or so later, a letter from a law firm saying she’d left him the house. He read it sitting on the front step, then let it dangle from his fingertips. New leaves rustled like sequins on her birch tree: light-green against white bark. Somewhere, a dog barked. He began to cry. High above, a plane scratched a vapor trail about which he was completely unaware.


originally published in MacQueen's Quinterly

Author bio here




All submissions via Submittable


Now accepting submissions for our spring issue:

"East" (May 2023)

full guidelines on Submittable


POETRY: submit up to 6 poems; no length limits 

FLASH PROSE: submit up to 3 pieces; max 500 wds each

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* We particularly welcome submissions from traditionally marginalized voices, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and the neurodivergent

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Art Editor: Lauren Rapp

Compass Rose literary journal was established in 2022. We read for beauty in the language that seeks to understand. Please support us by subscribing, submitting, or simply drifting over to us occasionally for a brief respite. 

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