In the Lab

by Tim Horvath

Working late again, she creases her brow as she preps the venom, gloppy proteins pooling and glistening in solution like simmering oil. A spectral dollar sign emerges and fidgets, elongating in the liquid and stretching into oblivion. Hardly a "sign" (as if she could believe in those!), though truth be told it is unlikely they'll get the grant at this late date, and she'll feel responsible. It's not as if she can even blame him for wanting to take time apart, explore other options, nor does one person ultimately cause another's feelings and actions - neediness, insomnia, aura of permanent woundedness - all are her charges in the end. The venom is centrifuge-ready, but she hesitates, squinting one last image into being - sideburns at the membranous edge, eyelashes jutting out, his bone of a nose now starting to assert itself. The peptides bask under her gaze as if knowing one day they might bring the paralyzed to their feet, send death off with a rain check, yet it is only with the severest effort that she can stave off thinking this venom back into fangs, poised for the recoil, ready to meet him for a convulsive dance down the aisle.


Tim Horvath is a New Hampshire-based writer with stories published in Carve, Eclectica, Sleepingfish, and elsewhere. His story "The Understory" won the 2006 Raymond Carver Prize, judged by Bill Henderson. He's currently revising a novel entitled Goodbye in Many Languages; you can learn more at his website. (In writing "In the Lab," Tim thanks Steve Mackessy for his expertise in venom.)