The Key

by Janie Hofmann

On an estate that stood at the foot of the Pyrenees, a Marquis, no longer respectful of his coat of arms, stumbled into a garden of unruly shrubs and dead spring flowers, searching his breeches, overcoat and boots for the key that he would have been wiser to have left under the mat. How could it be that he could not feel, even through liquor numbed skin, its heft, the rough but accurate craftsmanship, the familiar sting of its coldness against his belly as he tucked it under his belt? He searched for what seemed like hours, pummeling his hat, scraping fingers on the inside of the brim, digging fists into pockets so hard the waistband of his breeches tore, standing in his stockings beside boots overturned like crates as he ripped his coat from the ground, grasped the collar and poked his fingers into anything that opened. The inside left hip pocket gave way to a vat and he reached deep into the lining of the coat, the dirty blue swallowing his arm up to his shoulder as his fingers found the inside hem. It was there. His hand emerged like a rat leaping from a hole and he could not see it, not even in the moonlight, but its heft was back home in his palm, so he let himself in and retired to a half dead fire and smoky chair.


Janie Hofmann loves her cat, her fish, and gothic horror. Her work has appeared in over thirty publications, including Word Riot, Aoife's Kiss and Scifaikuest.