Counting the Wounds

Counting the Wounds is my new short story available on Amazon Kindle.

If you have Kindle, you can download it here:

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Praise for Lyn Coffin’s Writing: “Lyn Coffin… respects the contours of reality and gives us, in a most unusual form, a story about illusion and self-deception.”  –Joyce Carol Oates, about Coffin’s story “Falling Off the Scaffold”, published in The Best American Short Stories 1979

In her short story “Counting the Wounds”, Coffin again wrestles with the topics of reality and illusion, truth and facade. It is the seventh day of the rest of Susan’s life — a life in which an unexpected tragedy has called everything into question.

Counting the Wounds is a story told obliquely – its style mirroring Susan’s experience as she is faced with a brutal reality: What Susan wants she has lost; what she says she no longer wants, becomes all she has left. The story circles, never looking directly at the event that has overturned Susan’s world until the end when Susan must accept that the only way past grief is to move directly through it.

Fayetteville: (Spoiler: a story of love and senior sex)




Given that I’m 67, I don’t necessarily want to tell you about the last time I made love, and you almost certainly don’t want to hear about it. Old people talking about sex is unsettling but, hey, romance in the life of a 67 year old woman is about as likely as being cured at Lourdes, and this is a romantic story.

Of all unlikely places, what happened happened in Arkansas. Not just Arkansas, Fayetteville. For most people, Arkansas means Little Rock and Fayetteville means nothing. I had impulsively agreed to fly there from Seattle to visit a man I only sort of knew, on a wing and a pretext.

His legal name is Thomas Anderson, but his real name is “Thomas Walks Softly.” He’s half Ojibway, a quarter Cree, and a quarter Ohio factory worker. He is tall and lean and muscular. He knows how to tie a fly and clean a knife and tell a story. He’s the wrong side of 70, but plays the flute, piano, saxophone, and guitar in a way to keep death guessing. He has a hawk nose and a gray-black ponytail, a husky voice and keen, woods-savvy eyes.

He’s a poet, Thomas- a good one, and the pretext for my flying to Arkansas was that he and I were going to collaborate on a book. That was the raft to which we both clung as we made travel arrangements.

He met me at the airport and we drove the long drive to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I kept touching him as we drove– a child’s touch to make sure he was real.

It was snowing when we got to the cabin, so we built a good fire in the fireplace and sat on the futon inches from the hearth.

After a minute, Thomas said he was nervous because he really wanted to make love with me but he hadn’t done that for a long time he wasn’t sure if I wanted that or if he still could. Somehow that led to my suggesting pot might make us less nervous which led to his suggesting we unfold the futon first, while we could. So we opened the futon, working in smooth concert, shedding clothes as we went and laughing.

Then we were sitting together naked in the center of the futon, smoking weed he had grown himself. The old smoke still knew exactly where to make itself home.

As outside winds howled and snow flung itself on the windows, we kissed in the firelight. Thomas was tender and sure. I was warm and wet and wonderful . And just when it was right, he positioned himself over me, and began his descent.

And just when it was wrong, the futon tipped over and spilled us on the edge of the hearth, flesh confronting brick. Later I would learn I had gashed my leg. All I knew then was that Pain came at me but I was in the throes of Desire, and unstoppable….  Unstoppable as only a single 67 year old woman can be, making love on the floor– for the very first time.


hearts original

The N Word


In the fall of 2010, I went back to my boarding school to give a reading and be a visiting writer In the last class I visited, students asked me what it had been like growing up “in terms of” discrimination. I said I thought racism had been worse then, more diffuse.

I grew up (at the top of the middle class?) in Roslyn, Long Island. I remembered nothing explicitly racist ever being said, But, I told them, the most shameful experience of my life occurred when I was in third grade (? – i.e., 1951) and a friend and I crouched in the bushes of our home, bushes bordering on the street, and in the dusk of some fall day saw an African-American woman walking along the street.

We presumably knew she was a “domestic” going home after work. We looked quickly at each other and then yelled “Nigger!” at her.

The woman turned and I could feel her eyes burning into ours, though she couldn’t have seen us in the bushes. I feel those eyes burning into me now. My conclusion, which I shared with the students, was that racism must have been in the air we breathed– We knew the word was shameful, but yet somehow endorsed by our families. We knew to whom it applied.

About two weeks later, I received a letter from the class, written by one of and signed by all of the students and the teacher. After praising my reading, and thanking me for coming, the student got to the heart of the matter and said that a) nobody in the class understood why I had told the story I did, and I should be careful in the future to tell only stories everyone understood and b) that they had been taught, believed, and knew that no one was ever justified in using the N word, which I had done, and which I should never in the future do again.

I wrote back a letter in which I advised her that, first of all, I thought one should beware of advising someone of a different culture what they should and shouldn’t do until one had given thought to the context of that different culture and that I thought she was of a different culture than I given her young age. Second, I said that it was impossible to write (or tell) stories that would prevent “misunderstanding.” (Hence the need for English classes.)

Most importantly, I  told her that in my opinion I had not “used” the N word but had quoted my past use of it when I was a youngster, within the context of a story that said how shameful the incident had been, and how it demonstrated the racism “in the air.” I also wished aloud that she and the other students (and the teacher!) had spoken up during the class period (there was plenty of time) and challenged my story. I said I hoped her teacher would in the future, if not apparently up until then, encourage students to ask questions when they don’t understand something. I lamented the dialogue that could have taken place had someone expressed doubt or confusion.

I wrote up my experience at the school, the student’s letter and my response in the form of an essay, and posted it on Speakwithoutinterruption. I don’t think I got comment- maybe a remark or two.

A year or so later the site crashed and now I have no record of that essay. I post my summary here in the hopes of re-establishing the record.

I would be grateful for comment. (I am saving a copy of this.)