For the month of February, each writer’s post will begin with the same line, which we’ve borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

All this happened, more or less.

They left me alone in the cabin. Josiah and Charlotte, teenagers of neglect and meth and hand-rolled cigarettes, and the hulking mutt of a man they called Turf, who was Charlotte’s brain-damaged brother and Josiah’s punching bag until tonight, when Turf had lunged across the room like a dog that finally snapped its chain, his eyes rolled back and red.

“Use a fucking ash tray!” Turf had screamed.

They left after that. Turf to sleep off a quarter-handle of whisky in the main house, which was every bit as rugged and electricity-less as Josiah’s cabin. Charlotte to appease Turf, who refused to leave Charlotte and Josiah alone together. Josiah to protect Charlotte until she could lock her bedroom door, where she would sleep with an open knife under her pillow, as always.

And now I was alone.

I had no cell phone service. No way to leave. I had ridden here in the back seat of a minivan, lurching through miles of winding and branching dirt roads, through a night black with trees and dust and stories of fights. Even if I did leave, I had nowhere to go. I was hitchhiking through the mountains of rural Montana.

But I had a knife, so I spread my sleeping bag on one of the cabin’s bunk beds and crawled inside, the knife clutched close to my chest. Closed, unlike Charlotte’s. I could leave this place in the morning. Ride out to the highway with Josiah and find a new driver who could be the sixteenth of the trip, who could take me away from this cabin that smelled of sweat and dipping tobacco.

And then Josiah walked in with a shotgun.

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