He prowls the house at night
when the furnace kicks on
or a raccoon knocks over a can.
“It’s just a car,” I say, or
“One of the kids kicked the wall.”
He lies awake, listening.
I forget the danger he’s known, but
his sympathetic nervous system
sets off the alarm.

The Fourth of July is my favorite—my birthday.
I lean against his chest and turn my head
watching the kids watch the fireworks.
My ear is pressed against his pounding heart.
Boom! Boom! Boom! He finally releases his breath.

“We should go to that haunted house!” I say.
“It would be fun.”
His eyes hold an unspoken apology, like shame.
“I don’t really like things jumping out at me.”
I apologize for the bad idea,
because I should know.
Desert reflexes never go away.

Rachel Holbrook writes from her home in East Tennessee and is anxious to leave her mark on the literary world. She has been published in Burningword Literary Journal. www.RachelHolbrook.net