Nancy would later tell anyone who asked that she escaped the hailstorm by ducking into the first available open door, which happened to lead into a church. She’d been making her way back home slowly, switching her purse from the crook of her right arm to the crook of her left and back again as they got tired of the weight. It was just bad luck that there’d been such a massive storm, so uncharacteristic for February, on that exact day, when her purse was so heavy. She was carrying Walter’s favorite book, his glasses and hers, a thermos still half full of black tea, an empty Tupperware (she despised hospital food), her billfold, her house keys, a packet of Kleenex, a packet of mints, a small leather pouch with all her regular medication (the Lipitor and the diuretics and the aspirin), and her cell phone. It was a lot for such a small, feminine bag. (more…)
Cormorants swoop and dive-bomb into the salty water, their trajectory stealthy and deep. The ravenous dog looks on, the birds out of reach. He paces back and forth, riveted along the water’s edge. Frothy waves tickle his paws, tracing wet impressions in the sand. He is prepared to wait. His stomach growls and bends.
The dog has been on the hunt for five days, lost far from home, disoriented since the electrical storm. He is managing quite well for a purebred: cozy cave, blankie, and binky, out of sight, out of mind. Foraging comes surprisingly easy for him, as if it were a daily hustle. He’s made friends too; first ever beyond the local fenced-in dog park. His master would be impressed, no, worried, both. He does not know that his human family has been busy plastering the neighbourhood with posters, leaving bowls of premium kibble and fresh water out on the veranda. The porch-light left on 24/7, beckoning him home. He is too far away to see the beacon. (more…)
On the porch, the radio plays old tunes. Sometimes our heads bob. I’m on the top step. Below me, Bianca sits behind my little sister, Tia, braiding her hair. She combs out Tia’s rough hair with an orange comb, applies grease. Bianca doesn’t have rough hair, no. She has good hair. Tia doesn’t care much for Bianca because of that. It’s a girl thing, I guess.
My mama used to do Tia’s hair. She was gentler with that orange comb. She’d even cut my hair when it got too long. Boys shouldn’t have long hair, she’d say. But I loved it when she’d cut it. We’d talk about life, me becoming a man, and sometimes about my father. Her gentle hands would glide the clippers through my hair, trimming it to her liking. I would feel like a new me afterwards. But now my hair’s the longest it’s ever been. It gets longer by the day, it seems.
It’s hot out, even hotter with this long hair. Inside’s no better. The Mississippi sun tans us, sweat beads dot our black skin. I hold a cup of lemonade to my forehead, then take a swallow, ice cubes kiss my lips. It’s more sugar than lemon—Bianca’s doing. I watch her jerk Tia’s head with that orange comb again, smearing more grease. The comb works through the hair. The sweet, greasy fragrance sweeps across my nose. (more…)
I wondered what kind of “closure” did Jean think she was going to get?
YOU ARE FEMALE & DRIVE
A RED CAR.
YOU RAN OVER MY CAT
ON WINGRA STREET
PLEASE CALL JEAN.
NEED HELP WITH CLOSURE
I came across this notice the week that Eric, my boyfriend-since-high-school, suddenly moved out of our apartment to follow an Edgewood College grad to Schenectady, New York. Apparently, someone’s cat darted into danger, a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What was there to explain or describe—unless apathy meant the driver didn’t brake or she actually went out of her way to hit the animal. But who would fess up to that?
I pictured Jean barely out of her teens, just a few years younger than me, stapling laminated notices to phone poles outside of The Yellow Platter, a neighborhood café. I had started going there for breakfast so I wouldn’t have to start the day alone. I imagined her returning to an empty apartment where a catnip bunny lay under a chair, saw her reaching instinctively for fur among the bedcovers at 3 AM. I doubted that meeting the red car phantom would make 3 AM’s any easier. (more…)
As usual, Dad collected her after breakfast on Sunday and drove her to Dunstable downs. The hillside was already full of families.
“You first, Tracy.”
She held the bobbin of string while her father retreated with the kite. Then he threw it skyward. “It’s new!” she said, watching the dragon soar.
“Yes, I made it this week.” When she pulled harder, the kite spiralled and fell. “It needs a longer tail,” he said, “Oh well, let’s have an ice cream.” They sat on the grass, licking 99s. While he studied the other kites, which to her were heavy and drab, she watched the gliders taking off below. Winched up, they climbed steeply until they were higher than she was. She watched the cable fall away, as if in slow-motion. The ice cream finished, she stretched out on the grass and looked up at the kites against the bright blue sky. Without warning a glider filled her vision, flying very low and fast. She would always remember the wide wings, the silent surprise. (more…)
I haven’t seen him in three days. Unless you count Tuesday, in the dining hall. Ah, there he was, in line with the tall ballerina with the beret tipped over her Lauren Bacall bob.
Good thing the roommate is in class right now. I wouldn’t want her watching as I stand in front of the mirror and finger the magenta streak in my hair I added the day he first kissed me. She was here last week when I was a sodden, shuddering ball on my crumpled bed, having just heard his sudden confession. She crossed her arms then and said I could do better, her voice rising to vehemence when she called him a “lousy boyfriend.” Which makes me think she might not endorse my getting all gussied up now, smoothing on China-red lipstick, pulling on black fishnets, dabbing my throat with the perfume Aunt Jeanine sent me last Christmas. No, I don’t need anyone frowning at me as I clasp a slender silver chain around my ankle or as I turn in front of the mirror again to check out the short tangerine-colored dress with the coral stitching around its hem. (more…)
Pants and shirt pressed, tie tucked between the third and fourth buttons, he pedaled into the March wind. Once around the town Square, he dodged traffic and cut down a side street that would dump him onto the main quad in plenty of time to turn in the work he’d spent the weekend compiling before his 2 PM Calculus I lecture. His advisor had warned him not to go down the rabbit hole of Rajnipal’s Third Theorem, but after two years of proofs and equations, he was about to come out the other end. He’d be famous—reasonably so. Not cover of Time famous, but well-known enough to snag one of the ever-dwindling number of tenure track jobs on offer at flagship institutions.
Just as he squeezed the handbrake in preparation for the turn onto University Avenue, a car door swung open before him, followed by the chatter of a cell-phone-holding coed. “Can you believe she wants me to pay for the dress myself? I mean—oh my God, something hit me!” (more…)