Note: This first appeared at the Six Sentences Zine, in 2010.
“Hey there, my pretty girl,” he says to me and I push air through my lips and roll my eyes because I am not — thank you Ani — a pretty girl and I’m sure as hell not his pretty girl. But he seems to think differently, as he uses an elbow to make room for himself at my table, upsetting my half-full coffee cup and splattering Ethiopian Yirgacheffe onto my note cards, onto the manuscript I’ve spent the entire morning — hunched over this little table in the corner of The Chipped Cup — reworking, rewriting, and killing not just a few of my babies.
He doesn’t notice the spill; his eyeballs have fallen down the front of my tank top and the only things he’s seeing are tits; he’s trying to start a conversation with them by asking their name. It seems no one has ever disabused him of the notion that tits don’t, in fact, talk. But fictional characters do talk and right now this man’s intruding on a conversation that I’ve been trying, for months, to hold with my antagonist.
So, it’s with no reservation about looking like an asylum escapee that I turn to the empty chair next to me and continue aloud what I’d begun on paper minutes before Mr. Hey-Pretty showed up; when he finally shuffles off — looking a little peaked around the eyes — in the middle of a descriptive explanation on the best way to keep the skin of a flaying victim in tact, I consider that the sign of a scene well done and pick up my pen to commit those descriptions to paper.
Head bowed, he breathes deep and chokes on the odor of flowers, the subtle cloying scent of lily and sharp tang of lilac settling on the back of his tongue.
She’s next to him, holding his arm; he can feel the soft swell of her breast against his tricep and the sturdy warmth of her body molded against him from torso to calf. She breaks away as the double doors open, twining her fingers with his, and guides him down the aisle to the resonant thrum of organ music; his gait hitches right along with his breath.
At the front of the room, he finally raises his head, falters and loses a step, shiny black shoes scuffing the threadbare chapel carpet. The coffin, draped in flowers, sits on the middle of a dais with lights beaming down on it; if he didn’t know any better, he’d think he was staring at the opening scenes of some play, but the bowed heads of people in the pews, the whisper-soft sobs and rasps of tissue against wet cheeks remind him that this is reality.
She slides onto the hard wooden pew reserved for family and he follows her, looks at her, waits for her to tighten her fingers around his hand and then he turns his face forward—breathes out, breathes in—and whispers: Goodbye, brother.
A story in six sentences.
Mama’s digging through the couch again, looking for the change that always falls out of people’s pockets when they sit on those broke down cushions. (When I was younger I used to imagine there was some kind of magnet built into that couch…I wouldn’t have put it past mama to figure out how to do something like that.)
I’ve taken Bethy and baby Jack into the kitchen and I’m trying to keep ‘em quiet, ‘cause Mama, when she’s like this, can’t stand a lot of noise. Jack’s just started to work up a good whimper when she stomps into the kitchen—and the look on her face is the one she wore the last time I got the belt—but she’s only got her keys in hand and she’s not looking at me but the Mason jar on the fridge. She pulls it down and, when she can’t get the lid off, throws it in the sink so hard it explodes, glass and green bills scattering all over the counter; she scrapes everything up—doesn’t even notice when the shards of glass stick into her hands—and walks out the door.
A few seconds later, I hear the Rambler start up and through the little window over the sink, I can see her swerving toward town and I know when she comes back she’ll have a plastic baggie stuffed in her purse and bruises on her arms.
Here on her balcony, overlooking the glint and glitter of the city, she wraps herself around him, tucks her nose into the hollow of his throat.
He smells like wind and desert sun, engine oil and leather polish.
The wind picks up and carries his scent away. For a moment, she imagines him whipped from her arms, just the same.
He moves like lava. Molten, fluid, deadly and destructive to everything in his path.
Death of the year brings
life, bursting bright; tenacious
For the Weekly Haiku Challenge