There’s a blue neon cactus on the side of the road, almost turquoise, so diffuse the plasma seems to turn the night around the sign the color of a bruise and she can’t be sure if the sign reads Vacancy or No. Motel is in the middle of nowhere, east-bound strip of I-80 heading toward Utah, and it’s the middle of the week – she thinks it’s unlikely to be full and signals to the empty highway as she slides right, across weeds and rocks and into the gravel parking lot. The last hour there haven’t even been semis on the highway and it feels later than it is – just past nine with the last of the summer-green twilight just faded and the sky inky black.
Angela’s been driving eleven hours, from Los Angeles to Elko, Nevada, and beyond, no destination in mind, no cash, just credit cards and fury and a hard knot of tears in her throat. Eleven hours to make it to nowhere, driving ever since Jim came home this morning smelling of perfume and guilt but apparently past the point where he needed to make up stories for her.
Apparently he was past a lot of points. Continue reading
Not long after the plane lands, Davis Parker finds himself behind the wheel of his aged and misshapen Lincoln Town Car. Road lights coast past, methodical, casting feigning shadows across the dashboard, which has his eyes strained even more so than his jet lag.
It is something he has grown used to, the fatigue. It comes along with his profession; and it has been said by a considerable few—scientists, theorists, and psychologists—that commercial pilots experience shorter life spans as an effect of the detrimental lack of sleep, numbers ranging from as early as one’s mid fifties, the causes of death a disingenuous slew from heart attacks to quiet exits in one’s sleep to death not of the body but of the mind.
All that, though, in the words of Dave Parker’s woman, is mere statistics. Jessie would be curled up in bed, waiting for the morning and her husband’s company with expectations of late night popcorn and candlelit dinners coloring her dreams. “Statistics,” she says, “shouldn’t be regarded as anything more than numbers and false positives. You just can’t trust those numbers, you know?” That is her gift to him. Besides her surprise evening kabobs and the lessening-in-frequency in-shower involvements, that is her gift to him—wisdom and council—given through by the shade of her charm, a gift to her otherwise “dense but heartfelt husband,” unable to separate hype from truth. “It’s all about how you live your life, you know? Munch on fast food on your layovers and you’re going to have a heart attack. It’s that simple.” And it is that simple. Continue reading
The lock clicked at nine. The sun set against the clustered houses, suburbs of the city, houses lined shoulder to shoulder. Mary entered light-footed; her insides buzzed as her skin hit the air of their shared dwelling. A cold whoosh. A shock.
Behind her the broken screen door smacked.
Tad jolted from the couch as her car crushed at the gravel driveway. He watched the blue blur pass the windows. In its wake he straightened up the room, uprighting pillows. He slicked back his hair.
He bolted toward the kitchen when the door banged. She stood framed in the doorway. Her hair curled and twisted along her slender face. Only a day apart but he’d waited for her return. He felt compelled to move toward her and scoop her into his arms, yet the awkwardness of the space stopped him: the square of the kitchen enclosed them, each facing the other across an unforgiving diagonal.
“Hi,” Tad’s voice hung in the air. Mary adjusted her balance and pushed strands of hair behind her ear.
Silver flashed from her earring in the light and jarred Tad’s memory. Pain in her unforgiving eyes hit him, an uppercut. He broke the distance to embrace her. He hugged her harder than her body language indicated she wanted. His face sunk into her hair, and he inhaled the lavender scent before he let out a brief sob. The wetness crept unto a few strands of hair and clung to his face. When it’s easy he loves her without reservation. He’ll apologize and she’ll allow it. When it’s complicated – when the alter ego of addiction consumes his body – he builds barriers against her. Continue reading
I still have the same sex fantasy about my dead friend that I had when she was alive. I try not to let it happen often, but when it does, she’s still super into it – toenails red, shaved here and there, happy to play in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. Before we remove ourselves from each other, we talk about what an awesome idea this was. We giggle and stuff. Our bodies are the bodies we had in twelfth grade – lithe and tireless. She glistens with a soft, damp sheen. The lights are all on. She doesn’t care that I’m not part of the cool group she usually hangs out with. None of it makes much sense.
Sometimes, when I’m done fantasizing, I apologize out loud.
I never make it past the sex part, but if the fantasy comes into my head when I’m doing other stuff and not horny enough to bother, I imagine that there’s no cleanup involved; she just pulls her jeans on and raids my parents’ fridge. Maybe we watch cartoons in the living room. The scene outside the window is gray and featureless. I have no idea where my parents are.
When she sits down on the couch with you, holds your hands, and looks you in the eye, you will not have to guess what’s coming next. After all, you’ve been expecting this for months, waiting in agony for this day to come. The love has already flickered off. She will be gentle and kind, like she always has been, but in the end, you will have to sleep at your friend’s apartment that night. Your friend will comfort you by telling you the stories behind their tattoos again, and drinking wine with you. Eventually, they will get tired, and so will you. Their spare room is large enough for your thoughts to run free. For the next two hours, your heavy eyes will be held up by jumbled and confused questions, and the last thought that flashes in your mind before sleep wins is the beginning of accepting a lie: tomorrow will be better.
You will wake up in that unfamiliar bed, back aching and sore, and wonder where you are and who you went home with this time. Memories of last night fade into view as you crawl out of bed and into the bathroom. Your friend will have already gone to work, and with no one there to confirm your story, you will doubt your memory; after all, you are getting older. Besides, sometimes dream weavers can lie.
“What’s this?” Emma held up the small wad of bills bundled together in a circle.
“It’s the money I owe you.”
Emma put her Honda in park and weighed the cash in her palm. “Where’s the rest?”
Simon shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he leaned down to meet Emma’s eyes through the cracked car window.
“That’s all I could get right now. I’ll have the rest by-”
“Tomorrow. You’ll have the rest by tomorrow,” Emma said as she flicked her sunglasses off her forehead and onto her nose. “I’d hate to have to pay your mom a visit, Simon.”
He nodded and stepped back as Emma’s car pulled away, kicking up dirt.
Tammy had nightmares of the man she saw in her store window. His elongated face chased her through the streets of the San Fernando Valley, her terror mounting like a progression of staccato hits rising up the scales on an untuned piano. She always woke up screaming before the crescendo.
It all began after Rachel had a gun held to her head for a measly fifty dollars. How dumb could the thief be, holding up a pillow-and-accessory shop when Dazzles, Tammy’s store three doors away sold jewelry? It was costume, plastic, some silver, a few pieces of gold, but, a pillow store?
After the police left, Rachel came in screaming and crying, “Why me?” her eyes red and twitching, mouth pinched. Tammy knew what Rachel was thinking: you take in more money than I do, why didn’t he put a gun to your head? Continue reading
This isn’t the call Joan is waiting for. The call she’s waiting for, as she stares into the guts of the vintage purple GameCube she doesn’t have the skill to fix, is from Miku. Miku, who wears half of her hair in a ponytail and uses too much garlic when she cooks, who knows exactly which of Joan’s shit to call her out on and which shit can’t be helped, who understood Joan better after one year than Joan’s family had after twenty-eight. She can’t help but pick it over, the moment she noticed the blot of dissatisfaction in Miku three nights ago.
Joan had been slumped on the couch in her apartment, giggling as Miku finished her impromptu performance of “It’s Your Move” by Diana Ross. Miku took a bow, perched across Joan’s lap, and placed her hands on either side of Joan’s face. The ceiling fan clicked rhythmically. An upstairs neighbor slammed a door. Miku smiled lopsidedly, bringing her face closer to Joan’s. A flush burned Joan’s cheeks and she looked away. After a moment, Miku sighed. She detached herself from Joan and stared at the ceiling. “I guess you’d like for me to go, then,” she said, her eyebrows raised.
“No, no,” Joan had replied, too quickly, “You don’t have to.” Continue reading