My mother didn’t like me. With girls you pay as you go, every day there is some sort of drama, but with boys you pay all at once. Boys tend to go with the flow of everyday living until you get a call from the police because little Johnny has stolen a car. Too bad no one ever told my mother this. Maybe if my mother had lived to know me as an adult she would have liked me. She passed away when I was 29 but died when I was 18, of Alzheimer’s, when she no longer knew my name.
“I know your face!”
Even with his scant grasp of the dialect, Bill had understood. Ruminating, he touched his snowy white beard.
“Tough first time, eh? And with a runner.” placated NGO veteran Olaf, who had led the factory raid. “We will find the kid—he will get a better life.”
Lowering half-moon spectacles, Bill cursed the workspace where twenty kids had toiled, slept and assembled Christmas trinkets, 24/7 for 12 dollars a month.
“Why did he run?”
A plastic Santa dangled from Olaf’s finger.
“To escape his oppressor?”
“Time to shave.” said Bill, the Santa look having lost its appeal.
The night air is hot and thick. The Swanson smells so bad it would probably take a fire to destroy the stink completely. The desk-jockey is a junkie. Both his eye-sockets were fractured as a child, giving him a sunken, haunted expression.
He passes me the key, nervously. It’s the honeymoon suite. I remember the floor-to-ceiling mirrors.
The corridor is long and gloomy. Just like my life.
I press my ear against the door. The bullet splinters the cheap wood and hits my shoulder.
My vision goes blurry.
The tropical-print wallpaper seems to fade a little more each year.
“Asshole, you’re not supposed to call attention.”
He laughs harder, cracks the car window.
“Really. I mean, really?”
His laughter subsides: “I mean, it’s funny,” he says.
“You’re stupid. Take me home.”
“No, wait. Let’s just stay here and talk for a while, please?”
“No! Wait… you’re not wearing your hearing-aids?”
“I hear you fine.”
He feels something: not in his pants, but in his heart—strange, because emotions typically role off of him like rain on his freshly waxed Kia.
He says: “I like-like you.”
The sky is lavender, like her hair.
— Glenn G. Grigsby
She walks into the room, hips swaying, just to test the reaction. All eyes, except one set, swivel her way. Some jealous, others hungry, they take in her slinky form, the curvy hourglass of her waist. She never reveals her true name, preferring to go by “Henrietta.”
Winking at the wrinkled man in the toque and tattered parka, she heads for the corner. The sullen man is her prize.
“Hey there, stranger,” she says with a paint-cracked smile, “room for more?”
The man raises his face, bloodshot eyes widening. “My God. So this is where you’ve been hiding all these years.”
— Emily Clayton
From a narrow hallway with yellowing wallpaper, I entered the bathroom. The air was damp, assaulting, like so many Louisiana days; the mirror scarred, and the rose-decorated room musky from years of exposure to hairsprays and colognes. Feeling like a lonely time traveler, I outstretched my hand in a weak attempt to clean the glass. When the faded ceramic frog that had sat quietly in the shower for more than 30 years spoke to me, it was time to leave. Without more than my driver’s license and lipstick, I fled. Backing quickly out of the slanted drive, I never looked back.
— Tamara Turner