It wasn’t her best presentation, lopsided and heavy. But, something else troubled her. In the pre-dawn silence she remembered. There was no plastic font for the Oasis. The flower offering to God enshrined in engraved brass could leak. Punishment? Forgiveness? Do water rivulets stained by pink roses and lavender hydrangeas spoil holy linen?
Fortified from head to toe with flag emblazoned do-rag, pink sequined G.R.I.T.S. tank top, and black spandex leggings, she saddled up to the bar. The ephemeral tattoo of a barbed wire heart pulsed with every sip as she scanned the stools nearby. Just taking a break from the monotony of an accountable marriage.
Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Braced teeth. Budding womanhood. She believes she’s hot in this third world. Her shorts too short. A plethora of exposed skin. Her Spanish is passable but not necessarily necessary. The universal language of daring works well on guys – boys really – encouragement for them to touch her, making her hotter.
Inside false cement walls designed to fool guards not wanting to look too deep into the recesses, Allen’s papier-mâché dummy covered in stolen hair didn’t dance appropriately to the accordion music. Nevertheless, he chipped away with a soldered spoon only to be rewarded a glimpse of friends silently navigating to the Golden Gate.
Required to stay in the school cafeteria, Christa chose not to talk about prom dresses or college applications. Rather, she pronged with satisfaction the graying skull fragment nestled among the butter beans and did her best to ignore the new girl cheek-to-cheek with Shipp. If necessary, Christa would torture and terminate her, too.
Across the room crowded with teen spirit, she saw him leaning on the closet door. No one else had caught his attention so she sashayed over. Shyly looking through manufactured lashes and smiling with tinseled teeth, she accepted his invitation to bring her innocence into the undeclared. Later, she came from the closet.
How to mark this occasion? A tattoo! Fast Freddie’s was on the next block. Looking at the plethora of designs her courage wanes. She wants a heart – tiny, red, demure. Sadly, all the hearts are shrouded in barbed wire. She cannot do it, acquiring something so permanent, and opts for an ephemeral offering.
“Hi. My name is Lance. I am an alcoholic.”
This is going to be painful. According to his research, all 12-step programs are just bad science. His higher power gives a promise to make him feel good with Jack and Coke. An hour later, he isn’t feeling any pain at all.
A torn corner of college-rule with tired black ink dropped in her lap as she gazed through the bus window. “You are uncommonly beautiful.” An anonymous one-liner saved in her college scrapbook. Now fifty-nine, she continues searching for the poet. To let him know those words began the epic poem that is her life.
Tom Instagrammed his darned sock lying unpaired on the sidewalk. Its mate lost forever. He comments on his post with a silent moment among the cacophony of noise. He could just throw it away. On the other hand, he could pair it with others lingering in his drawer and make a sock monkey.
Her feet slipped in the caramel colored mud causing her amble breasts to jostle free from her string top. Counting to ten, Ben offered encouragement as he tightly gripped the nylon rope wanting her bikini bottom to follow suit. Too late, he realized her hand wasn’t linked to his and she was buried forever.
Sara realized the saying was probably true. Honey trumps vinegar. Despite this, she couldn’t help but wish for more when just Dale approached her at the bar. Slowly swiveling on her stool, she smiled as if honey was really in her pot and asked him to taste her lemon and cherry sour drink.
After time, not much is banked in her memory. His name was Van. She wanted to be wanted in an innocent way. He cast her off with a drunken sneer. “I don’t want a virgin.” Too late. A spot of bright red blood left no doubt Van would soon fish for another trophy.
Ernestine’s leggings, tight with newness, didn’t allow for stuffing the usual from the Wal-Mart jewelry counter. So, without a glimmer of remorse, she dropped three silver and rhinestone watches between her forward facing double d’s and sauntered through the automatic exit doors. Loss prevention only stared, not daring to delve into the valley.
At the half-century mark, twenty-five years of marriage realized, Mary expressed her desire to seek more passion. After a professional injection of collagen to her lips, she reported that the danger happens in continuing to exist only breathing in and not exhaling to see the breath. Without warning, Phil involuntarily released a guffaw.
It is foolishness for April to be convinced via the continuous loop of infomercials that organic makeup, a mail-order diet, or cheap unmentionables will improve her love life. As the on-site mini storage unit manager, she cannot expect to break the cycle of her suffering and transcend to nirvana from her current position.
At sixty, she’s between her prime years. Like Paul Erdös, prime is her obsession. She doesn’t cut her grapefruit into seventeen sections, but she sets the thermostat to 79, drives at 61 mph and sets the television to 31 volume. On her next birthday, she’ll take the opportunity to find a prime man.
Always a bridesmaid. Never the bride. Not this time. Sitting three rows from the altar, Claire listened to imported pink flamingos mocking her, conveniently repeating “I do, I do, I do.” Finally, the preacher dutifully asked that question, Claire joined the bird’s chorus shouting out “I do” much to the surprise of everyone.
Parental Payback. It was an hourglass shaped mug from the Pizza Hut. Surely one of many. Stuffed with a clean napkin she dropped it gently in her pocketbook. At home, it was proudly displayed with other adolescent memorabilia. Two weeks later it was returned along with her application to work in the Pizza Hut kitchen.
Scrambling up the rocky embankment to the trestle tracks running above the quiet road, Josh hustled over each rail matching steps with his desperate pleas to Jessica desolately walking below. In the distance, an anxious horn was matching his cadence, reluctantly taking precedence over Josh’s voice until the words tumbled off the tracks.
The last rays of sunlight and the soft glow of June bugs scatter like rain drops on the humid lawn. Eva scampers to load her Mason jar with light to last long past her bedtime. Suddenly, her flashing light vessel is full of its own energy. Just as suddenly the glow is gone.
Along the river and among the pines a gently sloping path meanders. Peddling is easy. Breathing is easy, too. Her wheels turn freely on faded black asphalt. Suddenly, she cries out, “a hill, a hill…I hate hills!” She hears him say, “You are just hopeless.” He said, “Toe clips! You need toe clips.” [about a misunderstanding]
Why wait? For the majority of her life she kept to the right of the double yellow lines. Now, at sixty, the road ahead has a distinct – not to be ignored – curve. Despite her hesitation, she presses on, meeting the bend with aplomb, speeding full on into her golden years.
Walking into the lobby, Vert tugged the bill of his cap even lower and untucked his already loose shirt from his waistband. At the window he displayed his lucky snub-nose revolver without conversation. Zelena handed over the zippered bag with seventeen stacks of twenties. Walter smiled and left the same way he entered.