Written for Trifecta. The prompt is to use the third definition of "fly." "I'm here," the little one announces, chest taut with hope.

His mother ignores him as easily as she flouts the tax man. She's talking on the phone and looking out the window, running fingers through broken yellow hair. She speaks in a low voice sweet like honey, whispering secrets and lies, topped with whipped cream and cherries.

"Who're you talking to, mommy?" But he knows the answer already: the clients. Every time he asks to become one, she lights up a cigarette and blows the smoke in his face until he coughs. He'll cough forever if she'll keep looking at him.

He says, to no one in particular, "I'm hungry, mommy." He bites his lip, it's almost as chewy as a gummy worm. He approaches his mother. He stands close enough to smell her perfume. Roses fused with nail varnish. His favorite scent in the world.

She turns away from him so that her bottom is in his face. Ripe and round as a peach. He can't help it. He's so hungry. He bites her in the ass. She drops the phone as her arms fly into motion, swatting at him with both hands. He runs away, the screen door slamming in her face. She doesn't follow him.

He hides behind the neighbor-man's truck where no one can see him. The man's belly is so big that the boy thinks there might be a baby inside even though his mother says only girls can grow babies. He watches as the man grills hot dogs, one after another. He drools like the skinny mutts who roam the trailer park, the dogs too ugly to feed, or love.

When the man drops a hot dog onto the gritty earth, he doesn't shout "dammit!" or "fuck!" Instead, he peers into the shadows where the boy hides and he calls to him.

"Hey boy, do you want this one?"


letting go

Written for Trifecta. She looks between her legs, white paper stained crimson. It wasn't supposed to happen this way.

Her body, round as Mother Earth, heaves, like the ship against the waves. She tries holding her breath, drowning herself in the murky density of the mind.

"I want to die!" she shouts when the pain subsides. But her voice comes out of the wrong end. It travels inward rather than out. She doesn't have much time until the next attack. Thought falls into the shadow of suffering. The core of her cramps.

"You're going to survive," a man says. The tightening squeezes the life out of her. She climbs into his words.

You... Will... Survive...

She lives inside of the words. Intellect dissolves and their essence cradles her in an Elysian cocoon. She knows she is dying.

"Let me go," she says. "Throw me to the sea." But the interlude doesn't last. Force demands freedom. The big boom, the beginning of the universe, travels through her body, splitting open her pelvis. She bares down, until she realizes she is about to break in two like a seashell.

"Push your hardest, then let it go. Push, let go. Push, let go."

Push... Let go...

The first time she opens up, she does not break, she widens. Heaven passes through the hole in her body.

Faceless arms hand her a tiny child, naked and disoriented. Blankets, a hat descends, gloved fingers point her nipple between miniature lips. She holds his squirming body against her own. She looks at the suckling chin, a chin she already knows well. She thinks of nothing, not of love or of pain, but of what she has learned about mothering.

The hardest part is letting go.

IMG_0609 - Version 2

Champagne bath.

Written for Trifecta. She soaked in a bath tub topped off with a bottle of champagne too flat to drink. She held a book in one hand and a hand-rolled cigarette in the other. She burned candles, their flames balanced on all four corners like controlled suicide threats.

Still holding the accoutrements, she submerged her head, allowing alcoholic bath water into her nose, ears and mouth; while locking her eyes shut like windows. She decided to count the seconds.

At the same moment she hit ten, the ten-second countdown began. Her drunken neighbors shouted from the apartment below, echoing through the walls, through the water, invading the perverted hideaway of her thoughts.

Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven! Six! Five! Four! Three! Two! One!

She broke the surface, squeezing air into the very bottom of her lungs, and it was not unlike being born. She heard, though she wished she didn't, bells and explosions and the silence of a far-away kiss. Exhaling every last drop, she completed her first breath of the year.

On her second breath, she dragged on the cigarette and resumed the novel where she'd left off. She was free of anticipation as she lived in the shadow of expectation. Everything that mattered was behind her, or so she believed.


The gun with the pearl handle.

Written for Trifecta. When he told me the truth, I had the obscene urge to hurt him. At first I wanted to bite his ear off, then I thought about kicking him between the legs, and finally I yearned to wrap my little hands around his thick neck and squeeze hard enough to pop his head off like a Barbie doll.

I paused like an animal mesmerized by two bright orbs drawing closer, aware that death is imminent but unaware that it is avoidable. When he blinked, the spell was broken and I sprinted away from him, towards the impact instead of towards safety, scrambling up the stairs, falling and scraping my knees on the rough carpet and climbing the rest of the way on my hands and feet.

If I couldn't hurt my dad, I would hurt myself. I swung open the door to his closet and almost fell backwards from the smell that invaded my nostrils without warning. The scent of vanilla lotion, leather, and something else. The scent of my mother.

Her clothes still hung on the left side in a perfect line like inmates patiently awaiting their sentencing. Although the skin cells clinging to the inside of her boots and a few unwashed jackets were as dead as she was, they still carried some of her essence. And in this way, she lived on. But only inside of the windowless, crowded cell.

I’d been spending as much time as possible in the closet since my mom decided to go to heaven two months and one week earlier. When I got bored snuggling her boots and burying my nose into her blazers, I began to search for the unseen, surveying deep corners and reaching for the highest shelves.

That's when I found the gun. I thought it was a jewelry box at first, and I was beside myself, seduced by the brief fantasy that I would find a magical necklace to turn back time.

But the box, wedged behind a thick curtain of my father's suits, wasn't a forgotten treasure chest. Inside, wrapped in shiny soft fabric, rested a small handgun with a mother of pearl handle and the distinct impression of belonging to a lady.

I turned it over in my hand as I heard my father's heavy footsteps climb the stairs.

"Allegra, sweetheart?" he called.

"Stop!" I screamed wildly.

By the time he got to the closet, I had the gun pressed against my head.

“Allegra,” he sighed. “Put the gun down.”

“What do you care! You’re not my real dad anyways.”

“Yes, I am your real dad. Just not your biological dad.”

“No, you’re not! You’re a fake! A liar!”

“You’re right,” he said. “I wanted to tell you from the beginning. Your mother, may she rest in peace, wouldn’t let me.”

I threw the gun at him and it went off. I must have fainted as the world caved in around me. There was nothing left but ghosts. My mother didn’t love me enough to keep living, and my real dad didn’t love me at all. And then I’d killed the only person left. I was retched and rotten like a dying tree. The maggots would come feast upon me soon enough, and even they would chew me up and spit me out.

Emptiness flooded my heart until I exploded like a tire filled with too much air. I was sure that my blood had stopped flowing, I only needed to wait for the wheels in my brain to stop turning, and then it would be over. In those final moments, the sadness that had permeated every thread of life dissolved for the first time in 68 days.

My father rose from the dead like Jesus, shaking me from my sleep, folding me into his big arms, and depositing me into the shower. He turned on the cold water and my waist-length hair turned into a sheet of ice. The long sleeves of my pink nightgown matted against my skinny arms. I shivered, and he made the water warm.

Drawing my raw, bloody knees up to my chin, I looked at him through wet eyelashes and asked, “am I dead?”

“No, sweetheart.”

My eyes widened. “Are you?”

“The gun wasn’t loaded.”

I knew, at 13 years old, that most guns don’t give second chances, but I had gotten one. I spread my limbs until I was lying prostrate in the bathtub, allowing the water to pierce my wide open eyes as I tried not to think about my mother.