|Penetration by Holly Friesen
by Dan Davis
Carly ignored James's cries, because Dr. Miller had assured her that babies just cry sometimes. "Like people," he'd said, as if babies were anything but. "They
just have to let it out, and there's nothing you can do to console them."
Jeff was skeptical of Dr. Miller, but he went along with it because they couldn't really afford anyone better. Carly couldn't get money from her parents—not because she'd dropped out of high
school three months before James was due, but because she'd taken up with a married man—and Jeff's parents were down
in Cairo, not much better off than they were. Jeff's job at the lumberyard paid just above minimum wage. Carly herself would
be able to work again in a month or so, but the best she could hope for right now was part time at McDonald's or Arby's. Not good enough to switch doctors, barely good enough to keep the one they had.
Kelsey had been over earlier that afternoon, having skipped school to hang out and smoke pot. They'd talked the regular
high school gossip, even though Carly had been out of the scene for almost a year now. She was pleased to find that she felt
herself above it all. Perhaps it wasn't a good thing, to feel that you were somehow
better than your best friend, but it was a nice change of pace from the gentle sadness that had been creeping up on her lately. Everyone—meaning Kelsey—assured her that Jeff wasn't having an affair,
and Carly herself was fairly confident about that, because she was certain he loved her, it was written in all the little
things he did. Yet, the suspicion lingered, and it—along with a million
other things that piled up like stacked cards—kept her awake at night, occupied her mind during the day. She'd been having trouble focusing. She'd been questioning herself,
something she hadn't done since she found out she was pregnant. What for some
people would have been the most stressful knowledge of their whole life—giving up the future they'd planned—came
to her as a long-awaited opportunity. A
chance not just for a change, but for a new life in a new world.
"You're a freak," Kelsey had said. "You're just now beginning to realize
"This isn't me. I don’t feel like me anymore."
"Is that you or the weed talking?"
"Me. Both. I don't know."
Kelsey took a hit, then put the pipe on the table. She leaned back against
the sofa, rested her head on Carly's shoulder. "Hell, Jeff's a great guy."
"Not many men would leave their wives for a girl your age."
"Not many men would support you as much as he has."
"You know all these things, then why are you so sad?"
"That's what I don't know."
"I know what it is." Kelsey squeezed her hand sympathetically. "Menopause. You've reached a growth spurt of unimaginable proportions."
Carly laughed, but what she'd really been thinking lately was far worse: postpartum depression. That was something else the doctor had mentioned, a few months before James was born. She hadn't thought much of it then—she'd been so confident that the thought of ever feeling sad seemed
outrageous—but the phrase had been making the rounds in her mind more and
more in the past couple months. She would hold James and suddenly remember something
fun she'd done years ago with her friends. It wasn't anything she would do now,
even without motherhood—something girlish, childish—but she became wistful, and would dwell on the image the rest
of the day, until thoughts of Jeff's imagined affair crept back into her mind. She
wasn't resentful—she loved James, loved Jeff—and wasn't angry, and she wasn't tired or sick. She wanted to talk to someone, but Jeff would just tell her what she wanted to hear, and she no longer
trusted Dr. Miller's opinions. He kept their baby healthy; that was all he was
Shortly after they'd started dating—a few months before she became pregnant, and almost a year before Jeff's
wife found out about them—Jeff had taken her down to Cairo to meet his parents. She'd
balked at first—he was almost thirty, for God's sake, and no matter how much she loved him or him her, his parents couldn't
approve of the union, especially with him being married. But they'd been kind
and funny, yet sad in that quiet way people have when they're barely getting by. She'd
enjoyed herself, at the same time praying that she and Jeff never ended up like that. She'd
felt like a part of the family, more so than she did with her own ever since her mother caught her and Jeff on a date. She was estranged from her own parents, and it was nice to know she had a surrogate
set on standby, should she ever need them.
First came the divorce, though. Jeff didn't think they'd get anything; they
were renting this house because his wife—or, more pointedly, his wife's lawyer—had refused to move out. The house came cheap because it was on the bad part of Tenth Street, the section of town Carly had usually
avoided. The walls and ceiling were crumbling, everything leaked, and nothing
worked consistently. Carly envied the house Jeff had left behind; she'd only been
there a few times, when his wife was visiting family. It wasn't one of the nicer
houses—the ones on the south side of town, the kind that looked like they belonged in magazines—but it'd been
an old one. The good kind of old, sturdy and dependable. A house with a legacy. That's what she wanted—another
foundation, to add further support to the life she was building. This house had no
history; it was meant as a temporary residence, always a house and never a home. It
was just a building.
The divorce was taking its toll on Jeff, Carly had told Kelsey. They rarely
talked about it; Carly got the sense that Kelsey was somewhat scandalized by the events, but at least not to the extent that
Carly's parents were. Carly wondered how much high school gossip had centered
on her. Surely she was old news by now. Few people probably even remembered her. It's not like she'd been popular, or smart. She'd
gotten by, which had been acceptable, if not preferable. And in high school, "acceptable"
got you nowhere with your peers.
Maybe she was still in the school mindset after all—she found herself embarrassed that people would've talked
about her, and yet at the same time wanted them to discuss her. It was nice to
"Is his wife a bitch?" Kelsey asked. "She sounds like it."
Carly shrugged. "I never met her. Jeff
says she is. But I think he's just mad at her."
Kelsey nodded and said nothing. Carly didn't pursue it. It wasn't her favorite
subject, either. She hated to think that she'd broken up a home—a real,
albeit unhappy, home. Perhaps part of the reason she felt the way she did was
guilt. She'd never seen a shrink, never even really considered it. Maybe one would help. Did the county provide free therapy? She doubted it. If you needed help, you
needed money. Didn't have one, didn't get the other.
James's crying lagged for a bit, and the silence filled the house like dry water. Carly
wiped sweat from the back of her neck, hating the Indian summer that had settled on the area. She
and Jeff wanted to move up to Chicago, where they could look out at Lake Michigan and feel like they were on the beach, just
that vast expanse of blue water, no land in sight. Carly had never been. Jeff had, once or twice with friends, and he assured her it was breathtaking. Carly laughed at the thought of Lake Michigan seeming exotic to her. She was still young, though. Cut through the depression bullshit,
and that was the truth—she was still young, and despite what her mother said, she still had her whole life ahead of
The biggest body of water she'd ever seen was when she'd visited Jeff's parents in Cairo. He'd taken her to the very tip of Illinois—the "head," he'd told her, whispering it in her ear, his
voice dropping in that way he had when telling dirty jokes. They'd still been
in that phase. She missed it. He still showed his devotion in other, more mature
ways, but every now and then, she wanted to feel like a child again. She wanted
something to be scandalous. But after having a baby with a married man almost
twice your age, it was hard to feel scandalous about anything.
He'd held her, kissing her cheek, as they watched the Ohio River merging with the Mississippi. It had been overcast; but the pamphlet they'd picked up said, when the sun was out, you could tell the two
rivers apart because of their colors: the blue Ohio, the muddy Mississippi. She'd
been disappointed that they didn't get the full affect, but it was still a breathtaking sight, two majestic rivers flowing
together, becoming one. Something truly awesome, as wondrous as the arms that
held her, as the sensation that she was finally beginning to find herself.
But that wasn't how it really was, she'd realized lately. The Ohio and
the Mississippi didn't merge as one. The Ohio simply vanished. She'd looked it
up on a map just a few days ago. The Ohio started its journey in Point State Park,
in Pittsburg, ran northwest for a few miles, then flowed almost continuously southwest, until it clashed with the Mississippi. Nine-hundred-eighty-one miles ended in an instant, stopped, gone. A magical force, the source of life for the entire region for centuries, swallowed up by something larger,
She hadn't told Jeff. He would laugh. He
wouldn't understand, because he was like the Mississippi: older, wiser. His course
was longer, his rapids fiercer, his depths harboring both treasures and dangers hers could never match. She felt outclassed by him—he meant well, but he had no idea what he was doing.
Nor did she. She'd almost bought a book on the history of the Ohio —she'd
been in the checkout line, even, but had forced herself to put it back. She was
taking it too far. Or, rather, she was refusing to take it far enough. All the way, or none of it—those were her two options, and she was afraid of where the path might
take her. Insanity? Full-on depression? She'd
put the book back and walked out of the store and hadn't been back since. She
even had to change the channel any time a commercial or news segment referred to the Ohio River basin. She pictured herself standing in an expansive crater, surrounded by nothing but shadows, the sound of rushing
water in the distance. She'd woken from such dreams, clutching her pillow tightly
in her hands, biting into it as though to stifle a scream.
Carly roused herself from her stupor as James's wailing started again. She meandered
to the back of the house, taking her time. She was still coming down from her high, which hadn't taken her as far as it used
to. She pushed open the door to their bedroom. The
crib stood next to the bed. There was another room, but they hadn't set it up
as a nursery. To do so would show a permanency neither of them admitted to. Yet, they were slowly hauling furniture into it, one piece at a time. A chest of drawers. Jeff's weight bench. She supposed, in a matter of weeks, it could become either a nursery or a workout room. Probably the latter; they both liked having James sleep with them. They
had to make love quietly, so as not to wake him, but Jeff was usually so tired at the end of the day that physical interaction
was at a minimum. If he got the night watchman's job at Wal-Mart that he'd applied
for, he wouldn't even be home at night. She wondered how he would sleep, working so much. But
she didn't think about it too hard. The money came first, for both of them.
No, that wasn't true. James came first. She
picked him up out of his crib, rubbed his back. His cries became softer, less
adamant. "You just want attention," she told him. "You have to remember this one
day, so you can tell Dr. Miller why babies cry so much."
She carried him into their main room—what they refused to call a "living room"—and sat back down in her
chair. A cloud was passing by overhead. The scrap of grass that passed as their
yard was darkening, shadows becoming bolder for a moment stretching, reaching out. Carly turned James away from the window
so he wouldn't have to see. She kissed his forehead. His crying had subsided to soft murmuring.
She closed her eyes and rocked him gently. She breathed in heavily through her
nose, the lingering smell of pot comforting her. They would be okay, she thought. As long as she kept flowing, refusing to merge, refusing to vanish, they would be okay.
Dan Davis was born and raised in Central Illinois. His work has appeared in various online and print journals. You can find him at www.dumpsterchickenmusic.blogspot.com.
|Ancient by Holly Friesen
by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
Little Bob’s truck was illegal in every way.
The fact it was unregistered and driven by an unlicensed driver who had a warrant out for his arrest was just the beginning.
There was no way the thing could pass emissions, even if he had considered trying. When he drove it, black clouds backfired
like big gunshots, and the rust from all the salt and decades of long Minnesotan winters had crept up from underneath to devour
the paint. He kept it parked within the fenced perimeter of our dirt yard and with the topper off we used to lounge in the
back like it was a patio or something, watching the stars. Little Bob didn’t have a title to the thing, having traded
his low rider bicycle for it one night after sharing a fifth of Jim Beam with me. He’d grinned at me, half toothless
(even though he was only twenty-three) and said, “You’ll fit better in this than you did on the handlebars.”
But the real bitch of the truck was you needed two
people just to drive it. Our housemate Sylas, who was in school for auto mechanics, was naturally the other. To make the trio
complete, there was me. I didn’t do much except tend to the dogs and open fresh beers. Sylas had to get under the engine,
hoping not to get run over, and do something with a screwdriver while Bob turned the key and flooded the gas. Then Sylas would
roll out from under there all fast and half-wild looking and jump in beside me on the passenger side as we coasted from the
curb toward whatever new adventure awaited—the gears kicking into place, the engine remembering how to run, and of course
the POP! POP! of the carburetor. Little Bob couldn’t leave Sylas behind because if he parked anywhere, they’d
have to repeat the whole ritual again just to get somewhere else. Bob had risked
it a couple of times to drop me off somewhere, but without Sylas I’d have to jump out while the truck was still rolling,
and Little Bob had to keep from ever stopping which included stop signs and red lights. Being illegal as it was, Little
Bob rarely drove the truck—saving it for special occasions. These occasions always seemed to involve me. I tried hard
not to take notice, which usually was pretty easy to do if Sylas was around to distract me with all his charming idiosyncrasies.
Little Bob had grown up in Minneapolis and knew
his way around. He took only the alleys, back roads and occasional parking lots to avoid the police. There was a license plate
on the truck, Minnesotan even, but I had no idea where he’d gotten it. Sylas and I both knew that if we ever did get
pulled over, it was Bob’s rap, not ours.
My beet harvest money had finally run out and I’d
applied for a job as a barista at a coffee shop up in St. Louis Park. I don’t think any of us thought that I’d
actually get the job, but I did, and in order for me to really take it, I needed new clothes. I’d borrowed clothes from
my friend Maria who had a kid and an apartment all her own and three jobs and not only clean clothes, but more than two sets
of them. I needed my own respectable wardrobe now. My beet-piling Carhartt overalls and ratty travelling dress just would
not do, and so Bob and I had conspired over a cup of free coffee at the Strudel Noodle to take a trip over to the West Bank
to get me some new rags at the Goodwill there. Little Bob grinned, his eyes wide and infinitely dark, but twinkling nonetheless,
“I’ll take ya’ in the truck—that is, if Sy’ll come.”
My heart dropped a little. Sylas was still at the
Palace, the house we all three called home—called the Palace because of the decorative edging along the roof outside
my upstairs bedroom window. That architectural design was the only thing royal about the house, and I was the antithesis of
a princess or a queen. As temperamental as the truck was, we all waited for the city to condemn it. There’d already
been a fire before any of us had moved in and the wiring still acted weird—like if you walked too hard in one corner
of my room it killed the power downstairs. But back to Sylas. Sy had been ignoring me since the real part of summer had rolled
in, the humidity, the mosquitoes, and the long nights of drinking. He’d even had a girl over the other night.
“You ask him,” I said looking out the
window where Nicolet Avenue was. I doubted Sylas would agree, but I didn’t say that. I could tell that Little Bob knew
something was up. He had a way of knowing more about my life than I did.
But I was wrong. Sylas did agree. When we got home,
he was in the kitchen with his shirt off and his navy blue Dickies all baggy around his waist—a dirty rope threaded
through the belt loops barely keeping them up. He yawned, stretching his arms over his head and clasping his hands together
in the air until his knuckles turned white. He did his weird gyration dance that always embarrassed me, and said smiling,
“Let’s do it!”
It was a little past ten o’clock once we had
the topper to the truck fixed into place and the dogs all fed and watered. Betty, Bob’s pit bull, was pregnant again
with what must have been her tenth litter. There was no use hassling him about getting her spayed because he’d just
get all pissed off and disappear for a few days. He had a collection of young girls he went to for mindless conversation and
deliberately meaningless sex. At least it was just his dog that came back pregnant and not the dumb girls. I worried because
I knew he wanted a baby more than anything in the world. He even helped me babysit Maria’s kid. He’d told me the
first time he’d tagged along on a job. He didn’t say it like it was a secret or anything, but more like he was
telling me because he thought I’d understand. He wanted a gaggle of them, he said, and a wife and a house out in the
woods. He’d cut down the trees himself, he said, and put them together just like Lincoln Logs.
I wanted something similar, but that sort of future
still seemed very much a fairy tale, a life not meant for me. His was only a little less fairy tale, but that made it a lot
more real than you’d think.
And so we started out that day with Sylas and his
trusty screwdriver under the truck, Little Bob at the wheel, and me in the middle with a pregnant pit bull panting on my lap.
She was heavy and awkward to hold, but we had to take her in case she went into labor. At least that’s what Bob said.
Again, it was his dog, not mine, not my problem and I knew from Sy’s expression that he figured the same. Because Betty
was meaner than usual not only when it was hot out, but when she was pregnant, we’d left the other dogs at home roaming
the fenced-in yard. We knew there’d be a lot of dog shit to contend with in the morning, but today was today and we
weren’t going to let the future get in our way.
The truck bumped and backfired through alleys and
residential streets, but to get to where we were going we’d have to take the Interstate. “There’s beer behind
the seat,” Bob said. Sylas twisted around and began handing the beers to me. I passed one to Bob and kept the other
for myself while Sylas got his own. It was Bock beer, almost $20 a case, in glass bottles. I’d been drinking Schlitz
Ice out of cans for a couple of weeks now, so this felt like the high life to me. We all settled back as Bob drove, savoring
the lukewarm beers and passing a Lucky Strike back and forth. It was still too early to smoke a whole cigarette alone. We
merged onto I35.
We’d all left home early, at impossibly young
ages, thirteen, fifteen and sixteen. We’d all ridden freight trains and used our thumbs to get around. Whether or not
it’d been too early wasn’t the question, the answer was we’d gone through our own rites and were almost
adults. As I said before, Sylas was back to be a mechanic while Bob was back because it was where he was from and because
the rest of the world had kicked him out. Unlike the two of them, I wasn’t from Minneapolis, or even Minnesota. I had
no idea what I was doing, other than the fact I didn’t leave after the last beet harvest. I don’t think any of
us were particularly pleased about where we were in life. But for a minute, we felt the possibility of the highway, the open
road again—the sense that there was more to be had. It was like we didn’t know better all over again. But we needed
the Interstate to get from point A to point B, and would not be leaving the city that day.
The guys went through records and junk shelved along
the walls of the Goodwill while I chose garments from the racks, feeling sick from the combination of the morning beer, the
chemicals they sprayed the clothes with and the overhead fluorescents. We were all glad to get out of there, breathing in
the outside, even if it was just city air and exhaust.
“I’m proud of myself,” I said
leaning against the side of the truck holding a plastic bag full of second-hand clothes. I could tell that they both knew
what I meant. Getting clothes, let alone a job was hard. It was letting the days go by that came easy. We all stood around
for the next ten minutes, hesitating. I knew I didn’t want the day to be over, but if we were to continue, it required
“It’s happy hour at the CC Club,”
Little Bob said, pulling open his door.
“I’m broke now,” I said lifting
up my bag for emphasis. Little Bob looked at me and I knew we were thinking the same thing. Sylas was one the one with the
cash, but he wasn’t into drinking like we were. Probably why he hadn’t been hanging out with me anymore. It wasn’t
that Sy didn’t drink, he was more of a once-a-week kind of guy, while we were the everyday, all day long type.
Sylas smiled, “It’s on me.” He
squatted, ready to do the screwdriver trick. “But you,” he said, pointing the screwdriver at me, “You.”
“What?” I said, but he’d already
pulled himself under the truck, all of him disappearing except his legs. Dirty pants, paint-splattered Carolina boots.
After a few rounds of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the CC
Club, we went and finished the case of Bock down by the river. The afternoon sun melted into the Mississippi and for a moment
or so, where we were was almost like being out of the city. The closest dose of real nature any of us had experienced in a
“I wanna marry this one,” Little Bob
said to Sylas, meaning me and putting his arms around both of us. We slipped our arms around him, but Sylas found my fingers
pressed against the grass and covered them with his palm. There is something about a person’s palm, and I’m not
talking about all those fortune-telling lines. No, it’s the warmth there, like that’s the spot on a person’s
body where the soul comes in and out. Probably the reason behind the whole stigmata thing or why it feels so good to hold
hands. It had been a long time since he’d touched me, and even longer since it’d been him to make the first move.
I was used to Little Bob’s love sonnets, but they were harder to ignore when someone else had heard them, and especially
when that someone else was Sylas. I tried not to think about that girl I’d seen leaving his room the other morning.
From there night fell and we descended back into
the heart of the city, to another bar where we shot some blurry games of pool. We even bowled at the Starlight where all the
lanes glowed in the dark repeating in a drunken loop, “It’s so much easier when everything glows!” But we
ran out of money and Little Bob remembered he had a friend who lived in the area, over in the warehouse district, and that
he might have some beer to bum. And so we went there. But I fell asleep on the way.
I awoke in the truck alone, parked outside the old
style industrial warehouses, the type that artists and punk rockers are always dying to rent. The night had cooled. Betty
was asleep on the floor of the cab, breathing heavy, her pregnant belly rising and falling. The warehouse was three stories
high and had lots of glass windows, the kind with steel frames and lots of little squared in panes. A lot of them had been
busted. Nearby was the Dinky Town train yard where trains were being put together, the eerie screech of metal on metal. I
lit a cigarette trying to figure out what I was feeling. Then I realized what it was. It was strange to be alone.
But then Sylas was at the passenger side door, his
face framed by the window. I pushed the door open and looked at him.
“I came to check on you,” he said, grinning
the way he had during that last winter when we had begun to explore each other’s bodies in the solitude of the house,
before Little Bob had moved in, before the travelers passing through had come.
“Yeah?” I said as he pressed against
me, his hair smelling of WD40 like it always did. His mouth went for my neck first, that tender spot hidden under my hair. I flicked my cigarette off into the parking lot and let my arms wrap around him. He
pushed my dress up, pulling off my boy underwear as I lay back. “Where’s Bob?” I asked, but then he pressed
against me and then into me and the night sang as he kissed me, his fingers tangling in my hair, our bodies hungry.
“What was that?” I asked. “I mean
what is any of this? Us?” We were sitting on an old steel drum. It was on its side. To keep it from rolling out from
under us, we stretched out our feet, rocking. But Sylas wasn’t going to answer my question. I knew that before Little
Bob emerged from the warehouse carrying a twelve pack of Black Label in one hand and a cast iron candelabra in the other.
“Here,” he said, handing me the candle
holder, his black eyes looking at mine. I knew he was hurt. “I stole this from those idiots in there. I saw it, and
I thought, this isn’t theirs. It’s much more Ursula.”
We repeated the ritual of starting the truck, but
unlike the numerous other times of the day, we were solemn. Little Bob wasn’t one to hold a grudge and he wasn’t
one to give up on a night either. “We’re all disposable,” he said. “Everything is.”
We were driving away from the warehouse and had
come into a residential neighborhood. He was driving too fast but the streets were empty and since it was somewhere around
three in the morning, it made sense that the neighborhood was sleeping. It was by pure accident the first time we hit
the tracks, yet because of the speed, the truck caught enough air that my stomach dropped and the truck bounced a few feet
off the ground.
“We’re doing that again!” Bob
said, his eyes twinkling in the darkness of the cab.
“Faster,” I said, although not a true
daredevil by nature. So we circled the block and accelerated. The tracks were raised about three feet and there were signs
that said, “GO SLOW!” Sylas laughed and we all braced ourselves. This time we really caught some air and it felt
like flying. When we landed, Betty growled from her spot on the floor.
“One more time,” Little Bob said, a
phrase he was famous for.
“Here girl,” I said patting my lap.
But Betty was far too big to jump up so I leaned forward and pulled her fat body onto mine. She looked at me and I swear that
in that moment, her eyes were the same as Bob’s. Black and infinite. Sad and mischievous. We came around again and this
time Bob really floored it and we were flying before we even hit the hump. But this time I couldn’t brace myself because
of Betty and I hoped her weight would be enough to anchor the two of us. It wasn’t. She and I and her belly of puppies
flew up and I hit my head on the ceiling of the cab hard enough I felt it in my spine. We came back down even harder and Betty
bruised me with her body. Bob lost control of the truck when we landed, but with his hands in the air it was obvious he wasn’t
trying either. The truck stopped because of the telephone pole. It was all such a cliché. Steam hissing from the engine and
the three of us piling out as the sirens sounded and the flash of red and blue illuminated the night and the sleeping street.
Sylas took Betty and ran, but I couldn’t.
My sides were killing me. I sat down on the curb before I threw up. There was a street lamp above me, but it was the cop who
pointed out the blood in the bile.
“You need medical attention,” he said,
shining his flashlight into my eyes. Blinking, I shook my head. I refused the offer each time he asked me, so the ambulance
I needed never came. Like a cartoon, I watched them do the drunk test on Little Bob. They started by making him walk a straight
line. “One foot in front of the other,” the other officer instructed. Bob managed ten steps. Pointing at me, in
a bad Johnny Cash imitation, he sang, “For you I walk the line.” The cop who wanted to call an ambulance finally
gave up on me and went to the patrol car to call in Little Bob’s name.
The other cop told Bob to say the alphabet backwards.
With his hands over his head, Little Bob began, “ Zzzz . . .” he said, deliberately slurring the letter. Then
smiling at me, he continued. “F- U- C- K- P- I- G- S.” The cop shook his head and guided Bob into the back of
the patrol car. I’d been handcuffed, and from my seat on the curb I watched the tow truck pull Little Bob’s truck
away forever. Then the police let me go. They took Bob. Of course.
Sylas and Betty were gone, so I began to walk. For
some reason I still had the candelabra, but nothing else. No idea where I was, I was relieved at least not to be going to
jail. There was a glimpse of morning over the skyline, but it’s always so hard to tell in the city what’s real
and what’s artificial. I concentrated on walking, the sway of my body, the almost involuntary rotation of limbs, the
ground beneath me and the force of gravity that orchestrated it all. Despite all the drinking, I was wide awake. I switched
the candelabra from hand to hand, enjoying the feeling of the metal, the weight of it and the coldness of the thing against
my palms. Certain my ribs were cracked, there was enough adrenaline still they didn’t hurt yet. Instead, my ribcage
felt opened up like it does when you fall in love—yet I was alone. All night I’d had someone right next to me.
We’d even anthropomorphized that truck, and like the two boys, it either wanted what I couldn’t give or it didn’t
give me what I wanted. My new clothes were still in the back of the truck. From experience, I knew that the price to get into
the impound would far outweigh the value the vehicle itself. That stuff was gone. And if that dirty orange was indeed a sunrise
then my new job was to begin without me. I smiled and walked in the direction I pretended was home.
Sarah Elizabeth Schantz’s work has appeared in The Concho River Review, Nebo and Hipmama. She has been a finalist
in fiction contests hosted by Glimmer Train, New Letters and most recently an honorable mention for Zoetrope.
Sarah lives in an old farmhouse with her husband and daughter and is in her first year as an MFA student at the Jack Kerouac
School with a concentration in prose.