lrdalby.com

TRICKY QUESTION

ANGELIQUE WATSON

======

You ask me what’s my story, where do I belong?


“How am I to know?” is my first response. “Where do I go? Where do I
belong?”

It’s a tricky question you’ve asked me there. “Don’t you know my history, my
history with decisions? That I don’t always make them. I listen to the
influence of others.”

Again I hear your question, Who are you? Where do you belong?

Ok, so I guess I”ll think about your question.  “I’m a girl, that’s who I
am, trying to find my way in this world. With the best of intentions.”

 But is that enough? Intention isn’t necessarily action, nor is an action
even with the right intention the correct action to have been taken.

“But who determines the correct action?” I fire back. “We follow and we
listen to what we have been taught is correct. But who has taught us? Who
has taught our teachers? Who has taught our teachers’ teachers?” Just as I
begin to question more and more you confuse me even more. You ask me,
“Where do you belong in this world?” You expect so much of me. You expect me
to know all of the answers and when I don’t have them you ask me another question.


“Why are you so hard on me?”

“Is this a lesson to be learned? Or is this your way of having fun?” Deep
down… well, deep down I know the answer. You are preparing me. You throw
nothing my way I can’t handle. I usually perform them with grace and ease.
But sometimes I question, when I feel life has thrown far too many
curveballs; when I’m annoyed and feel confused about where to turn. But it’s ok,
I sense you right here, teaching me.

Teaching me to realize that I am never alone. That I only hurt myself when
I feel so. When I think of it, I feel your presence. I feel how special I
am, I smirk at the fact that it took me so long to come back to you. I smirk
because how many times have I done this before? And I smirk again because I
can only wonder how many more times this is to come.

PERFECT

L.R. DALBY

======

Richard cupped her face in his hand.

“I want to buy you something, but I don’t have any money. I want to give you the time of your life, but I don’t have the time. I want to say something that will make you feel better, but I am not inspired. I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to expect anything more.  Also, I love you.”

Hannah looked up and smiled, “I love you, too. I will expect you to do all of those things while being the antidote to a case of the Mondays, but will go without because you said you loved me. I will be bitter. It will be my fault.”

Richard nodded.

“Perfect.”

HICCUPS

LEN KUNTZ

======

My daughter starts hiccupping two days before her twelfth
birthday.

At first they are barely audible, coming every few minutes, but then their
pace quickens, the jolts of choked air getting more expressive, turning into
brassy gasps, as if she’s just come up from a long span of being underwater.

I ask my wife what we should do. Terri’s prepping for a
deposition she will take tomorrow. She flicks her eyes over the edge of a
page and says it’s a phase. “Kids have them, all kinds.” Terri is used to
being direct, as well as correct.

 That night I have the dream where I dive off a cliff into the ocean and I’m beneath the surface for hours and hours and even the fish are jealous of my lung capacity. When I wake up, the bed is sweat-soaked, smelling briny.

Terri’s already gone because she has drop-off duty and I’m a stay-at-home
painter.

The phone rings right after I’ve started mixing a new red hue to use as
blood where I’ve painted a woman’s slashed neck.

I know before I answer my cell what it’s about.

Later, at Natty’s school, I know the principal is going to meet
me outside his office, just as I know the words he’ll use. “Everything okay
at home?” His stare is steel-strong. He thinks I’m hiding something. I
feel like punching him. I’ve got paint on my hands and he sees it, noting
the resemblance to dried blood.

On the drive home I turn up the radio to camouflage Natty’s
hiccups. Her eyes go wide and her nostrils flare just before each burst, as
if she’s going to explode. When she starts to cry, I flick off the sound
and tell her a story the way I did when she was a little girl.

In between the hiccups, Natty says, “Tell me about you and Mom.”

I know what she means, but instead I tell her how I was working in a
bookstore when I met her mother, how Terri filched a copy of “Infinite Jest”
and, instead of turning her over to the cops, I made Terri go out to lunch
with me.

Natty actually grins. “Nuh uh!  Shut up.”

“True story.”

“But Mom’s a” yick-up! “lawyer.”

“She wasn’t then.  She was just your run-of-the-mill petty
crook.”

Natty laughs. I tell her more stories about her parents’
courtship and the hiccups fade as I knew they would.

There’s so much I know.

When we pull up to the garage, Natty hugs me hard, and whispers
in my ear, “I saw something.”

“I know.”

The hiccups return.

“Are you mad?”

There are a dozen answers I could give. Terri hasn’t said the
“D” word yet, and even though she’s confessed to loving him, I tell my
daughter the only thing that will calm her down. “Nah, she already broke it
off with the other guy.”

“Really?”

“True story,” I say, letting the lie slice me in two.

FOLD

JESSE BRADLEY

======

Mathias looked at the cards in his hand: three 4s (two Clubs, a Spade), an Ace of Hearts and a King of Spades, then peeked at Joseph, also looking at his hand.

“I’m all in.” Mathais pushed all of his chips into the pot.

“Call,” Joseph shoved all his chips into the pot, then crushed Mathias’s three-of-a-kind with a full house (three sevens [Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs] and a pair of Queens [Hearts, Spades]). “It looks like you’re out of the game.”

“God damn…” The petrification started with his mouth, pouring out to his face, coating his shirt, suspenders, pants, and boots until he sat in the chair statuesque.

The chair legs groaned as Daniel pushed himself away from the poker table. “What the fuck is going on here? What kind of fuckin’ game is this?” Henry buried his face in his hands, smudging his spectacles with clammy palms. Frank took a flask out of the inner pocket of his worn gray duster.

“This is gonna be a long night,” Frank said after a pull. 

 

===


Henry Wormwood stood next to a freshly covered grave, alone. He baked in his black bowler hat and sack suit, face swollen from grief.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” The sentence sneaked through Henry’s sobs, into the back of his neck. Henry turned around to see a figure, cloaked and hooded in white.

“Who…are…you?” The figure handed Henry a handkerchief. Henry cleaned his spectacles, blew his nose.

“What are you willing to do to get this person back?”

“I can’t get them back. No one can do that.”

“What if I can?” 

=== 


“I’m done with this! Deal me the fuck out!” Daniel yelled. He took five steps away from the poker table before a lightning bolt struck where he would have taken the sixth step.

Only one will be allowed to leave this table.

Frank drew the sawed-off double barreled shotgun out of his duster. “Who’s there?” The cards in Joseph’s hands began humming, the pitch growing louder. Frank clutched his head, Daniel his stomach, Henry’s glasses cracked.

“Joseph, what did you just do?” Frank’s shotgun pointed at Joseph’s chest.

“Nothin’, I swear to God, nothin’”.

“Frank, he’s right.” Henry said, putting his hand on Frank’s left shoulder. “It’s this game. Strange things have happened at the end of each hand. There’s something about those cards.”

“When I lost my showdown against Frank, I couldn’t see out of my right eye for a coupla hands,” Daniel said.

“Mathais said he lost that limp he had after winning a hand,” Joseph said. “But why did he die?”

“How did we get the chips?” Henry rubbed his chin, “We didn’t get an equal amount either. Some got more some got less.” Henry looked at the other men. Frank was in his mid-40s, a scar running like a tear beneath his left eye. You couldn’t tell Joseph had wrinkles until he smiled. Daniel’s cheeks looked like they were slapped by the doctor after birth.

Only one will be allowed to leave this table.

Joseph’s back was to the wall. Four bad hands, two bluffs later, he was down to his last few chips. In the showdown against Henry, his two pair (Aces [Hearts, Diamonds], 10s [Spades, Diamonds]) lost to a straight (5, 6, 7 [Spades], 8 [Diamonds], 9 [Hearts]). Joseph’s last pose was his hands clasped in prayer. Frank couldn’t move his left arm.

Daniel was ahead in the chip count, Henry second, Frank third, slowly losing more and more chips after each round.

“Hot damn, I’m gonna win this whole thing,” Daniel yelled. “I’m gonna get cleared of the charges and go home to my wife.”

“Wha…are…you…talkin’…about,” Henry slurred. The last hand he lost paralyzed the left side of his body. 


“I was told if I won then what I did on the train is gonna go away. I’ll get to go back to my family, my little girl. You are almost done, old man. Then it’s just between me and the yellow belly. I’m gonna beat the Dutch, just you wait.”

After his final showdown, the shotgun dropped out of Frank’s hand before he had a chance to fire at Daniel. His arm stayed outstretched. Henry picked the gun off the floor and opened the barrels.

“Daniel, I think Frank was the man they called Eureka in the papers a while back.”

“What are you talkin’ about?”

“The barrels are full of pyrite, ‘Fool’s Gold’. He was the scourge of the Union army. Killed 120 men before going into hiding after the war was over. Wasn’t even a solider, just a vigilante. Before he shot someone, he yelled “Eureka”, according to the papers.”

“That’s horseshit, Frank, horseshit. Now, sit down and let’s get this finished. I gotta a wife and a little girl waiting for me.”

After the next few hands, Henry’s glasses looked brand new, Daniel coughed and wheezed every so often. The chip count on both sides looked fairly even. Daniel’s last hand was a Jack-high flush (Diamonds). Henry shuffled and dealt. Daniel looked at his hand and smiled.

“I’m goin’ all in.”

“Are you sure you want to do that, Daniel?”

“Hell yeah, I am. I won with a flush last hand. Diamonds. Every time one of us won with lots of Diamonds in their hand, somethin’ mighty good happened. I’ve got a good feelin ’ about this hand.”

Henry pushed all of his chips in the middle of the table. “Call.”

“Read ‘em and weep, a straight, Queen high.” After Daniel saw Henry’s hand, he froze, mouth puckered in ‘no’.

Well done. The figure cloaked and hooded and white walked toward Henry. You have one more hand to play. The green felt table cloth from the poker table disappeared, revealing a pentacle carved into the table top and a new stack of chips. Only one will be allowed to leave this table. The figure took off the hood, revealing slicked back black hair, dull brown eyes, a Roman nose, and a weak jawline.

“Hello, Henry. That was a nice funeral you did for me.”

“How did you…” 


“A potion that simulates death. Two days after I died, my assistant dug me up and revived me. He was the one who gave you the last invitation to the game. You were the last ingredient.”

“What are you talking about?”

“To unleash the true apocalyptic power of the deck, I need the life force of five sinners of different degrees. Daniel was a thief, Joseph was a grifter, Mathais diddled little girls, Frank was a killer, and you laid with men.

“But I thought you loved me, Benjamin.”

“You were just a pawn for a greater good.” There was a loud bang, then blood spilled from Henry’s ruptured back before collapsing. Daniel held the smoking shotgun.

“You fuckin’ Sodomite. I hope you burn in Hell for what you’ve done.” Daniel spit on Henry’s face.

“What have you done,” Benjamin yelled as he pointed at Daniel. His index finger shivered.

“What are you tryin’ to do, poke me to death?”

“No.” Benjamin thrust his arm again, his index finger strained. “No. You’ve broken the pact.” The poker table cracked. The ground beneath fissured, the broken table falling into the earth. Daniel aimed the shotgun Benjamin. It clicked hollowly.

“I’m glad I used both barrels on your friend. What you’ve got comin’ is gonna be far worse?”

“We’re going to the same place, you know. The Devil always gets his due when you cross him.”

“Yeah, well I’m ready to pay for my sins. I reckon you aren’t.” Daniel watched Benjamin fall before the ground gave beneath him. The floor righted itself, leaving only the deck of playing cards. A gray cloaked and hooded figure picked up the deck, placed it in an unremarkable tin, then put the tin in a pocket. The figure walked out of the building, never looking back.

======

JESSE BRADLEY is an all star. In the writing community, people do not make Chuck Norris jokes. They make Jesse Bradley jokes. Except they aren’t jokes; they are real events and people do not find them funny. They listen with a mixture of fear and ultimate respect.

For instance, “Jesse Bradley decided to go to the ocean and wrestle a giant squid. He did, tamed it, and now harvests ink from the beast for his pens. The beast also rings his paper in from the front porch.  He calls it the Kraken. Because it is. Not one of those pussy squids that doesn’t take the time out of their day to maim/sailors sailors and maim/murder their ships. No. A real motherfucking Kraken.” is not a joke. It happened.

Ring the bell…school’s in, sucka. And Jesse Bradley is your professor.

Follow J. Bradley’s blog if you’re a cool kid @ 

http://iheartfailure.net/

MATRIARCH

L.R. DALBY

======

The Mother was pregnant. For eleven months, she had bled, stopping finally on the first day of December. A hushed excitement filled the air as the acolytes prepared for the impending birth of their new sister. As the Mother’s belly began to rapidly swell, the girls cooed and rubbed warmed oil across her stomach, softly tracing the plethora of darkish purple marks that indicated their births. They lay her on top of the stone surface where she would be bed-ridden for the duration of her pregnancy, carefully placing her head on a pillow.

There were twelve of them, the acolytes; daughters of the Mother.  They grew quickly at first, all able to walk in their first few weeks of life. Their maturation slowed as they reached puberty, always in their twelfth year. They were known by their rank in the Cycle. The senior acolyte, XII, wore the resplendent crimson robes of her station as she presided over the care of their matriarch with a watchful eye. The Mother gasped as their new sister kicked within, shifting in the womb. Her daughters quietly moaned at her pain, their hands fluttering over her uncertainly.  XII nervously placed her hands on the woman’s troubled brow. The Mother managed a weak smile and spoke in a strained whisper.

“Any day now, child.”

===

The contractions began early in the morning. The Mother’s pained cries woke her daughters who slumbered at the foot of her stone table. XII quickly rubbed the sleep from her eyes as she called to her sisters nearest to her in the Cycle.

“XI, bring a large bowl of warm water and soap, not too hot. X, boil the blade and the forceps.”

XII looked to the younger acolytes to instruct them, but they were already fetching the linen cloths, dipping some in warm water to cleanse away the fluids of birth and some in cold for their Mother’s brow.  XII turned her attention to the woman writhing on the table and carefully placed her kicking feet into the stirrups. She touched the tanned and treated umbilical cord which served as a belt for reassurance, and saw her sisters doing the same. XI proffered the bowl and soap, and XII lathered up her arms to the elbows. She patted them dry on a clean white cloth held up by IV. She then thrust out her arms wide, startling her sisters, and told them to ready themselves.

“The Time has come, sisters-mine, the Cycle will continue as it always has and will so long as we stand by the Mother. Look to her and be grateful. Attend her!”

They hurriedly swarmed their matriarch, bathing her brow, and washing away the excrement that was passed as the woman strained, lifting her head and shrieking. Pits of smoldering ash burned from her eye sockets as she stared at the huddled mass of the youngest girls. She spat viciously at their feet and laughed at their terrified faces.

“SEE HOW I SUFFER FOR YOUR LIVES, CHILDREN! YOU WOULD NOT EXIST IF NOT FOR MY PAIN!”

The girls shied away from her, watching with scared, wild eyes as the Mother seemed to levitate off the table, arching her back. Her nails splintered and bled from her clawing at the stone. XII ushered them forward, signaling for XI to bring forth the obstetrical tools. The birthing of a new sister never took long, and as XII peered down between the woman’s legs, the Mother seemed to split at the seam as the babe’s head started to crown. XII held out a hand for the forceps, snapping her fingers angrily at the delay. XI fumbled for the pliers, her hands shaking, transfixed by the sight. XII snatched them and let them hover near the matriarch’s widening hole. She placed her hand on the heaving stomach and pressed as the woman pushed, shoving herself upright.  Her screeches echoed in the cavern as the cold forceps slid in and grasped the head of the infant. XII brought forth their new sister into the world, the cries of the child rising as her Mother’s ceased.

The girls surrounded the Mother as she gave a shuddering sigh, fading out of consciousness. They mopped her perspiring brow, their faces filled with awe. XII and XI wiped their wailing sister’s bloody body with towels, and hushed her. XI held the child, her eyes going soft at the next link in the chain. XII gently shook the Mother, sprinkling water on her face to wake her. She awoke with a start, her hand shooting up and wrapping around the senior’s throat.

“It is time, Mother, you must sever the connection.” XII gasped, her breath whistling as she spoke.

The Mother nodded, ignoring XII’s coughing as she released her, and took the blade. The sister’s held their breath abated, watching the the edge of the knife placed against the cord. A strangled, soft cry broke through their lips as she sliced through the bond, and some looked away, tears streaming bitterly down their crumpled faces. The small child could not know now the agony of the wait, the torture of non-unity. But she would, the years would slowly tick by, and she would learn the endless yearning for the return to the womb of her creation. XII did not join in her sisters’ mourning. She knew the epoch of her life was soon approaching. A week’s time to let the new acolyte begin to mature and for the Mother to recuperate, that was all. The wait was almost at an end.

===

The Mother was bleeding again. The acolytes readied for the Observance of the new sister’s coming and the oldest sister’s departure from the mortal world. Crimson footprints scattered the cavern as the girls dashed to and fro, their steps smearing the droplets of blood left by the Mother. She did not wear her linens on this day, but instead let her thighs become slick with red, a reminder to her daughters that she was the only woman here. She favored the girls with near feral grins when she caught them staring and let her hands run through their hair, her finger nails scraping their prickled scalps.

“Such good girls you are.” She purred.

They smiled at her, bathing in the validation.

That night they held a feast in the honor of the three, the Mother, XII, and the child. The daughters watched with thinly concealed envy as the Mother held the suckling child at her breast and told XI to pour her eldest sister a glass of wine.

“Drink, darling, I can literally smell your excitement. You’ve not long now, dear, so calm yourself. Here, a little extra something for your nerves.”

The Mother uncorked a stopper on a small glass vial and poured the amber colored contents into her wine and offered it to XII, winking at her as she did so. XII managed a thank you before she gulped down the cocktail. The night had finally come. She felt excited, yes, but also rattled. The last year had been almost unbearable; she had given herself completely to her duties to distract her from the last leg of the wait. While she drank her wine, her mind settled into a haze. She had drifted into a stupor-like state, the stimuli around her meandering slowly through her senses.

After what seemed like minutes, the plates were being cleared, and the Mother took XII’s hand, leading her to face the assembly of her sisters. XII felt her arm raised, her fingers entwined with the matriarch’s, weaving slightly were she stood. Her Mother spoke softly to the acolytes.

“The Cycle is a living, breathing chain of existence. Each year I sever a part of myself from my being and give it to a new link. You are the links. You are the parts missing from me. I feel the loss; I can hear the desperate pleas of the pieces in each of you aching to be joined with me once more. Listen to their cries, children, and feel my shattered soul within you.”

The daughters clenched their chests, swaying and lamenting at the pain in their hearts. The Mother continued, her voice rising as she shook XII’s hand in the air.

“Tonight, my children, a daughter returns to the womb! Tonight, my soul will be reunited with a missing part! This part of me has waited twelve long years, knowing the hunger that cannot be sated and the thirst that cannot be quenched. Look to your eldest sister, and rejoice in her triumph!”

XII’s younger sisters cheered, running forward to wrap their arms about her, sobbing mightily as they did. The Mother disentangled XII from her sisters and led her to a separate chamber. XII looked back at the tear streaked faces, her mind foggy as she took each lurching step forward. The Mother closed the door, shutting them out. XII stood awkwardly to the side as her Mother went to the fireplace and stoked the embers to new life, adding some wood and blowing on it. She then turned soft eyes upon her, and slid the crimson robes from XII’s shoulders. XII dazed eyes filled with moisture as she stood naked in front of her maker and whispered brokenly.

“Oh, Mother, I have waited so long…..”

The Mother’s face was compassionate when placed a finger on her daughter’s lips.

“Hush, darling, I know. I have waited just as long, and I have missed you. Come, my daughter, and kiss your mother.”

 She drew XII toward her, her eyes warm and loving. XII’s lips parted, a tear sliding down her face as the Mother kissed her. The kiss deepened as the matriarch angled her child’s face, placing a hand on the back of her head and making a fist with her hair. Suddenly, XII felt her breath being sucked out of her lungs. Her eyes flew open and she tried to push herself away. The Mother bit XII’s lip sharply, red liquid dribbling down her chin as she pinned her in a vice-like grip. XII struggled, spots appearing in her eyes as the walls of her lungs touched, the air gone, vacuumed into the Mother. She tried to wrestle herself away, struggling feebly, but to no avail. Her Mother continued to suck the life out of her, and XII’s eyes rolled skyward as they sunk into her sockets. Her skin sagged as her muscles seemed to melt away, the marrow in her bones disintegrating. Her veins dried, the blood leaving their casing.

 XII was dead long before her Mother had finished, her emaciated and shriveled corpse falling to the ground when the matriarch finally released her. The Mother licked her lips, the adrenaline pumping through her. Her face glowed with renewed energy and she breathed in deeply, exhaling forcefully. She stepped gingerly over the body at her feet, smirking down at it. She made her way to the mirror on the wall and touched her cheeks, relishing their softness, eyeing the youthful complexion. She started to laugh silently, shaking with mirth. Her eyes sparkled with merriment while she rolled the small heap of skin and bones on the floor toward the fire.

“Poor little fools, how they fall like flies.”

The skin split and crackled as the chamber filled with the smell of burning flesh and crisping hair. The Mother’s nostrils flared when wrinkled her nose at the sharp, acrid smell. She walked toward the door, stooping to pick up the crimson robe and folded it neatly, her hands smoothing the fine fabric. She was still chuckling as she placed her hand on the door handle, trying to keep a straight face as she opened the door.

===

The daughters sighed and beamed at the beautiful woman who glided toward them. Their beloved matriarch gestured for XI to step forward, the babe in her arms.  The Mother reached down between her thighs and then anointed the young sister’s brow. The child looked up at her with wide eyes, the red stain tingling on her forehead. X stepped forward and took the newest acolyte from XI, tying the child’s leathery umbilical cord around her small waist. XI’s focus was trained on the crimson robes in her Mother’s arms. The woman then spoke.

“A new sister joins you tonight and you all move forward in the Cycle, one step closer to your destiny. XI, shed the robes of your former rank, for you are now the eldest acolyte, XII.”

The new XII trembled as the Mother placed the red robe of the eldest’s station about her shoulders. The Mother peered down at her, smiling at the hunger staring back. She touched her daughter’s chin reassuringly.

“Soon, love, soon.”  

XII nodded, her hands clenched as she savored the word, reveling in its sound, its taste rich upon her tongue.

“Soon.”

SWALLOWS

THOMAS R. THOMAS

======

The swallows come on

our birthday - in small bunches

at first — to scope it out

-

as if they would not be welcome

I sit alone — long for you.

“L.R. DALBY”======JILL M. GREENSETH Jill M. Greenseth is a force of love, purity, and grace. She also takes amazing photographs. This was taken the night before New Year’s Eve at an impromptu photoshoot, and I am honored to have modeled for her. She has started a “365 Project”, where she will be taking on picture a day and publishing it to her flickr. I will post a link to this project soon. Thank you, Jill!
High Resolution

“L.R. DALBY”======JILL M. GREENSETH

Jill M. Greenseth is a force of love, purity, and grace. She also takes amazing photographs.

This was taken the night before New Year’s Eve at an impromptu photoshoot, and I am honored to have modeled for her.

She has started a “365 Project”, where she will be taking on picture a day and publishing it to her flickr. I will post a link to this project soon.

Thank you, Jill!

EFFIGY OF THE GIVING

JOHN SWAIN

======

Parting before autumn

a kingfisher came

like a sorcerer

from the blue fire

of the bay.

I ate the pomegranates

and kept the seeds

growing inside me

to mourn

for the corn’s daughter.

The field bares stones

to raise an effigy

of the giving

like a king beheaded

to cleanse

and cause change

from a thrall

like love in death

I could never feel.

G STREET

KEVIN RIDGEWAY

======

These identical box houses

lining this long,

southwestern stretch of suburbia

-

used to be inhabited by

Leave it to Beaver clones,

Stepford Wives dancing

with their many children beneath

the California sun,

but the kids flew away as angry birds.

Now it’s shakedown street,

with wino gulch,

would-be-gangsters chugging 40s

and playing with guns.

At night several people rummage

through their clothes on weed patches,

kicked out by their old men and ladies,

wailing into cellular phones

while lines of carnival participants

head to and fro from single file

to the local liquor store,

screaming faces that blur

dull blades cutting at the night wind

burning the gentle memories away,

those old folks that chose to stay

and weather this storm,

shivering in their family home.

Inside their house it’s

the 1960’s all over again,

grandchildren playing

but not allowed beyond its doors,

out on G Street.

======

Kevin Ridgeway’s work has recently appeared in Underground Voices, Clutching at Straws, Dark Chaos, Red Fez, The Camel Saloon and Front Porch Review. He can currently be found in a bungalow shaded by an avocado tree near Los Angeles, playing with his girlfriend and their one-eyed cat.

STAGNATION

L.R. DALBY

======

Small town punks with no thought of the future,

and nothing to do but fuck, drink, and smoke,

sit on the side of the road.

They eye a dollar tree wedding reception in the park

across the street wind down to a close.

A teenage bride is garbed in a glittery polyester dress,                     

with heavy makeup to conceal her youth.

A new husband pulls generic brand bath salt,

hand sanitizer,

mismatched cutlery in a plastic zip lock sack,

and a cinnamon scented candle out of a Christmas themed gift bag.

The newlyweds look at each other for a moment,

smiling because this is the best they can hope for in life.

-

And they know it.

-

The young husband thanks his grandmother

and uncle Larry for the present.

Uncle Larry takes a drag off his cigarette,

shrugging noncommittally,

and returns to his lawn chair.

Grandmother is busy flirting with anyone who notices,

French tip nails clacking on a plastic hair barrette,

she ruffles aerosol can crisped hair.

She’s forgotten about the couple in front of her.

The small town punks looked away,

bored,

and play chicken with oncoming traffic.

Art by MIRANDA ROGERS.

======

L.R. Dalby is the founder/editor of PIPE DREAM magazine. She adores sushi, Portland Poetry Slam, and small rockin’ concerts. She’s really, really good at Mario Kart. Brussel sprouts suck.

Miranda M. Rogers is an old-style southern belle + piercings. Basically, she’s everything you could ever want.