Zero exhaled. She tucked her short hair behind her ear and waited and listened. It was quiet at the courts. Nothing but the panicked twitter of birds on the edge of the woods. They were gone.
Zero crept around to the shack door and pushed it open. She had never been inside before. It looked smaller than she thought it would. There were crates and boxes stacked in the corner. Magazines and food wrappings littered the floor. Her brother’s pack was rolled up in the corner. Profanity was written with marker on the walls. The place itself seemed to notice her, to assess her and then, to reject her. It smelled of sweat. Her mouth went dry, the knowledge that she did not belong in this place, that it was a world she was not a part of, filled her. Zero wanted to run, back to the house, back to her room. Her mother always told her to leave her brother alone. He’s a boy, she would say. Let him be. As if they were these otherworldly creatures. Not human. Not flesh and blood. But boy. Made of something different. Something that lived, that thirsted, that took, in a way a girl never could.here, in the center, under the blanket. She refused to turn back now.
Zero kept the door open, so that she could hear the boys return just in case. She had never seen anything dead. Except for the fish. Her brother had caught it back at the lake, brought it home in a bucket. It was a small fish and Zero watched it open and close its mouth like it was telling her a story. She wanted to keep it. But her brother said they had to kill it. It was too small to eat, he said and they couldn’t leave it in the bucket. Her parents were upstairs. She could see the flicker of the television in the window. Zero had stood on the gravel driveway, as her brother picked the fish up and put it on the ground. It flipped over and over, like it was doing a dance and she had to cover her mouth not to laugh. She grabbed at it once, but let go quickly, the jagged scales hurt the inside of her palm. Her brother came back with a small plank of wood he found under the deck. He said it was the only way. It took a long time. So long that Zero was sure that her parents would hear the thudding. When it was over, and her brother saw her crying, he called her a baby and he pushed her hard on the gravel, right next to the fish. Its mouth wasn’t moving anymore. Its scales ripped.
Zero leaned forward and picked at the corner of the blanket. She saw her fingers shaking and chickened out. Maybe they were coming back. Maybe there wasn’t time to look. She shuffled around the room, trying to remember everything she saw, wondering if she would ever be back in here again. A car went by on the street. A dog barked in the distance. Everything seemed to stand still as she stared at the dirty green blanket.
She counted to three. And then she counted to three again. On the third try she stomped forward and grabbed the blanket edge without thinking and yanked it back so fast that she couldn’t chicken out.
Poem of the Week
who have experienced
on a large
i tell raif
i think my
might be dead
haven't seen her
& her car hasn't moved
for two weeks.
you would smell it
passing me a plate
of triangular shaped bread
slathered in jam.
Story of the Week
DARLEEN SQUEELED into the empty spot as soon as the gleaming white Mercedes pulled out. "We got lucky," she told Montana. "Even on a Monday night, this lot is killer."
Montana rolled her big blue eyes. "Whatever."
The eleven year old had better things to do, like text her friends. Incessantly, as if she had a tic. The kid hadn't wanted to shop tonight, but Darleen insisted. This was their first Christmas without Paulie and the girls needed to stick together. Darleen's ex had been nasty lately and mediation had hit a cement wall. Montana wasn't aware how dangerously close they were to losing access to Paulie's vast and unreported wealth.
Montana sighed dramatically as she yanked open the door of the Porsche Cayenne and tumbled out. She didn't pause in her texting.
Darlene checked her face in the rearview mirror. The most recent fat transfer had been wildly successful. She loved her new lips. Grabbing her Gucci bag, she hopped out of the front seat.
Her daughter trailed her into the mall, thumbs flashing on her phone keypad.