WHEN YOU NEED HEROIN, you can’t sleep, you can’t eat or drink. Your teeth shatter and goose-bumps run up your forearms, the downy hairs stand on end and you know these are your hands, your hairs, your goose bumps, but you don’t feel like it’s you.
It’s been almost a day, and hot sand burns in my bones. In my mind I reach inside the grainy marrow and scratch the lining with my nails. In my mind I have sharp nails. I never have nails in real life. I bite them to blood. But in my mind I shred the tenderness, claw out the gnawing ache, scrape the sand out clean.he number. My fingers shake. The long beeps in the phone are loud. Louder than Maddy’s screams in the other room.
“Go pick her up,” says Jack from the hallway, his jacket and hat on. “Take care of your fucking kid.”
“It’s your kid, too. I’m sick,” I say. “I need a fix.”
“You’re a mother,” he says.
He puts a purple scarf around his neck, and says, “You can’t do it, you need to get over it, you’ll get your fix when she grows up.”
He reaches his hand in the stroller, under the mattress.
“No,” I say, crawling to him on all fours.
He pulls the money from the hole in the stroller’s bottom and waves it at me. His hand looks like a lobster’s claw, swollen, blue-black with scars and bruises.
“You’re an idiot, Nelly. Next time hide it better. I’m taking it,” he says. “For your own sake. You should be ashamed of yourself, what a bad mother you are.”
I’m a good mother. I just need my fix now, and I’ll stop next week, I know it.
He slams the door. I shake, arms around my body, my t-shirt sticking to me, drenched in my cold sweat. The sand in my bones hurts.
Then, I feel them. The wings. The wings are the worst. First, the hot sand throbs under my shoulder blades. Then, it forms two buds of feathers and cartilage. Next, the buds unfurl into iron wings that cut through my flesh like serrated saws. Each tooth is bent to a precise angle. Each tooth rips me inside out.
Pain has a sound: A schizophrenic string orchestra. A cat tortured in the basement of my mind. Snow squeaking under Jack’s boots. Maddy screaming in her crib. I follow the sound to her room. I shiver so badly that I almost drop her.
“Mommy’s here,” I say. “Don’t cry, baby.”
I peel off her soiled diaper, her soggy pajamas. The wings grow. I grab Maddy in her brown blanket and push her in the car seat and drive ten blocks to Mom’s house.
Green and red lights blink above Mom’s old door: MERRY CHRISTMAS. MERRY CHRISTMAS. MERRY— Every crinkle in the mustard paint is painful, familiar.
Mom’s in the garage, in front of the open car trunk. I see carnations in the darkness of the trunk like crumpled paper. More pale carnations in her arms. It hurts to look.
“I’m out of here, I’m off to church,” says Mom, her eyes wide open like a child’s eyes. “I promised, I said I’d be there. You know you should call first. I called you and your voicemail box’s full—“
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First off, Gina looked amazing. And I don’t mean in that polite, “Oh wow the years have sure been good to you” or “You haven’t changed a bit since high school” kind of way. I mean she looked fantastic in that “Aphrodite poured out a blessing on that witch and made her look like a 22-year-old” kind of way.
And then there’s me. I’m a pudgy forty-five-year-old with gray hair, sagging skin, and fifty pounds to shed. Gina didn’t bother to say the years had been good to me. We both knew they hadn’t.
It’s not that I’m unhappy. Hank and I have been married for fifteen years. We have three children, a boy and a girl, ages thirteen and ten, and then our five-year-old late-comer, Cassie. She’s the one who did me in. I figure when a woman has a baby at forty, there’s no bouncing back.
I wouldn’t trade it away, but I do sometimes wish things could be different, that I could be different. I’m guilty of wondering how my life would be better if I lost some weight, dyed my hair, and got a boob job and a slinky black dress.
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.
Graphic of the Week
In Conversation With God
“You know what? I don’t care. Somewhere on the far side of the world, a whole bunch of people have decided to die over acreage. So be it. Doesn’t concern me. I don’t have room for the world’s burdens on my shoulders."
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The Left-Handed Smoker
<i>Better after than before.</i> I tell myself, and I try to remember it in Spanish, but I can't, for the life of me, recall if <i>mujer</i> or <i>mejor</i> is the right word for better.'</b>