In the beginning were all the right smells: Lysol, stale coffee, hot dogs rolling in their case, pizza slices drying under lamps. Over all, the gasoline vapor that filled the store with every chime of the bell on the door and blast of cold outside air.
156 feet of meat and cargo joggled above a darkening nothing of clouds, a drowned sky, some city in Washington, then Oregon, then he lost track of states on his way to New Orleans. He had to bury his mother.
The night I met your father I was PMSing. It was muggy so I ran sans bra to the 7-11 on the corner of Market and Pine, yes, the sketchy one I won’t let you to go to, for some rocky road ice cream and tampons. Your dad was behind me in line with PBR and beef jerky.
There’s black ice on Jackson Street, and right now I wish Jojo was the girl sitting next to me. Shoes off, feet up on the dash, hand stuck out the window like she’s egging on the 20 below wind chill—that’d be Jojo. “We got this, Les,” she’d say, and our car would fall in sync with the stoplights and the potholes and the other cars, like we’re playing that game at the bar where you have to guide a silver marble through a maze by tilting the board to avoid the traps.
Not long after the people disappeared and left their clothes behind, #piles became a thing on Twitter. Some of the pictures were probably real: the one of an old lady’s tweed skirt and pantyhose, with a worn sepia-toned picture of a man in an army uniform. The one that hit me hardest: a split screen picture, with two pairs of jeans, a note left in the pocket of each pair: One said, “I love you.” The other said, “Let’s be friends.” #piles. #mylovelife.
One day, for preschool show and tell, Lily and Jenna brought in their previous lives. Lily wore an old-timey newsboy cap and brought one of those black and white clappers. She pointed to a picture of a scowling old man: “Me before I had heart failure.”
Consider the silo. These classic structures spawn more than vermin—legions of rats in the grain, snakes with the girth of a child’s thigh. No, they also provide the breeding ground for urban legends, tales that contradict the adjective in their name, given the rural nature of our sketch.
Nicole, a sixth grader, is swinging on the swings and thinking about the school play, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. / It's recess and Delilah is swinging alongside another sixth grade girl, Nicole. There is something she wants to tell Nicole. / Angie, the recess attendant, no more than twenty years old, watches the children during recess.
I’m sitting in a plastic chair at a fold-out table in my sister’s kitchen, eating pizza straight out of the box. It’s a hot afternoon in Richmond and the section 8 apartment doesn’t have A/C. The windows are shut, the curtains drawn. My sister tosses me a lemon-lime Jarritos soda from a six pack on the counter and slides a rusted bottle opener across the table. The bottle is a twist cap, but I use the opener for show.
Once, there was a husband and wife made of string. During their first years of marriage, he always picked at her threads. He ran his fingertips along her soft pointelle. He wanted to find and trace the knot of her heart and hold it in his hands.
"Stop it," she said those first years, laughing. "That tickles."
"At the table, the women were quiet. There was a rustling of muslin and an uncomfortable clearing of throats. They would have heard about Henry’s cold wife, too, the woman with the new money and the unhappy eyes. They would have heard of her beauty and of her childlessness."