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A Three-Hour Tour

Story by Didi Wood (Read author interview) March 18, 2024

Art by SmokeLong

Listen to “A Three-Hour Tour”.

It’s pellets from your sister’s mouth as she spits fuck that, fuck them, they’re not injecting that shit in me, and you wonder if six feet really is far enough, even out on the lawn of your mother’s nursing home with your N95 properly fitted,

and no more mandates, no more isolating, no more free tests sailing into the mailbox monthly because everyone says it’s over, thank god,

and your sister ranting about how they’re taking our guns when you call to ask if she’s feeling better this week, what is she even talking about, she doesn’t have a gun,

and the woman by the fish counter smirking as you edge your cart past, pointing at your mask and calling You don’t have to wear that anymore before tapping the glass and ordering Two pounds of that – that one, the one in front, no, I said in FRONT,

and the text from your sister asking for rent money again because she lost her job again because she was out sick again, those fuckers,

and the man with tongs poised over the salad bar coughing coughing coughing coughing coughing coughing coughing coughing,

and the checkout line down the aisle all the way to the back of the store, the unending understaffedness, the sweaty-faced cashier who did show up swiping a palm across her nose before grabbing your mango and dropping it in the bag,

and the twin flagpoles of both middle fingers as your sister backs down your front walk, stumbling over the curb, after you tell her no, she’s not coming in,

and your friend fluttering her hand in the direction of your mask during lunch on the freezing back patio at Minnow, saying, So, um, how long are you planning to do this?

and the two a.m. call, the Gilligan’s Island ringtone you assigned your sister, remembering sweltering summers marooned at home in front of the television with your backs against the sofa and your mouths inflamed with Kool-Aid, imagining she was Ginger, the desirable one, and you Mary Ann, the other one, and you don’t want to answer,

and the crossbeam of your husband’s hand on your leg as you bolt up, blankets slipping to expose you to the night’s lurching shadows, and you say, “Speak up, I can’t hear you,”

and the silence after you tell her you’ll come, you’ll pick her up and take her to the hospital, but she has to wear a mask in your car, you’ll bring her one, a proper mask, worn properly,

and the continuing silence before you say, “Okay?”

and “Are you there?”

and “Ali?”

and the way she has to drag breath into her lungs between every grating repetition of Fuck youFuck youFuck you … before the line goes dead.

 

About the Author

Didi Wood’s stories appear in Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, Okay Donkey, and elsewhere. Her work has been chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50 and nominated for The Best Small Fictions. More at didiwood.com.

This story appeared in Issue Eighty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-Three
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