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Story by Darlin’ Neal (Read author interview) June 26, 2009

art by Robinson Accola

She thinks of birth, giving birth to herself, becoming another person, another dimension of a person. She taps dust with a fingertip. Her hand becomes a mystery of veins and light flickering from the edges.

She tells them she doesn’t feel anything and then her head rests on the arm of the couch. Freddy Mercury sings, “Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head…,” sounding so wonderful, filling the room. The singing and the story and the musicians all come in the room at once. She could touch them all. Bubba laughs, “You’re taking off now.”

“Why, Bubba?” she asks, meaning, why that name. A man so soft eyed and full lipped.

Another man, her lover, sits beside her. The girl has not married him yet. She is seventeen. She lives with him in a little apartment that smells like metal and gasoline. He sits beside her watching the air. He is the only one who has ever been her lover.

On the wall hangs a shellacked photo of a guitar and flowers. Blankets cover the furniture. Through the doorway from the living room to the kitchen she sees the woman of the house standing in the open refrigerator. Bubba’s wife. The woman of the house nibbles on a block of cheese like a rat.

The girl laughs. “Look! She’s eating cheese!” The air from the refrigerator sweeps in and chills her. The woman of the house begins to cry. “Stop laughing at me.”

“Hush,” Bubba says. He has his hand on the girl’s knee, moving her dress up a little higher on her thigh. She watches. “I’m cold,” she says and Bubba rises to turn up the heat.

“What are you doing?” asks the woman of the house. She’s come into the entrance now still holding the cheese.

“She’s cold,” Bubba says.

“Then throw her little ass out in the yard.”

The girl laughs because she knows the woman should be jealous, has every right to be jealous, but rights don’t make any sense. The dress cloth brushes tiny hairs against her thigh. Music grows and colorful birds sing in a giant cage. Everything is so beautiful with all the light trailing round.

About the Author

Darlin’ Neal’s story collection, Rattlesnakes and the Moon, was a 2008 finalist for the New Rivers Press MVP award and a 2007 finalist for the GS Sharat Chandra Prize.In the last three years, her work has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize, and appears in Per Contra, The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Puerto del Sol and numerous other magazines. Her nonfiction piece, “The House in Simi Valley,” which first appeared in storySouth, has been selected for the forthcoming anthology, Online Writing: The Best of The First Ten Years and Wigleaf chose her short story, “Red Brick,” which appeared first in SmokeLong Quarterly as one of the top fifty short shorts on the web in 2008. She has work forthcoming in Eleven Eleven and Dogs: Wet and Dry, A Collection of Canine Flash Fiction, and other magazines. She is assistant professor of creative writing in the University of Central Florida’s MFA program and this year’s final judge for Wigleaf‘s Top 50 Flash Fiction.

About the Artist

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Five

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