SmokeLong Quarterly

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Story by Lindsay Hunter (Read author interview) June 16, 2008

Art by Leah Tumerman

My sister was pounding on the sliding glass doors. Technically she didn’t live with us anymore. My dad had thrown her out the night before when she came home at midnight with eyes hard and fogged as marbles and the bitter smell of pot clouding out from her.

I felt bad for her. Her fists up above her head, pounding away. Her sweaty black hair. Her shirt bunched up and her belly showing, such lovely olive skin our mom used to say, such lovely olive skin threaded with stretch marks and fat now, rippling and rippling like her belly button was a coin dropped in water.

Let. Me. In. Behind her the sky was so blue it stained her fists. I turned the TV on.

At the commercials I realized she’d been quiet, and when I looked at her I saw her watching me like I’d been watching the TV. I just need my clothes, she said. I walked over to the door and pushed my forehead against it. Did you see the sky, I asked her. Of course, she said. I let her in.

Cunt, she said. In the kitchen she stuck her head in the freezer and sucked at a bottle of vodka. The cold air billowed white around her. Our mom had once paid a man to paint angels in my sister’s bedroom. They floated in white air.

Want me to help you, I asked her.

Go fuck yourself, she said. Someone on TV started screaming. Here, she said, and handed me the empty bottle. Fill this up with water and put it back in the freezer.

I let the water run and run. I let it fill the bottle and cascade over my hands and fall down the drain. I imagined time slowing until it was nothing, until it dripped like water.

I touched my wet finger to a piece of ice in the freezer and it stuck. My finger got numb. I can endure pain, I wanted to tell her. Better than you.

Hey, she said, and when I turned she was holding our mom’s economy-sized bottle of Tylenols. She was chewing. White powder clung to her lips and shirt. Hey, remember when I pierced your ear and we used ice to numb it? She tipped her head back, poured more pills in. You bled like a motherfucker. She coughed and a pill flew out of her mouth and hit my shoulder. She picked it up and wiped it on my shirt. Popping it back in her mouth, she said, come outside and sit with me.

We sat on the porch and stared at the yard. Her lips were chalked with Tylenol. Light this, she said, handing me a cigarette. Don’t inhale or you’ll turn evil. She blew smoke rings. Look, she said, halos. She said, you’re really annoying, you know that? Good grades and virginity don’t count for shit.

Her words were slurring. She held the cigarette up and missed her mouth.

I’m sending up a flare, she said. She pointed at the sky. You see that? I’m sending up a flare. Here I am. Here I am. Here I am.

Her head drooped, her chin touched her chest. Here I am, she said. You don’t even have to look to find me.

Evening was coming on. The sky turned pale and the sun was orange and smeared.

When Dad gets home, she said, make him count to ten before he looks for me. No, she said, make it twenty.

About the Author

Lindsay Hunter is a writer living in Chicago. She is the co-founder and co-host of the Quickies! reading series, and her work has previously been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Nerve, Featherproof, and Make, among others.

About the Artist

Leah Tumerman, though exceedingly interested in illustration, cannot seem to choose a medium, and has recently created puppet animations, oil paintings, works of narrative prose and homemade handbags. Her work away from illustration explores nostalgia, dreamscape, perception and memory and plays with boundaries of both the charming and grotesque. Visit her on the web at www.leahtumerman.com.

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

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