My second published short story, “Berries and Cough Drops,” is now live! 😀 Thanks so much to Brilliant Flash Fiction Mag for featuring my story in their March 2018 issue. Since it’s short, I’ve included it below, but I also recommend checking out the other stories in the issue as they’re all really good (linked below)!
Berries and Cough Drops
The red hand glows and screams in my face as a car blows past, its horn blaring in my ears. I trip over my feet as I stumble back onto the curb. I wait. I breathe hard.
The hand dissolves into white.
I cross and work myself back into a run.
The hot pavement makes waves in my vision. The trees and light poles melt into a rippling dance as I approach them. Their instability makes me nervous. I look at something else. Birds. Powerlines. Dog shit. Honda. Taco Mac.
I pass enclosed playgrounds built on land dedicated to statues and history. A man on a horse, rearing. A group of children, pigtails frozen in flight. A straight-back general, mustachioed. All bronze. All still. All stuck.
A dog barks at me from the other side of the fence. I’ve heard they can sense your stress, like horses. Elizabeth told me that once. About horses. She knows about stuff like that. I remember her lying on my chest when she told me. She smelled like coconut oil and cough drops. Her hands were cold on my stomach. They were always cold on my stomach.
My throat tightens.
I run harder, and the shadows from the trees overhead flicker on and off and on and off as the clouds pass. It’s making me nauseous. Lightheaded. Faint. Oh no, not again. My chest is tight. I can’t breathe. I suck at the air. I clutch at my chest. I can’t breathe.
But I can’t breathe!
But I can’t.
I force myself forward. Just get to the bench at the corner. You’ll be fine if you can just get to the bench at the corner. Fifty more steps. Thirty-eight. Inhale. Seventeen. Slow breaths. Nine. Exhale. Two.
I collapse onto the bench. I clench the seat of it and feel the embossed markings on the wood digging into my palm. In Memory of Shelby Richardson, Beloved.
I shut my eyes.
I am loved. I am wanted. I am calm.
I repeat my mantras. I rub at the empty spot on my finger with my thumb, trying to erase the tan line encasing it. I tense up. I choke.
I fucked her. I fucked her. I fucked her. I’m crying. I’m sorry. I fucked her. Oh God.
The bench heaves in time with my shoulders. I can’t believe I let this happen. I can’t believe I lost control. I should have had more control. But she looked so good sitting all alone at that bar. She looked like romance, and she smelled like berries. She didn’t smell like cough drops. She smelled so good. She felt so good. Elizabeth feels like metal. She tastes like steel. She doesn’t smell like berries.
But she smells like twenty years. Like fried eggs, extra pepper. Like stray possums in the garage in December. Like lake air flowing over tandem kayaks. Like fireplaces and mortgage bills and late nights and home. Oh, God.
What have I done?
What have I done?
What have I done?
Something About the Romans
By Evan Massey
On the porch, the radio plays old tunes. Sometimes our heads bob. I’m on the top step. Below me, Bianca sits behind my little sister, Tia, braiding her hair. She combs out Tia’s rough hair with an orange comb, applies grease. Bianca doesn’t have rough hair, no. She has good hair. Tia doesn’t care much for Bianca because of that. It’s a girl thing, I guess.
My mama used to do Tia’s hair. She was gentler with that orange comb. She’d even cut my hair when it got too long. Boys shouldn’t have long hair, she’d say. But I loved it when she’d cut it. We’d talk about life, me becoming a man, and sometimes about my father. Her gentle hands would glide the clippers through my hair, trimming it to her liking. I would feel like a new me afterwards. But now…
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