We’d been going to church for a year when it burned to the ground on a Tuesday night. On Thursday, a volunteer called Mama to say services would be held at the VFW. Mama said thanks and hung up. That was the last I ever heard of church.
The new girl said Stevie Nicks could teach me how to be a witch. I don’t remember caring about black magic. Instead, it was the desperate promise of receiving attention from a mother, but not being a daughter.
I notice a wall of perfumes behind the counter on the shelves that used to hold cigarettes. They say scent is the strongest trigger of memory, but I don’t need to open the boxes to be transported.
I sort the letters into chronological order. I take another sip. I try not to drink too often, but I’ve marked this ritual is an occasion. I’ve done it before; the wine, the sorting, and the tight feeling in my chest that may cause me to finish the bottle.
I think of myself a year later at eighteen, now wearing scuffed Army surplus combat boots. My boyfriend had a mohawk and a switchblade hidden inside a comb.
The brown paper fell away to reveal a cardboard cigar box and a folded white piece of paper. Primo Fine Cigars encircled an unimpressive red and gold foil seal. Jessie unfolded the paper and read the note in confusion. “Your turn,” was written in Crystal’s plump handwriting. She turned the note over, hoping for an explanation. It was blank.
I was stoned the summer after high school. We went to Taco Bell every day. I’d been in the system since junior high.
They gorge on mosquitoes and butterflies, a glut that cupcakes and roasted beef cannot satisfy. Mosquitos: a bloody morsel. Butterflies: how thrilling to make a meal of such gentle beauty.
At that point, we expected locked doors, staff with keys, and intricate systems of levels and points that determined our value, our movements, our freedoms.
“Hello,” the very small girl whispered to the pup as she settled into her seat. “My name is Tillie. Your name is Levi, and you are mine.”
The boy held two fingers sideways, squinting toward the horizon. “Thirty minutes,” he silently mouthed to himself, dropping his hand.