Carol and Karen and Mike

Both girls are rangy but Carol has tight biceps that she likes to bunch and imagine seeing inside with X-ray eyes, to see moving pistons, anvils, crates of dynamite, like a Popeye cartoon. She sits on her bed now doing this, making the faint hairs on the inside of her arm stand up, lie down.  Her sister’s boyfriend Mike stands by the window, blowing smoke out into the evening, though some blows back into the room. He’s a six five pyramid of lard who Carol’s known all her life.  A few nights ago, she dreamt they were all at his funeral, a dream she hasn’t told anyone about because it felt too real.  She can still see the pearlescent light pouring down into the church.

“I wish I could go with you,” she says.

“So do I, Mighty Mouse. You’d beat the Viet Cong single handed.  Hell, you could beat King Kong single handed!”

She flexes again, smiles with her chin in her chest.

She looks through the doorway at Karen in the hall, wrapping the curly phone cord around her hand as she listens to their grandmother.  Seeing Carol looking at her, she rolls her eyes upwards and drapes out her tongue. 

“I’ll be away for your birthday,” Mike says from the window.  “How old you going to be this time?  12?”


“That’s what I said.”  He flicks the end of his cigarette out, stays by the window, radiating his usual slow heat.  “I’ll bring you back a coconut.  I’m pretty sure they grow there.”

Carol says, from the bed, “Or you could just give me a couple of bucks now”, adding, too late to stop a shadow roll across his features, “So I can get some comics we can both read.”  Thankfully, her grandma chooses that moment to finally end her call, freeing Karen to fly through the door, across the room and straight onto Mike’s back, sinking her tombstones into his shoulder.

People still attribute the course of Carol’s life to what happened that fall.  She knows this.  She’s seen it in their faces, caught the tail of cut-short talk.  She’d always had a crush on her sister’s… never got over…  She has considered this over the years but she alone knows of that conversation with Mike, since turned over and over in her mind.  She really had wanted those two dollars, while she could still get them.

Nick Black’s writing has been published in lit mags including Okay Donkey, Splonk, Lost Balloon, Ellipsis Zine, Entropy, Bending Genres and Jellyfish Review. He tweets about things he likes as @fuzzynick 

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