Jenny lived next door. Tall and pimpled, with slender shoulders draped in
blonde curls. A New York City modeling contract waiting forher skin to clear up.
She left for an audition in Houston and never came back. Her blood-drenched Pinto
was found drowning in a rice well just outside of town. Slithering water moccasins
braided the steering wheel as mud buried her lifeless limbs.
Across the street, Laura Lynn. Chiseled arms built to vault over the Astrodome in a tornado,
legs that could push an empty-tanked 4Runner five blocks on their own. Her masculine
beauty won her the homecoming crown and conquered the bulls at the Texas Rodeo.
Coroner’s notes said she squeezed her calves around his jugularas he forced his fury
into her. She almost broke his neck as he stole her life.
Two doors down, Maggy. Raven hair she washed every day.Plump eyes that burst out
of her large brimmed glasses. She named her cello Claire. Together they serenaded the mosquitoes every summer night, until the Tuesday in August she forgot to lock her back door.
Bloodhounds lost her trail in Sugar Land, with broken strings dipped in blood and a lone loafer covered in semen. Her body was never found.
Me. I told them. I felt something behind me. When I turned back, nothing was there,
but I knew. I ran faster, faster, faster, gasping for air under scaffolds of the high school construction site. Scraped knees as I skidded over asphalt. A skateboarder breaking in
clean cement drove me home on his Mongoose. Around midnight, I woke to the taste
of my father on my lips, knees pressing my hips. Dead eyes. Just like mine.
M.R. Mandell (she/her) is a writer living in Los Angeles. A transplant from Katy, Texas, she now lives by the beach with her muse, a Golden Retriever named Chester Blue (at her feet), andher longtime partner (by her side). You can find her work in Pile Press, The Dried Review (October), Vine Leaves Press ’50 Give or Take’ (2023), Boats Against the Current (upcoming), Chill Subs (any day now), and others.