Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 39

26

Matronly hips rubbed against the bar counter. Free-swinging tassels swayed to the brushed-out beat as she danced with herself, unable to shimmy out those ragtime blues. If only she would have listened to her parents while she could about how, ‘Nothing ever ends how you want.’

And if only leaving with Mom didn’t mean moving from squat to motel and junker to clunker. Ever on the move together, mother selling herself on the main drag of every town like her daughter never knew. At least she learned that little tidbit from mommy dearest; use everything you can to your advantage.

She slunk around the bar, thighs rubbing together. Sticky remnants from her mark’s drunken tumble pulled ever so slightly with each parting of her legs. Legs aching from her earlier getaway run. The first two boys that caught her eye busted out, but to have a whirlwind of good fortune like Red Black hit tonight? Odds like those were about as good as Red hitting that double zero on the roulette wheel. Never would have happened without a little help from a new friend with all the right connections. How fortuitous she found the only psychopath outlaw in the whole damn Mohave that wouldn’t hit a lady.

Blessed by Lady Fortuna or not, the job lacked the finesse of the kind of grift she fantasized The Suicide Queen going out on. Sure, there was action and drama and no safe words, but what thrill was there? How good of a story would it make when whispered into someone’s ear in the back of a bar?

Her last score was about as exciting as the first one, stealing candy from Mr. Zaratokis when he wasn’t looking. Played cool, like she’d done it a million times. A flash of a welcoming smile, and a flip of her young hair, he simply raised those caterpillar eyebrows with doubt forged by experience. She hated herself for a week after that moment of joy when she tasted that milk chocolate crack away to coconut and almond. Eternally fleeting sweet reward turned into bitter guilt.

Fast-forward a lifetime later, from the streets to the hotel towers of Sin City: no fanfare, no great sense of wonder, no life lesson learned, just ever shrinking time. Time that stole away everything she ever held dear. Her joys eventually turned to dust, like the kind that danced in the lights beaming into space from the street below. She mixed herself a drink.

A juniper and molasses river of acquired taste carried away the

Quilted Earth, Grace Hagbom