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Cheryl Ann Gardner
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Parked Cars

 

By Cheryl Ann Gardner

 

 

When she met him, it was as if she'd stepped on a perfect piece of glass. Ground it into her heel and exhaled a breath of perfect pain. It was a mistake, her love for him. Bad geography. A desert. A lost highway set ablaze by a gasoline fire and bald tires. She'd used the nip-slip, caught him off guard, and so he pulled over.

 

"What's a freaky young thing like you doing way out here in Death Valley?" he asked, and she responded with a flick of her hair.

 

"So this is Death Valley, huh?" She popped her gum a few times and leaned her trussed-up cleavage in closer. "Where are all the bodies, then?"

 

He laughed with his shoulders, then pushed the passenger door open for her.

 

Regrettable, she thought, as she slid across the leather towards him. He had a pair of steel scissors hanging from the rearview mirror and the stink of cheap chardonnay on his breath.

 

"I like your tattoos," he said as he rattled the keys in the ignition, "And yes, I'm married. Do you care?"

 

She didn't.

 

She was a cutter, and she didn't care about anything unless it hurt her. Maybe he would. He had that look about him. The footnotes of existence had creased and leathered his face. She wanted to touch the lines, lick the salt from his lips.

 

"You're super cute," he said. Said she'd got swank, but his voice was rough and muddled, and she heard the word skank.

 

That's when she fell in love with him. He knew it too and guiltily stroked her leg into a budding rouge, exacting his pleasure from the small measures of skin he could imagine with his fingertips.

She let him.

 

She saw within his eyes the distillation of an unfinished masterpiece for years he had only envisioned in his mind. Nothing could separate her from him in that moment.

 

No, nothing ever would.

 

Their love would run together, and eventually, when it came, would trickle away with the rain.

 

She drove very far that afternoon. Far and Fast. His car was much faster than her old Pontiac piece of junk. She liked the wind in her hair too, and the way the fractured windscreen toyed with the lines on the road in the midday sun until the road was nothing more than an idea, a masterpiece of chaos, rippling in the desert heat.

 

 

 


screamingrabbit.jpg

Skinned Rabbits

 

by Cheryl Anne Gardner

 

 

She was a social climber, glamorous—a feminist in her own mind—and she loved the hunts out at the lake. She loved the eerie glow of the moonlight, the way it broke apart and came back together in the ripples of black water, and she loved the way a shotgun shell felt when palmed in her hand.

 

An opportunist, she smiled and said, “Yes” when I offered to buy her a drink. She was the only one sitting at the bar that night, and I fell in love with the way the cigarette smoke parted her lips when she drew out the sssss in yes. Her makeup was a little theatrical around the eyes, and she smelled a bit boozy and a little stale when she crossed her legs, but hanging around the likes of bars like these will do that to a person. Mattresses get stained. I should know. I had one in the back of my van, not for just such an occasion. I found myself homeless a lot. Not a crisis, and I never tried to hide behind anything or anybody. The blame fell square at my own two cowboy cake-coated feet. She’d have found me anyway.

 

I had trouble centering myself in the world. Took liberties, that sort of thing. I didn’t used to be, but now I am: a thief, a swindler, a panhandler planning to raid a dead woman’s womb, a live grenade in one hand, a roasted squirrel on a stick in the other. She didn’t know that though. She was too drunk, and I was wearing my good flannel.

 

“Whatcha got in the knapsack?” she asked, and I wasn’t really sure what to tell her. There was some bathroom tile from a public restroom, a couple unused rail tickets, the Shondells on compact disc, and a gray crayon. “Memories,” I suppose is what I thought I said loud enough to be heard over her curiosity and the jukebox.

 

“Shame,” she replied, “I was looking for porcelain. You know: a white rabbit, maybe. Something small . . . for my kid.”

 

“You got a kid?”

 

“Yes . . . Well, no. Sometimes. He likes rabbits.”

 

Run Rabbit Run, was all I kept thinking as her voice droned on and on and on.

 

She said she lived where the rocks were sharp and coyotes howled in the night. There were no rabbits. She said she had tried to paint them, once, so her kid could believe in them.

 

She looked too old for a kid, too used. She smiled again, went to push her crispy hair back behind her ear. She didn’t give it much thought when the strand she was playing with hit the tip of her cigarette and caught fire, curled up, and fell in small ashes on her collar, and I didn’t give it much thought when I noticed the lampblack on her knees and the matchbox full of fingernails, which she had labeled “divine” in red polish and sparkling pink paint. Run Rabbit Run, was all I kept thinking . . . until the thinking stopped.

 

I don’t remember much after the fifth shot of tequila, what happened to my clothes, or even if we’d ever made it back to my van. I taste iron in my mouth; spit dirt. It’s so very, very, cold—dark—and more cold, and the sound of shotgun blasts echoing closer and closer in the distant darkness is worse than the howl of the coyotes and the ache of my bare and bloodied feet.

 

Run Rabbit Run, was all I kept thinking as my frozen balls crept up into my ass . . . This is your last chance to— Run.

 

 

 

When she isn't writing, Cheryl Anne Gardner likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. She writes art-house novellas and abstract flash fiction, some published, some not.

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