by Kurt Hohmann
Gail waits at the corner
of Elm and Third. Her legs ache from two hours of waiting in the damp autumn
air. Her spirit aches from a wait that's dragged on for an entire year.
The projector in her
mind plays the year-old film in an endless loop.
Jimmy Dupotnik, star
quarterback, smiles at her from across the cafeteria. Hundreds of adolescent voices
fade into background buzz as he approaches. His eyes, exuding confidence beneath
a mop of dark curls, call to her. She answers his call in kind, filled with her
own confidence that he's about to ask her to the homecoming dance. Her plans
are coming to fruition, dreams falling into place.
But then . . .
Jimmy's smiling face
is eclipsed. A shadow falls across the sunshine of his perfect visage. His
attention shifts. A moment passes. With it go Gail's chances for a lifetime of happiness.
The shadow is called
Mary Fezwick. The pleats of her cheerleading skirt reveal long, tanned legs.
Her big, phony smile and bigger, phony boobs consume Jimmy's vision.
Gail, forgotten, is
once more consumed by the noise of the crowd.
Her mental film loop
includes no footage of Jimmy and Mary being crowned homecoming king and queen. The
night of the dance, Gail shrouded herself in the darkness of the woods, where crying
coyotes muffled her own tortured sobs.
All of the classes
she signed up for, the clubs she joined, the people she pretended to befriend;
all of her careful plans became torture. Jimmy was unattainable, but also
unavoidable. And his eyes called only to Mary.
The year passed.
Summer provided some respite, and in September Gail made sure to avoid them
Until today. Today,
she'll see them in full royal garb, king and queen of the bygone year. Taking
their last ride together.
The parade turns the
corner and begins to pass by. Gail ignores the marching band, the tykes on
trikes, the clowns. She focuses on her goal, the only thing that matters.
It appears. The monstrous
red and blue float, royal coach of the homecoming. They are up there, turning
and waving at the crowd.
Gail slides her
fingers along the cold steel. A year ago, she knew nothing of guns. Today, caressing
its barrel is like greeting a dear friend. Hand firm on the grip, thumb sliding
off the safety, she begins to slip it from beneath her coat.
She pauses. Jimmy's
in his uniform, but it looks all wrong; it hangs on his frame. As for Mary, the
royal robe she's wearing can't hide her protruding belly. Any more than makeup
hides the bruises on her face.
They both smile, but
without joy. They do it because it's what they're supposed to do.
Gail's own smile is
genuine as she slides the gun back into its holster. After all, she still has
a lifetime of happiness to
Kurt Hohmann (www.kurthohmann.com) tells stories, builds altars to ancient
gods, and crafts mad culinary experiments. He and his wife share a home with
two living cats, six feline ghosts, and one affectionate python. His tales have
been featured in Schlock Webzine, Commuter Lit, Black Petals,
Aphelion, Half Hour to Kill, Yellow Mama, Literally Stories,
Dark Fire, Bookends Review, and Eternal Haunted Summer.