Sweat is beading on her lip and a necklace of salt stands on her skin.
She holds the eighth cold beer against her forehead, rolling it slowly to and fro, feeling the indent of the moulded glass bump her brow.
The ceiling fan stirs heavy air and casts an intermittent shade across the table.
She listens to the whine of the bug killer up over the counter, and the hup-hup of the fan, and the tinny-plastic clatter of the strip curtain across the kitchen door.
Ants walk in purposeful file across the dusty linoleum.
She lifts her face away from the cold glass of the bottle and downs the beer in three swallows, oblivious to the steady traffic of Greyhound passengers through to the restroom. If they want a beer or a soda they can use the vending machine. No one would be fool enough to ask her for anything in this mood, not even a stranger.
“Pull yourself together,” Juno whispered into the four a.m. silence. She didn’t need to look at the clock. She always woke at four.
In someone else, this would be a sign of depression.
Not me, Juno told herself as she dragged herself out of bed and to the bathroom. I’m an early riser.
“And talking to yourself,” she told her reflection, “would be a sign of madness in someone else, but me, I have no one else to talk to, so I need to practice.”
She smiled at her reflection, then let her face drop. Smiling felt false, unnatural.
I used to behave like an alcoholic myself, I would drink in secret, away from the house, doing my best not to hurt him, but unwilling to share what I thought of as punishment. I used to come home smelling of peppermint, sneaking in down the alley and through the back door. He always knew, and often he’d be waiting at the kitchen table, in a wide legged sprawl across the red backed chair nearest the cooker. He’d look at me from under his eyebrows, like some long-haired dog … he had that look down pat, first one eyebrow cocked then the other, before reaching for a cigarette…
“My one vice,”
…the second eye still pinning me to the wall like a loaded gun.
The Drowned Land
Jess finished her cigarette; leaning her forearms on the metal rail that ran alongside the short flight of steps, she flicked the butt into the undergrowth. She wasn’t planning on returning to her seeds just yet. She yawned without covering her mouth; her tongue curled like a cat’s and fidgeted with the zip of her hoodie, skidding it up and down, slowly, then quickly, and then slower again. Clara grit her teeth against the rasping metallic echo in her head. She needed to get out of the sun; she wondered if she could get away with lying on the floor of the storeroom for half an hour; would anyone notice? Or care?
She imagined her own skull, packed away in non-acidic wrapping, in an innocuous cardboard box with reinforced corners and a reference inked onto the label on the front of the deep lid:
Adult Caucasian Female/ Cranium/ twentieth century; reflected for a moment that her classification would match her initials: Anna-Clara Frei, moved on to how lovely it would be to take her head off, and went back inside to make a cup of peppermint tea.
© Cherry Potts 2012