On the bus to her mother’s funeral, and Maizie forgot to bring money. No point to turn back now. Already Ohio. Maizie has no credit card and no friends to text for cash.
Her mother, turns out, died from alcohol poisoning. No surprise. Stepfather Dave called with the news, said he’d pay for the bus ticket and all she had to do was pick it up. Said he’d be waiting for her at the station.
Maizie only met Stepfather Dave the one time. She was 18 and succulent. He offered her a coke and Maizie could swear he slipped something in it. She told him she wasn’t thirsty.
The bus is rolling through Ohio and it all seems postcard now. Ten years the hell away from here, and it’s been nothing but server jobs, a beaty boyfriend or two, and yeah, succulent isn’t her anymore.
The man sitting next to her is sweaty and suited and eating a sandwich. Ham with lettuce from the looks of it. Toasty and warm from the smell of it. He picked it up at the rest stop ten miles back. The hole in Maizie’s stomach widening like the Ohio countryside. Maizie’s wallet back home on her nightstand, plump with her last 200 bucks and Jack, the guy she left in her apartment, will find the cash and use it to drink a hole into the universe.
An hour later, the bus pulls into the last stop, her stop. The screech of brakes. The bus lowering into a hiss. The driver gets out and starts pulling suitcases out of the bus belly.
Stepfather Dave is waiting. Leaned up against the dead river green of his station wagon. He is scanning the people getting off the bus, one by one. His face goes off like a light bulb about to blow when he sees Maizie, waves her over.
She gets in the car. The suitcase in front of her scrunching up her legs. Stepfather Dave says, “you look good. The city pudged you up a touch, but I like it.” The tiny rumble of her stomach, the engine starting up.
He offers her a coke, this time with the cap still on. She takes it and unscrews it. He digs in his pocket and says, “all’s I got is this chocolate bar.” His eyes go from the road to her thighs and back again. Outside, the pure empty of everything around them, in front of them, and when he unwraps the candy bar with a single expert motion, she takes it.
Biography: Francine Witte’s flash fiction has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. She has stories upcoming in Best Small Fictions 2021, and Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton.) Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (ELJ Editions,) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal.. She lives in NYC.