Two brunettes pass a house with a black swastika painted on the mailbox.
That’s terrible, says one.
It looks like calligraphy marker, says the other.
Do you think they did it on purpose? says the first.
The sun veins the asphalt. They walk together, their steps even, firm, solid as the same color reflected back from a store-front window. This is not to say there are stores nearby–only the memory of reflected windows.
The shorter brunette stops at a two-story house on the left. Her boyfriend, Dwayne, is a smudge of gray inside four panes of glass.
Same time tomorrow? she says to taller brunette.
The taller brunette nods.
Dwayne’s mother opens and closes the door, releasing short bursts of yellowing light. Behind the light there is a cluttered hallway, a muddy green rug, an open purse.
The shorter brunette enters the house that smells of licorice. She finds Dwayne in his room playing a video-game. She waits on the bed while Dwayne kills a few Arabs, two environmentalists, and five kids holding rocks.
What’s up? he asks over his shoulder.
Oh nothing, the brunette says. You know.
Dwayne does know. He knows his score is finally higher than Todd’s. He knows the brunette is taking off her clothes. He knows which playlist suits the occasion. He turns up the volume and locks the door.
I figure we have about an hour, he tells the brunette.
The taller brunette keeps walking and passes a Stop sign, a white mansion, a yard filled with squealing toddlers. There are several mounds of dogshit in the yard where the toddlers hobble through a sprinkler. The brunette is relieved to find herself older and past all that slimy outdoor play.
She counts the steps that fall on patches of sunlight. A bird noises at another. Noise bursts from invisible beaks in the trees. The brunette runs her finger over the throb of nascent pimple. It hurts so she continues running her finger over the sore spot.
When the brunette nears the red brick cottage, she slips a note under a large stone on the edge of the road. She figures it’s only a matter of time before someone finds it.
The note reads: Your dad molested a child at last week’s Gender-Reveal Party. And your mom knows. Ask her.
The shorter brunette passes Dwayne’s mother in the messy hallway.
Did y’all have a good time studying together? Dwayne’s mother asks. Her words slur together, knotted shoelaces. It is only the beginning. She wants to be polite but is tired. Consonants are hurdles she can’t clear–better to smile and iron her white lab coat. Look like she’s doing something.
Tonight, Dwayne’s mother plans to get drunk again and go for a walk. Dwayne’s dad will work late as usual but she will go for a walk and carry her tan linen purse. She will take her sweet time until she feels ready to draw hate symbols on a different mailbox. Then she will cry and think about her father who worked at the spray-paint factory. She will think about how hard it is to honor the dead. She will wipe her eyes with the soft linen purse and return to the two-story home and the Tempurpedic bead. She will feel as if she has done something significant.
Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Alabama with her partner and four small mammals. A Pushcart nominee, she has pieces recently coming or forthcoming in various journals, including NANOFiction, VOLT, Pilgrimage, Flock, Split Lip Magazine, DIAGRAM, and others. alinastefanescu.com or @aliner.
Image: Jorge Flores