by | Dec 12, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Six

I loved her name because it made me think of misty haloed mountains. It made me think of snow falling from the sky and turning the earth pure and white. She lived in one of the wooden houses elevated over the marsh and as we approached that night it grew like a carnival stilt-man from the black water. Dinner was some kind of salty stew and with every bite I looked up to catch her brother staring at me with this I know what you did last summer gleam. I’d seen him with the Jesus freaks that gathered by Cottee’s mouth on weekends for baptisms. They wore white robes and paraded around like stage actors. Under the table Denver drew gentle circles on my thigh with her finger and I had this quick flash of us alone on an island up north I’d heard about where wild horses roam free. Her father asked if my family went to First Baptist and I said yes but really we didn’t go anywhere. On the wall behind him there was a black velvet painting of Jesus with blond hair and a single, silver tear on his cheek. I remembered being at the top of a Ferris wheel at night with Tammy Sykes. I’d wanted to kiss her, but didn’t have the guts. Denver’s brother started rambling about the new governor’s smart policies and how they were shutting down the eastside library. I used to spend hours at that library flipping through anatomy books. That’s how I learned that a clit has 15,000 nerve endings and a little hood to protect it. The storm took us all by surprise though there had been obvious signs – the purple sky, the growling thunder. Now, lightening flashed at the windows and rain clicked the glass. Wind whistled through cracks in the door. Her mother stood up just as the room went dark. I have a candle, don’t panic, she said.But everyone started fumbling around, knocking over chairs and clanking dishes. Denver laced her fingers with mine and pulled me through a narrow hallway into the garage. There was this suffocating scent of gas and I wondered if the whole place would go up in flames. I put my lips to hers and slid my tongue into her mouth. The storm was so powerful, I could feel the thunder in my chest.

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