She went onto the front porch against the sign’s wishes
Because it was Saturday
Bitches. A couple of weeks ago I got a bit stir crazy and visited my friends in LA for a weekend. In the midst of hotter-than-usual temps and no planned activities, I conned them into helping me hunt down the Myers House from Halloween at 1000 Mission Street in Pasadena. We only ended up driving for about 25 minutes, which isn’t too bad of a trip considering the city. They ended up getting pretty invested in the search even though none of them had seen Halloween (I know–some friend I am!). Regardless, I bought them iced coffee and lemonade afterward. It’s now right next to the light-rail tracks and is a chiropractor’s office. There’s no way to take a straight on photo to get the whole thing in frame without getting the light rail in on the party too, alas. At least they saved the house though–it was moved to the other side of the street because a block of commercial suites were built at the old address. I incorporated the house into a photo project I was doing…mostly for the sole purpose of being as creepy as possible (duh). My friend Ember is quite good at that.
Next time I go, we’re going to find Nancy’s house from A Nightmare on Elm Street. The directions I got had us go to the wrong end of Genesee, and by then it was about 3:30 and we didn’t feel like driving into Hollywood in the heat on a Saturday.
Lying on her side always made Janelle’s hip joints ache, as if gravity were trying to close the book on her pelvic bones.
Lying on her back, however, was impossible, as her hands were bound behind her with synthetic rope.
Peach-colored light from the side table lamp glowed over Mikey’s motionless body. Her eyes were murky like the eyes of an opossum that hung in Janelle’s memory from a childhood road trip. Her dad had pulled over to let her brother whiz against a tree, while Janelle got out and strolled up the empty highway. The body bloated and curled, its eyes seemed to be looking at something over her shoulder, that would inevitably disappear by the time she turned around to look for it.
The blood that pooled beneath Mikey’s head reeked of iron dust and menstruation. Janelle’s stomach bubbled with revulsion, and if she had free hands, she would have used them to cover her face. Or maybe to open a bottle of Tums. But that would have to wait.
Janelle would tell them what had happened after they discovered the scene. How she was always got scared when her parents left her alone in the house. Her brother had been gone for awhile now, and even though Mikey was even smaller than she was, having her there relaxed Janelle. So relaxed, they had slept right through the sound of glass shattering over the kitchen tiles. She and Mikey were cast into an insulated and sweaty sleep hours before after drinking the open bottle of wine her mom left in the fridge.
That would be why there was alcohol in Mikey’s system. She wouldn’t just get away with it this time, the way she usually got away with everything. Everything had been lies with Mikey, and Janelle had lied even more for both of them.
Janelle would not have to tell them all these things right away, however, because after slitting Mikey’s throat the bastard had cut out Janelle’s tongue.
When she came to, he was gone. She didn’t know why she had been spared, but it wasn’t her job to figure that out.
Through her discomfort, Janelle managed to roll away from her friend. It had only taken her half an hour to kick the ropes from around her ankles. Not before, she was sure, plenty of fibers had embedded themselves into her skin. She made it to the floor where the hunting knife lay and held her breath as she sawed the blade against the rope. The wound on her arm she had gotten from practicing this technique had healed months ago. Plus she was not the dead body. They wouldn’t be examining her so carefully.
They would, obviously, be more concerned with her face.
After her hands were finally free, she ran her hands over her smooth lips and jaw.
This was not going to be an easy thing to do. Harder than practicing all these contortionist tricks over the last year between scrambling for excuses and cover stories for the things she and Mikey had been doing every weekend.
But if she wanted this lie to be the last, she thought, holding the tip of her tongue tightly between her fingers and lifting the knife, she was really going to have to commit.
I open my inbox last night to discover that a certain writer’s organization had sent me a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com. Scrolling to the bottom, I read in light grey print: “Dear Emily, Congratulations on winning an Honorable Mention in the WOW! Spring ’12 Flash Fiction Contest! Your story, Instructor Biography, is outstanding. So well written & creative. You paint a vibrant picture of an interesting world. We all loved it, and it also captured the heart of our honorable guest judge, literary agent Regina Brooks. Keep up the excellent writing! We look forward to reading your work in the future.”
So I don’t know how many people entered the contest, but I was in the top 20, and that is a huge deal for me since I’ve never won a writing contest in any way since I was 11 years old. I figured since the story is kind of fitness-related, I’d post it for y’all to read. It’s flash fiction, so it won’t take but a minute to read.
Sidewalks didn’t seem to be made for runners in No. 3 Village, but for the small children who squatted over the drains to relieve themselves and for women dressed in tulle skirts shielding their bob haircuts with umbrellas. Dana McKenzie would do what she had to, though, to keep herself in a routine. What did she care if the polluted air went down her windpipe like a live mongoose? It was either do this or bend herself like a twist tie in front of internet Yoga tutorials.
Dana jogged in place at the corner in front of a milk-tea shop called D-LITE. Two young girls in matching sweat suits looked at her sidelong, one rubbing a shock of black hair between her palms as if it were a Persian cat. At last the green light flashed; rickshaws wove around her as she ran to the other side of the street, hopping the brick embankment.
To her right stood skeletons of buildings, ahead an open field dotted with trash heaps, a few dogs poking their noses through them. These dogs seemed to populate the open areas of the village in the same way as retirees at their evening dance classes did, repeating motions solemnly but with fluidity.
One dog, however, stiffened upon spotting her as if she were a duck taking flight.
He padded toward her, a low growl in its throat, burnished curlicue tail rigid. She slowed until she was statue-still. The dog circled her then stood, looking at her intently the way her own Pointer back home had stood gazing into gopher holes. She hoped that all those people who claimed predators could smell fear were full of crap.
Dana heard voices to her right, and she looked over to see a fence on the edge of an apartment courtyard. The residents were all outside, and they came, poking arms through the holes in the fence and peeking over, smiles spread across their faces, laughing and talking to each other in the language that was still so new to her, in a dialect she could probably never imitate. The dog stood poised in front of her, daring her to run, as they snickered at her from behind the fence.
“What?” She threw her hands up in supplication toward the spectators. Her audience mimicked her and their giggles swelled into full laughter. She wished they would call the dog, throw a stick—do anything other than stand there and laugh at the stupid foreigner who thought she wouldn’t need a rabies shot.
A man in a blue suit left his post at the complex gate and walked toward Dana and the dog. He brought down his square-heeled shoe square onto the animal’s shoulder with a loud thunk. It squealed like a deflating helium balloon, and then skulked off toward a vacant building. The guard shuffled back toward the crowd and its waning interest.
This was the moment that set Dana McKenzie on her path to mastering Vinyasa Yoga.