Size / / /

Behind the roadhouse

her lips drag over flannel

mouth skimming a seam, shoulder to collar

until he pushes too hard, drives

her hip into the clapboard siding

and she gasps, sucking down

the cig smoke trapped

in his worn-soft shirt.

She doesn't smoke but it tastes better

than the blood in her mouth

the ulcers she's chewed

inside her lips, waiting for her husband

to come home, wondering what—

who—he'd become,

if she'd recognize him this time

or if he'd be a perfect stranger.

This other one, he bumps his forehead to hers

a quick forced tilt so he can see

her eyes, and he huffs, "You okay?"

still fucking but concern edging

into lust-hazed eyes, eyes that earlier

across the pool table

had flickered with something—

someone—

she'd thought she recognized.

She nods, focuses on the wet oval

on his shirt. "More,"

she whispers, and he kisses her through

his grin and the sweet whiskey still slicking

his tongue. She knows as he rocks her

steady pressure against splintered planks

his breath and hers fogging the dark

she knows he is not

her perfect stranger.

But he numbs the gnawing ache

that grows every time her husband goes

in search of a stronger body

a vessel that won't creak under the demands

of his soul, such weighty cargo,

and, stranger still,

tonight she finds that going numb

is enough.

She notes how this one fits inside her

fits so familiar inside his skin

not like her husband: stretching bone

and gristle beyond their limits

and not like her: clamping down on each

homesick wish, heart furling tight around

new hurts and leaving great, echoing

chambers of herself behind.

When he groans against her shoulder,

filling the rubber, he remains

himself

relieved but not expended

softening yet undiminished.

She wants to learn this trick.

She watches him pull out, step back,

shed his latex skin without concern.

After he tucks in his shirt, he offers

her another beer "or maybe a ride home?"

She shakes her head, shifts

her weight, feeling off-balance in her

chest not her legs.

Something is unfurling.

"Busy day tomorrow," she decides. "Leaving town."

His eyes flicker like luck. He grins again.

"Wasn't that bad, was it?"

"Baby," she says, grinning back,

"it changed my life."




Lisa M. Bradley is a Tejana living in Iowa. Her words have infiltrated Uncanny Magazine, Interfictions, Cicada, The Moment of Change, Mythic Delirium, and other publications. She loves gothic country music, broken taboos, Spanglish, and horror films—all of which influenced her collection, The Haunted Girl (Aqueduct Press). For more, see her website or Twitter.
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17 Jan 2022

The land burns so hot and high tonight that Let can see its orange glow even from the heart of The City of Birds. It burns so thick she can taste the whole year’s growth of leaves and branches on her lips. It burns so fast she can almost hear the deer and cottontails scream as flames outrun them and devour them whole.
I writhe in bed with fever, chills, chatters and shivers. The near becomes far as the far comes close.
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