A Carnival World

She blushes like you’ve complimented her personally. You wish she wouldn’t.

“In town for long?”

“Just a few days.”

You’re here for as long as it takes.

“Most tourists show up in the summer, for the hiking and the lake.”

“My father grew up around here. He died recently.”

You are here to make things right.

“I’m sorry, hon.”

“That’s okay.”

It’s not.

“Can I get you anything else, sugar?”

“Just another cup of coffee, ma’am.”

“You should try the pot pie, best in county.”

You aren’t hungry, but you want her to keep smiling at you, so you tell her that would be nice. As she turns to go, you ask if there is anywhere in town to buy hunting supplies. She circles a surplus on a map of the area for you. Underneath it, she writes her phone number.

Her name really is Lucy.

Sitting across from you, your father has folded his arms. He doesn’t order anything. He just stares at you. She never looks at him. Nobody ever does.

***

Your phone was off when the hospital called. Your father is dead. Now your mother is dead, too. You hadn’t been there for either one. You hurl your phone out the window. There is clandestine clatter as the plastic hits the street, and the glass cracks. After a moment, its light go out.

***

“Little cunt motherfucker!”

The store’s alarm is blaring in your ears. The ski mask itches against your skin, you can feel condensation around your mouth, sweat forming in your matted hair. The broken glass under your shoes moans against the floor as you try to move your feet.

You still have the manager between your legs, holding the front of his shirt in one hand. Your knuckles ache, your heart is pounding in your chest.

You hit him again, and blood splatters as the man’s nose crunches.

“Motherfucker,” he says again, but this time his voice is a croak, broken and breathless.

His face looks flattened, one of his eyes swollen shut. You’ve knocked out two of his front teeth. This is your fault. You should have known the driver’s ID wouldn’t be enough. You should have had a hunting license forged.  There isn’t time. That takes weeks. You have days.

This is his fault, he should have just given you the gun. He shouldn’t have tried to stop you. Nothing can stop you.

I’m sorry, you want to say.

“Stop fucking swearing,” you say instead.

This time when you hit him, the back of his head hits the floor with a smack. Is he dead? No. You let go, staggering back to your feet, lurching behind the register. You take a pistol. Just a hand gun. That’s all you need.

Someone is still screaming. There is a woman in the store, holding equipment for ice fishing. She is still screaming. You squeeze the gun in your hand, point it at her. Is there a bullet in the chamber yet? You can’t remember. Blood is seeping through your gloves. But your mask is still on. She can’t see your face. You lower the gun.

“Life’s a carnival,” you say in a voice that sounds nothing like you. You say it like it can explain to the room what is happening.

You look down at the shattered glass for your reflection. You can’t see your face. The store manager has not moved. Is he dead? No.

Your father is pointing at the backdoor. His eyes are telling you to take the gun and run. You do as you are told.

***

The gun is stuffed down the back of your shirt. You can feel the cool carbon against your skin. You ditch the mask in the first trashcan you see. You ditch the gloves in the next and the coat. You don’t care that it’s cold. There is a car barely two blocks away.

There’s something catching your feet, and you stumble. What was that?

There is a kitten lying in the wet mud in front of you, curled into a ball, its snow white fur slicked. You stare at it. The shock of something so small makes the stinging in your hands so alien. It’s hard to reconcile soft and harmless things with violent ends. Drops of blood roll from the tips of your fingers, landing on the ground around the tiny creature, splashes nobody can hear. There, with your spilt blood forming a halo around its soft body, the white kitten looks like a skull.

It is so still. Is it dead? No.

Your bruised and broken hands ache as you reach down, not knowing why.

***

The bathroom mirror of your room on the third floor of the Best Western Adirondack is fogged up by the steam of the running hot water. It’s a relief not to be able to see yourself. Sitting in the hotel shower, curled up to one side of the small tub as hot water dances along your skin and escapes off to the world you can’t follow.

on Jun 15, 17 by

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