Sleepingfish infinite

Cheating by Kara Clark


Mrs. Eames murmuring that story sent me somewhere better than sleep: from my stiff-backed body in my sleeping bag into Emily’s bed in her place. Under the covers I watched her mother’s lips, pale and unpainted, undrawn and dry. Like low tide her words lapped against me; they flowed over the edge I’d somehow honed. Steeped in what she spoke it dissolved there: I filled a room unlike ever before.

I woke and walked home, body-bound again. That day after I felt both paid-back and owed. Guilty too, of a fingerless mislaying or theft, the thing not mine enough to move. I ignored how large this feeling grew, never again even peeked at my friend’s face; winced my way up through several grades instead.

Then I sat on a step-edge fronting empty Central Middle, left behind alone by the bus. Ms. Hall’s heels struck the concrete further up on the flight. I leveled with her dress hem when she stopped. She asked me where I lived: on-the-way of her drive. She wafted perfume as we got in. Her floral scent bloomed up my nose, into my lungs, farther inside. How it flowed should’ve felt unfamiliar.

She tuned to a station where synths fuzzed with age, winking as she spun the volume up. As we eyed the high-beamed roads her voice surprised me: a no-notice lilting to the song. What first felt like overhearing further stirred me inside. The current charged up, took my tongue. I hummed along with her tune, heard our messy duet: a harmony I’ll never misconstrue.

Now I tend Ms. Marks’ yard instead of studying for tests, behind the high school bus stop and her hedge. I drip a watering can over waxy plant leaves; store-bought tulips settle where I’ve scooped out soil. She unperches from her post on the front porch with my help, so we can kneel and get wrist-deep in dirt. Stray specks stick to both our upper lips; we try to outspit each other on the ground.

Across the street my own yard keeps on yellowing.

For her I feign class factoids or gossipy snips. I’ve caught on that she craves displays of youth; that what words I imbue don’t mean much, she only sees; tables both her ear aids on the terrace.

Mom still types in the neighboring town until late, still suits herself in scratchy blues and blacks; the chalky whiff of gel and lipstick ever-helmeting her head.

Process News

Kara Clark's writing has previously appeared on HTMLGIANT. She lives in Brooklyn.


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