by Rachel Small
someone had rubbed honey across bones pulled
from the beach, where teenaged girls linger and waste,
dressed in the awkward skin of service, their legs pulling
across a receding shoreline, with mouths opening to
reveal a dozen peach pits, each containing a secondary
life form, a sweetened form of poison
ready to drop from lips to throat.
look; a girl sits, half veiled by ocean spray, a halo of seagulls
circling her bleached skull, with a dozen fishing lures caught
upon wishbone fingers, The Tower’s shadow splitting her
face into manageable fractions: someone left a sugar spoon
in her mouth
and it is still talking, listen…
An Assortment of Outcomes…
(If you want a happy ending, try 1).
1. A group of girls go to the beach Friday morning. They split a perfume bottle between the six of them by spritzing each exposed wrist and ankle. Obsession, the label promises. Mary brings a basket of peaches with her that they roll across the checkered blanket, and nobody remembers that a dead girl was found three days ago on the same beach.
She’s dead, and they’re alive.
2. Mary works the mid shift at the coffee hut and spends the majority of her tips on the bus to and from work. Every morning she dresses in the awkward skin of service. The nylon uniform skirt rises up her thighs as she bends over the counter to hand out blended iced coffee, earning her those clinking coins.
The week before she kissed a boy for the first time and at the same moment children found a body down by the water, so now she feels untidy when she goes to work. No longer does she freshen her lipstick between the hours. Instead, she wears a rape whistle around her throat, pretending she’s grown. Mary wonders what it would feel like to blow the whistle, and sometimes she questions if anyone would listen for it.
Summer is almost over.
3. Someone left a sugar spoon in the dead girl’s mouth as a joke. Everyone could see the metal winking under the hot sun but they don’t say much about it. Three days later, after the corpse was bagged and sealed, another spoon appeared in place from where the girl had once existed.
Mary spreads tarot cards on a blanket while she waits for her shift to start. The Tower constantly emerges in a grim line. It scares her and sometimes she cries in the washroom, blinking stupidly at a poster promoting self-defense lessons for women. Yesterday someone laughed at the sight of her thighs at work and now her face is swollen.
4. You always work, her boyfriend complains. He spends most of their time together complaining. Mary doesn’t know if he’s in love with her, or her body. Sometimes she feels like they’re racing, but she can’t figure out where the finish line is supposed to be.
He sits and watches her work sometimes. She crushes ice and contemplates throwing the blender at his face. Someone smiles at her and drops spare change in the jar. A dead girl has transformed the beach into a popularized landscape of novelties. This was where the girl had been running. This was where the girl had met a man. This was where the girl existed. Mary is different from that girl, and she isn’t in love.
5. Mary quits her job midway through summer, spending her savings on a rattling beater car. Someone slapped a sticker of the Holy Madonna on the bumper as a joke, and she keeps it there. A year later someone attacks her in an oil soaked parking garage and she remembers a dead girl.