by Mercedes Lawry

Lina walked out into the scramble of snow, coat unbuttoned, hair filling with soft flakes. She scuffed across the yard, making small hills, wiping her eyes with her hand. Elton Masters was on his porch, sticking his tongue out just enough to catch some snow. He went about it like a professor assessing the right trajectory. Lina didn’t call out to him as she usually did. She reached the mailbox on the road and pulled an envelope from her pocket, gave it a quick glance before tucking it in and raising the flag. She couldn’t recall what type of pen she’d used and whether it would smear in the damp.

Lina was taking the high road. She’d received the news that Jimmy was breaking up with her via text with a measure of grace.

‘He’s not worth you’re damn anklebone,’ her sister, Connie told her. ‘Good riddance.’

Lina felt that Connie had a point but no one wanted to be dumped. Still, she’d taken the opportunity to write what she felt was an eloquent fuck-you letter to him. She looked at it as a practice exercise for her future life as a writer, a plan she’d just decided upon. She’d made a copy.

Elton finally noticed her and called out, ‘Hullo, Hullo, snow, Lina,’ and flapped his tongue.

‘Hello, Elton,’ she called back. ‘I bet it’s delicious.’

Lina was pretty sure Jimmy was involved in some shady activities. Her own family had had run-ins with the law, she didn’t hold it against him. But she did not want to end up an inadvertent accessory. She didn’t think Jimmy was smart enough to avoid getting caught forever. So yes, on that point, good riddance.

Lina looked back over at Elton and thought about his older brother, Henry, the boy she’d always expected to marry. They’d grown up together and then, in high school, became sweethearts.

‘Don’t you want to play the field?’ Connie had asked. You only want to kiss one guy your whole life?’

Yes, Lina thought, that sounds fine to me. Why would I want to kiss anyone else?

‘You mean if Brad Pitt was standing right in front of you with open arms, you wouldn’t kiss him?’ Connie scoffed.

‘I don’t think he’s that good an actor,’ Lina replied. Connie just shook her head and harrumphed out of the room.

But Henry was dead—hit by a truck driver who was falling asleep at the wheel. Since then, Lina’d had a string of boyfriends, none of them worth a fraction of Henry. ‘Maybe try being on your own for awhile,’ her mama’d counseled. ‘You never let yourself grieve properly over Henry.’

Mama was right. Guys were lined up right after the funeral, hell—during the funeral. Lina told herself she was just seeking comfort and this was how it manifested. One asshole after another, as Connie put it.

Jimmy was never a long term guy anymore than any of the others but he filled the gap. Apparently he wanted to be a father and when she said she had no interest in a baby, marriage or the whole picket fence scenario, he pulled the plug. Probably already hooked up with Gloryanne or Patty.

Would she have a baby by now if Henry had lived? Most likely. Two, she imagined. Henry was good with kids. Lina went back into the house to get ready for her shift at the Toolbox. Bartending was a great way to meet assholes. That was a well-known fact.

Mercedes Lawry has published short fiction in several journals including, Gravel, Cleaver, Garbanzo, Pithead Chapel and Blotterature and was a semi-finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. She’s published poetry in journals such as Poetry, Nimrod, & Prairie Schooner and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize five times. In 2018 she won the WaterSedge Poetry Chapbook contest judged by Molly Peacock. That book “In the Early Garden With Reason” is available on Amazon. Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children. Mercedes lives in Seattle.