The silk hosiery, garter belt, corset, lace chemise, the dress, and the shoes had been set out for her by one of the girls. It was still sweltering at dusk. Madame Myrtle could tell it was going to be a long night, a rough night. If the wind would just blow and cool things off a bit; bring a little relief to this humidity. A young girl stood in the corner of the room with a palm fan making the only breeze that Myrtle was going to feel tonight. The girl had come for work. She could be no more than 14, so Myrtle put her to work as a fan. Soon enough the other girls would have her working the men, seduced with rouge, Ostrich feathers, silks, and furs.
Leah Holbrook Sackett is an adjunct lecturer in the English department at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. This is also where she earned her M.F.A. Her work has appeared in journals such as Halfway Down the Stairs, The Writing Disorder, and Crack the Spine,which selected her short story The Family Blend for a print anthology and nominated it for the Pushcart Prize.
You were on the frontline, risking your life to enforce during the lockdown. I was shielding from this terrifying new plague. Your soldier-like resolve calmed my existential dread. You went out every day and faced it as though it were nothing, while I was scared to use the lift in our building, disinfecting the soles of my shoes before coming indoors.
I was in a South American hospital, waiting to get my ears syringed, when my phone vibrated with one of those messages that makes your heart contract.
Morrison woke suddenly from the all-too-vivid dream. Dolores was, in fact, gone. With the hangovers they usually had, first thing they craved in the morning were those shots of espresso firing out of the machine, so they would slip out the door of the Grand Orient fast as they could and up to a counter, any counter, and ordered up two doubles to get it started.
Absence transforms experience and memory. He thinks of her often because he cannot find her. She does not respond to his texts, phone calls, or emails. But it is neither an old catastrophe nor a new one. It is a longing. Not exactly. It is a longing mixed with desire.
‘I want to fuck my uncle. I mean not my uncle, like, not Andrew as my uncle. I want to fuck him like he’s a stranger to me. I guess if I looked into his eyes though, I’d remember my mom — they have the same eyes — so I’d close his eyes. And I guess if he spoke, I’d remember he was my uncle, so I’d shut his mouth and tell him not to speak. But then if he heard my voice, he’d remember I was his sister’s daughter, so I’d cover his ears. And if he smelled me, he’d smell the vanilla candles my mom and I love to burn, so I’d block his nose too. Then the only thing left for us to do would be to touch each other, and I mean truly feel each other, and really, that’s the most important thing about being with another person when you think about it.’
Laura washed her hands and stared into the mirror of her parent’s bathroom. Her face was tense and sleep-deprived. The smell of Imperial Leather soap suddenly transported her back fifteen years, to the seventies, her teenage years. As a teenager she had spent a lot of time observing her reflection in this mirror, wondering if she was pretty enough. A white hair in her fringe snapped her back to the present. She plucked it out and examined the skin around her eyes. Crow’s feet, or the beginnings of them, at least. She pulled up her t-shirt and examined her stomach. Puckered and soft, like a deflated balloon. Since having Colm she had definitely aged.
It had been a long confinement. Longer than most. She felt like she had been locked down for years. No sex for years. It had got to the stage where she had lubricious dreams, filled with mouths, penises, breasts, vulvae and fingers. She dreamed of cunnilingus and fellatio. She nightmared about being taken from behind and her gut exploding from the pressure. She woke fretful and anxious, dissatisfied. Her aloneness was underlined by the fact she could not see friends, not travel and not move from her flat. The rare times she went out, people looked askance, as did she, at the civil disobedience which she declared by her mere presence in public.
When he walked into Nebraska, I thought here is someone sturdy enough to withstand the press of wind and sky. Where the shed leaned east, he walked straight, and his hair was colored like the October cornstalks.