My father writes me letters in loopy ink on flimsy, creased paper. I imagine a window in his cell where he can see the sky: Vegas at daybreak has a smoky haze; the skyline is a haunting pink. I sit at my yellow desk and write him fictitious postcards about my A+ in biology, my upcoming cheerleading tryouts, my job at the movie theatre. The pictures on the postcards are of things that make me think of him: an airplane disappearing into a cluster of cumulus clouds, a sinking ship on a raging sea.
The father next door has an impeccable lawn. He complains to my mother about weeds in the easement around our mailbox. His mailbox is surrounded by purple tulips sprouting through a spray of red mulch. I meet him at dusk in the woods out back and together we watch his wife and my mother both standing at their kitchen windows, soaping soiled dishes at the sink. I let him lick the lemon-scented skin behind my ear, put his tongue into my mouth, slip his fingers deep into the wet between my legs.
My mother lets the weeds around our mailbox grow and grow until they have devoured my father’s letters, until rescuing his words would require hatchets or billhooks. The father next door stops complaining. His daughter, Jenna, invites me to a sleep over: all pajamas and pizza and nail polish. While she sleeps, I slip into the kitchen for a glass a milk. Little notes are pinned to the fridge with fruit-shaped magnets: something about a flute recital, hotel reservations. Her father’s muddy boots sit beside the back door. He wears them when he clips the roses. I’ve watched him from my bedroom window, sauntering to the garden, green gloves on his hands to protect against thorns. In his study the books are color-coordinated in neat little rows on mahogany shelves. I finger the family photographs framed in gold on his desk. He and Jenna screaming on a roller coaster, their arms straight up in the air.
He finds me in the hallway on my way back to bed, pulls me into the spare room where the air splinters with dust. I remember a photograph of me and my father screaming on a roller coaster, our arms straight up in the air, but I can’t remember the ride. I can’t remember the day or even the park. All I can remember is how my father emptied his pockets at the Midway: $200 for Rattlesnake Showdown; $300 for Tip the Clown. We spent hours at the Ring Toss while he threw red plastic rings across a sea of glass bottlenecks, slapping down stacks of bills to buy more. He rubbed the rings between his palms like they were dice, blew his hot breath onto them for luck. “I’m going to win you that prize, baby,” he screamed, and the sun went down and the moon rose blue and bright; the Midway lights flashed neon red. “One more, baby, just one more,” he said. And I lied and swore I didn’t want him to win me anything, though, secretly, I longed for a giant felt-eyed Pegasus with pink metallic wings.
JAMY BOND — Jamy’s stories and essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including Pithead Chapel, JMWW, The Forge Literary Magazine, Barren Magazine, Wigleaf, The Rumpus and The Sun Magazine. She lives in Washington, DC. Find her at www.jamybond.com and on Twitter: @bond_jamy.
Art by FRANCESCA LEADER — Francesca is a self-taught writer and artist. Her artwork has appeared in The Scapegoat Review and FERAL: A Journal of Poetry and Art. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, The William and Mary Review, the J Journal, CutBank, and elsewhere. You can find her on IG and Twitter @Moon.in.a.Bucket.