My Purple Tie
by Marge Simon
“I collect artists,” she says.
A crowd of flies haunts the drawing room. Brown spots on peaches. A room of scorched music and uncommon speech.
She admits she ran off with me for my teeth and my purple tie. “A woman always bends toward a creative man,” she says. I grip the glass too tightly. “Poor you,” she says, ministering to my wound with tweezers and a handkerchief of tears.
The skin around her eyes like cracks in Wedgewood china. So many lifts and still she’s down. Someday I’ll paint her in the nude, careful to erase the years. For now, it’s all abstract. She loves to show me off. Another cocktail afternoon swatting flies. She loves that part too. “Sarcasm is your style,” she says.
She insists that we do it her way. Champagne and candles. A rosebud curtained bed. All is orchestrated except me. A thing in her life that doesn’t quite work, doesn’t fit. “Close your eyes,” she says.
It wasn’t a dream, her dusky violets died, all bitterroot and weed. Is it anyone’s fault, after all? She lives her fantasies inside a story with somebody else’s name. The title doesn’t matter. So I suspend my belief when she comes to fill my glass. Sell out to a world where the canvas is empty but the paint is real.
First published in Vestal Review.
by Margaret McMullan
Obedience Fort walked through Hendersonville with a shoebox. It was 1928. She was looking for a cheap hotel and the father of the baby she carried.
Obedience found him lounging in the hotel lobby, just where she’d met him five months before. She recognized the pin-striped suit, white shirt, and yellowed cuffs, the gold pocket watch and chain. When he saw her, he stood, and smiled.
She told him about the baby. He invited her for a celebratory ride in his car. A few people looked up when they saw them pass. Some had never seen a Ford Model A. Others had never seen a white man driving with a black woman in the passenger seat.
He drove all the way out to this very street where we stand now. He parked, over there, where there was a schoolhouse for colored people. They went inside and walked across the empty hardwood floors. You know the kind, uneven. Unpolished. She put the shoebox on a desk. He kissed her. Then he tied her to the beam in the middle of the room.
He left and came back with a gasoline can.
He walked around Obedience, talking while he poured the gas. He was like that. He was a talker. He told Obedience he always pictured himself with a prettier girl, one with lots of money.
He lit the match and he left Obedience to burn.
She walked six miles that way to a farmhouse. It’s still there.
The farmer’s wife was at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes when she saw something black walk past. The farmer husband got up from the table to get his gun.
Their front door was open.
They found Obedience’s charred body upstairs, asleep in their bed, the shoebox beside her.
She lived four more hours at the local hospital.
The man who burned Obedience married a local girl whose father had a lot of money.
Their son turned the hotel into the big house you saw when you drove through and asked about Obedience. That’s where the grandson lives now.
No one except the farmer’s wife and husband ever found out what was in the shoebox.
They raised me as their own.
How to Record This Child’s Bruises
by Matt Gillick
Speak clearly into the microphone while the evidence is accounted for in this windowless room. The child’s arched brow shelters wide eyes, giving off a surprised look. Do not make extended eye contact as any intimacy could bias this assessment, which any competent defense attorney will be sure to sniff out. Repeat: Do not react. She hasn’t seen what outside looks like for months. Her pale skin isn’t used to this much light buzzing around, particularly the camera flashes from the pathologist’s assistant. Keep her eyes open. She’s been tied to that basement radiator too long to suffer more darkness and confusion.
Carefully discern the fabric strands hidden in that abrasion on the nape of the neck. It’s from the ripped burlap she used as a blanket all those weeks. Mention the lacerations on her face, chest, legs, and arms from the boxcutter found on the utility desk in the shed behind the house. Be sure to note how her stomach concaves beneath the ribcage, indicating days of little to no food. Speak clearly and without any change in tone or stammers, especially when describing her back, the clear indentations of a belt buckle. Red bruises turned sunken purple. She is still, her body settling itself into a new environment not involving mold and rotted wooden scaffolding. Certainly, do not remark how close the suspect’s house was to the Draft Bar and Grille (50 feet). Keep this inside. Don’t go back there if the knowledge of never hearing her calls for help in that cork-walled chamber of screams is too much to handle. Half-off pitchers aren’t worth seeing that chipped front door again. Find another bar on the other side of town and try to forget. The thought of not hearing her scratching, her fingernails ground down like splinters, would be sure to keep anyone away from an 11:30 pilsner. Refrain from exhibiting these feelings and focus on crossing the t’s for triceps tear, dotting the i’s for incision marks. Be professional.
Verbally inquire about the frequency of the beatings while providing an educated guess. This bit of information is for the jury and no one else. Be accurate but have on record that these presumably took place every day with several blunt and sharp objects, one of them being her own bike chain. That will stick in those 12 people’s minds while they deliberate. Such a detail is usually what sends them to recommend a life sentence. But this is the reality: Frequency, at this point, does not matter because the result of it being done just once is plain enough to see in her matted brown hair, the body now still in this windowless room. Note the bloody mark on her head. Specifically indicate this wound was postmortem when the suspect tried to throw her in the incinerator before he was apprehended. Then, when the evidence has been satisfactorily accounted for, slide the slab back inside the cold mortuary cabinet.
Matt Gillick is a writer from Northern Virginia.
Marge Simon is an award-winning poet/writer. Her works have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, New Myths, Silver Blade Magazine, Crannóg Magazine, JoCCA and numerous anthologies. She is a multiple Stoker winner and Grand Master Poet of the SF & F Poetry Association.
Margaret McMullan is the author of nine award-winning books. Her work has appeared in USA Today, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Herald, and Glamour, among others. Her website: www.margaretmcmullan.com.
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