Pregnant with a watermelon, Maureen “Mo” Johnson, sex worker and shoplifter, tugs at her dress. Adjustments made, she heads for the exit, humming to herself. Humpty, her pet turtle, will dine well tonight. Fruit salad for everyone.
Leaving the store, Mo recognizes the security guard from a port-wine stain on his forehead. Saturday night, unable to rise to the occasion, he’d demanded his money back. “You’re crazy,” Mo said. “Happy endings are never guaranteed.” She jumped from the passenger seat as he shifted his pickup into gear.
Now, his thin-lipped smirk greets Mo once again. Mo tries to juke past, but he sticks out his leg and sends her sprawling. She lands stomach first with a ripe thump, the air knocked from her lungs as if she’s been gut-punched.
She struggles to her hands and knees and catches her breath. Her tongue burns. She tastes blood. After a moment, she stands. Cool juice runs down a leg, and puddles pink. When she lifts her leg and shakes it, clots of pulp stipple the sidewalk. “Jesus,” a man says, running his cart off the curb. A teenage girl points at Mo and whispers to her friends. A mother covers her little boy’s eyes.
Voyeurs. Everyone wants a free show. Fine. Mo hikes her dress and dislodges a wedge of rind. “What? Never seen a miscarriage of justice?”
The security guard steps towards her.
Mo drops the rind. “Back off, or your boss will hear tales of our domestic bliss.”
The guard glances at the store. “Just haul your trashy ass out of here.”
On another day, Mo would jump ugly in his face for round two. But her belly hurts and she’s bitten a chunk from the side of her tongue. She hates the taste of blood, especially her own. She wants to spit at the guard; wants to scream at the onlookers; wants to get home and curl up in bed, where no one can see her cry.
But she holds it all in.
She holds it all in because Mo has known too many guys like the guard. For them, her pain is the vig.
So fuck it. She swallows, cradles her stomach, and caresses the stains. Perhaps someone says something, offers help, but Mo doesn’t hear. She works her way, wet, sticky, and sore, past them all.
About the author:
William T. Vandemark can be found wandering the back roads of America in a pickup. He chases storms, photographs weather vanes, and prospects for fulgurites. His fiction has appeared in an assortment of venues as detailed at www.williamtvandemark.com.