Had Daddy known the number of strangers who would put a hand to my belly and show how a bush could burn and stay unconsumed, he would have died sooner than 37. Mother didn’t know what to do except marry again, a man half her age and size. From then on my childhood was grilled-cheese dinners and Bible lessons telling me to keep my legs shut until the time was right. When I was 13 a boy stuck his hand under my skirt and I thought time. After, lying there on Speed Racer sheets, I thought stakes not high enough.
I scrape my legs against chipped paint as I crawl out the broken window. Neither criminal nor homewrecker, I tell myself.
I learned about stakes on Daddy’s knee, watching him shuffle while other men stole glances for a tell. High stakes, girl, always high; just don’t let the hunger get the better of you.
Shattered glass crunching underfoot, a pitch of angry voices; my getaway not as clean as I’d like, my car three blocks away.
Nancy Hightower lectures on the rhetorics of the grotesque and fantastic in art, film, & literature. She writes fiction for artists, galleries, and museums and has had work published in storySouth, The New York Quarterly, The Cresset, and Big Muddy.