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The Road
by Gretchen Clark

Lines of crank are carefully cut on top of a Def Leppard cassette case. Where is that girl with the summer tan? I've done a little weed, had way too much to drink a few times, once throwing up for hours in a white plastic bucket in my high school boyfriend's garage until my parents came to get me. But never anything as dangerous as this. What about the girl who used to eat Flintstone chewable vitamins every day, getting excited when she got a purple Dino to crunch down on?
    It's Saturday night and I'm with T. J. and Boomer and my boyfriend Johnnie in a blue Ford Fiesta pulled off the side of a rural country road. There are no street lights for miles and tall trees line the road. When did the girl in the stop playing tennis on Saturdays, stop getting pink-cheeked and sweaty in July sun?
    Johnnie sits next to me, still wearing his work shirt stained with the black blood of cars. The guys have all done their lines and now it's my turn. Remember those carob chips your mother used to buy you as a little girl, the ones from the health food store that looked like chocolate stars? Johnnie holds the cassette case in one hand and a lighter in the other so I can see what I'm doing. I have an auditory hallucination before I even begin, swearing I hear a siren in the dark distance. Once, when I was eight, my parents and I went to San Francisco for the weekend. I remember holding an orange paper kite shaped like a koi fish on a sparkling street corner as the sounds of sirens blarred past and unnerved me, making me start to cry, as they always did when I was young, because that sound meant that somewhere, someone was hurt.
    I plug my left nostril, lean in and sniff. It burns, something chemical and slightly acidic tasting starts to drip down the back of my throat. I used to play Marco Polo for hours in the pool; sometimes I'd accidentally breathe in a nose full of chlorine and my sinuses would blaze just like this. My heart beats faster. I used to sleep on Mickey Mouse sheets. The car gets smaller. On Saturday nights when I was a girl it used to be enough to eat cinnamon toast and play blackjack for pennies with my father.
    The air gets hotter. The trees get taller. The night gets darker. The music gets louder: "If you've got love in your sights, watch out, love bites." Love. Bites. That's right. It bites and I've been bitten. That's why I'm doing things I never thought I would do. That's why I'm sitting here where I shouldn't be. That's why I'm holding hands with someone who will take me farther and farther away from those memories of innocence. That's why I'm sniffing crank on a dirt hick road in the middle of nowhere. For love, I sniff this white powder path and take this dead end road that can only lead me to one place: Ruin.



About the author:
Gretchen Clark holds a B.A. in English Literature. She co-teaches a Lyric Essay course online at Writers.com. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Literary Mama, Hip Mama, Flashquake, Skirt, Blood Lotus and Foliate Oak. You can reach her at prettylizard_2000@yahoo.com.



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Midnight Picnic
a novel by
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