“The Dolphin” by Vickie Fernandez
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
by Vickie Fernandez
The Dolphin Tavern used to be a topless bar where junkies shook their loose limbs for dollars to feed their sickness. A hideout for regulars to marinate in Yuengling while their wives did loads at the Laundromat next door.
Tonight the go-go dancers are young with taut muscles and dewy flesh. They gyrate on pedestals, donning unicorn masks and body paint. The bar’s lined with fad junkies who sling booze and brew coffee for tips to spend on baggies they’ll blow up their noses in the bathroom.
I walk in, soaked from the storm, flesh exposed under my white tank. I know he’ll be here.
I met Ace and his girlfriend Jess a year ago. We fell into one another like structures with faulty foundations. I didn’t know what it was, the gossamer of recklessness that enveloped us; I called it friendship.
Jess spent the cash Ace made selling wax paper filled with H on blow and booze. The three of us spent the summer lost in a noxious cloud of substance and need. It was clear that the cracks in Ace were deeper than ours—deeper than rain-beaten glens.
I’d only seen people shoot up in movies. Held my breath the first night I watched Ace dilute a bag and fill the chamber. As he tied off, emptied the rig into his arm, Jess flatironed her bangs in the bathroom mirror. I rubbed Ace’s shoulders, held his hair back while he puked into the toilet. In an instant, his eyes went from brown to dead.
On the Fourth of July, we walked down narrow streets, past row homes skirted by patches of scorched grass. The air was heavy with the smell of lit charcoal and grilled meat. Choppers flew overhead as we passed the library, the Ben Franklin Parkway jammed with restless souls. The smell of sweat and celebration verging on danger made it hard to breathe. Jess had beers in her purse. We passed one around, did bumps off her house key and waited for fireworks. Shots rang out and droves of people ran past us. We sat, unfazed, even after we heard someone had been shot. Ace just smiled, “Might as well use me as a shield, I’m already dead.”
That was a year ago. Before he was arrested. Before Jess and I became inseparable. Before she met Shane and mailed Ace a breakup letter a month before his release.
When he got out of prison and showed up at my door, I barley recognized him—shaved head, handsome and healthy.
“You’re a really good person, Carmen,” he said as he crept inside of me. He held my face in his hands, kissed me soft as I betrayed Jess and dove into the abyss of danger I’d only toed. I let him into my bed, my mouth; legs splayed while he fed off me like a predator to carrion.
I buy a drink, scan the room and follow the beat of my heart to the tiled dance floor; the strobe lights make confetti of the sea of faces. I see him. He smiles at me, eyes heavy with bourbon. I take his hand and lead him to the bathroom. Bathed in the red light from the bulb above our heads, everything looks nightmarish.
I kiss him. His lips part and for a moment I second-guess myself. Then I remember how he used me just to get back at Jess for moving on. He ruined everything, made me a monster. I lift up his shirt, circle his nipples with my tongue, undo his jeans and work my way down. I pull the syringe out of my bag, place it between my teeth, and just as he thinks I’m about to take him into my mouth, I bob forward. Needle to groin, I plunge the syringe with my tongue, loaded with just enough junk to kill him.
His eyes widen, he tilts his head and bleats, “What the— what the fuck?”
He slides down onto the floor. I take his face into my hands and kiss his lips one last time.
“This world doesn’t need any more of you, Ace,” I whisper.
I duck out of the Dolphin and follow streetlights toward home, down Broad Street. In bed, a flush of peace cascades over me as I fall asleep.
VICKIE FERNANDEZ is an award winning writer and storyteller. Her stories have appeared in a number of publications including Penduline Press, The Rusty Nail and The Rumpus. When she’s not working on her memoir and wrangling new unruly tales into submission you can find her performing her stories in dive bars, well-lit coffee houses, and improv theaters all over Philadelphia.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Jan 2, 2014
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