Lately is cheap, lately is not worth it.
She decides that she loathes the word lately, yet the truth is she gives it away on discount now. She’s willing to bargain and barter, consider whatever’s offered. She remembers a bible verse, a proverb. “Pride cometh before the fall.” She’s no longer a working girl but more a donor, not desperate just derelict.
She thinks she will sell everything and start anew. Yes.
This decision makes her feel triumphant in a muted, minimal way. Lately her losing streak has had razor teeth and brass knuckles and loud repeating voices. This is not a world a country a sin city for losers. It’s humiliating to read the happy people ads beckoning more and more winners its way.
She packages her life. She stuffs it into a viral suitcase—every single thing including her dog, hamster, bank account, mortgage, bikes, blender, black book and relatives.
The subject line says, YOU CAN HAVE MY LIFE.
When she was young, she spent most nights in parking lots. Strained lamplight would wash down from telephone poles, streaking the windshield and fluttering the skins of rain-filled potholes so that they took on the appearance of faces, monster faces—Uncle Troy and Grandpa, her father who was at that moment getting fixed and high as Jupiter. In one particular lot she always saw the same pickup lurking near a bank, buried to its axles in weed grass. The truck had large rusted sections that looked like gigantic scabs, but its paint coat was a soothing baby blanket blue. Propped up on the inside dash was a cardboard sign with a handwritten note saying: $850 O.B.O.
When her dad stumbled into the car he smelled like shoe polish and lighter fluid, like a fire about to combust. His face was cherry. His eyes were sloppy grapes.
She asked what O.B.O. meant and he shook his head as if he’d just swallowed a mouthful of wasps and said, “Why you asking stupid things like that? Whyn’t you just ask me what in all hell the universe is supposed to mean?”
He didn’t hit her that time. He passed out. She listened to him snoring and after a while she figured it out for herself. Or Best Offer.
Her life sells for $1,019.67. The EBay men tell her the sale is irrevocable.
“But it was worth more,” she says to the computer screen.
She’s kept fifty dollars for herself. She calls a cab and directs the driver to the edge of town. “Pull over.”
“But there’s nothing here,” the driver says. “It’s just an abandoned gravel pit.”
She pays and gets out.
“This ain’t no place for a living female.”
His word choice surprises her. She smiles. “I know.” she says.
She jumps in the rain puddles. She kicks muddy slush in the air.
The moon is fat and judgmental, nestled between two flimsy clouds.
Her feet sink an inch or two then settle. She wishes it were quicksand. Something scurries across the bridge of her submerged foot.
The trees rustle off to the side. The moon winks. The rainwater slap-gurgles. “Go on,” she says, “make me an offer.”
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans. His work appears widely in print and online journals. Connotation Press released his story collection The Dark Sunshine last year. You also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com
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