SIX FEET, BLEEK, AND BURIED by Exodus Oktavia Brownlow

Six feet could be ten feet.

Six feet could be sixty.

Six feet was not a lot. Six feet was one of him.

It starts with an ending.

Bleek, a man with big hips. They curved against the box. And he saw their fullness. The mirror reflected. Lying, they looked more grave. And he understood why. Why they gave him such looks. Why they envied his curves.

Six feet could be ten feet.

Six feet could be fifty.

Six feet was not a lot. One new fridge—a big box.

Bleek had an old iPhone. With service still intact. It was safe on his chest. No chance of slipping down. The place was un-spacious. His span, stunted, no chance. One small mercy, a fan. The taste of air was sweet.

Six feet could be ten feet.

Six feet could be forty.

Six feet was not a lot. One thing of Bubble Tape.

His ragged breath, cut off. His cracked inhales, deprived. Fairy-princess music. He fumbled with the phone. Sickening sweaty hands. It was so very hot. So very hard to breathe. The sound had been a text. And he knew it was them. Was the music a jape? Was it reassurance? Or a cruel reminder? Bleek could not decide which.

Six feet could be ten feet.

Six feet could be thirty.

Six feet was not a lot. It was just some inches.

He read literature. “How are things going, friend?” And Bleek replied, “Just fine.” “This downtime is quite nice.” A lightning fast response. “Haha, now that’s funny!” They praised him from above. “You’re fucking funny, friend!” Bleek sent an emoji. The impish kind, slant eyes. He added, “I know this.” A thumbs up and time down.   

Six feet could be ten feet.

Six feet could be twenty.

Six feet was not a lot. His walking span was that.

They tossed him in the box. Calling him every name. Freaky-Faggot-Fucker. Short men threw him inside. A complete set of six. One had his long left leg. The other had his right. One had his long right arm. The other had his left. One had his nice-sized head. And one short man just watched. They dropped in a small fan. They dumped in an iPhone. They closed the box’s lid. They buried him alive.

One group of fans watched him. He watched the six men back. Was it his height and heels? Was it his curves and jeans? Was it his femaleness? Bleek could not decide which. “Excuse me, friend,” said one. The man held up something. “Self-lighting mirror, friend?” Bleek studied the small man. He had on a Lowes’ vest. Bleek posed in the mirror. His reflection glowed back. “Absolutely,” Bleek said.

It ends with an onset. Bleek pursued a new fridge. His steps devoured floors. Lowes had not been prepared. His hips swayed side to side. His heels clacked and sought praise. And his mouth chewed tape gum.  

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BUMMING by Chelsea Harris

Were outside the corner store bumming smokes off each other. Hes a redhead, says hes got a bad habit of picking his face. The whole thing covered in craters. Our friend shows up, Andy. Hes got something to show us. We take a drive.

Up the road theres a car. Totaled. Hit a tree. We get out of ours and I slam the door, hard, a privilege. Theres someone inside the wreck. A crumpled napkin. A pair of puckered lips. Andy tries to pull her out but her body has been deflated. I poke at the airbags. Shes dead, the redhead says. He isnt wrong. We head back to Andys, a real shithole. He gets a beer, leaves his fridge wide open. We join him out back, on the porch. He says, I look at it two ways. Either we do something with the body or we dont. Redhead smiles, his fingers scratching at a fresh one on his cheek, What did you have in mind?

Before I knew it we were hauling her onto the pavement. Her hair matted in jellied blood. Arms twisted up like a pretzel from the fair. Her eyes had popped from the impact. Face swollen. Andy jabs at her sticky thighs with the toe of his boot. What now? I ask. They scoop her up by her arms, drag her to the edge of the woods. Redhead hocks a loogie back towards the car. Squeezes a big one by his eyebrow, rubs the goo between his fingers. I tell them we should leave her. I tell them we should call the cops. They both laugh, turn around to look at me, nothing but a Barbie, a toy for them to play with. Dont be a pussy, they say, Check her glovebox. Inside I find some money, a joint, a weathered photograph. Its of her and a woman. Theyve got their arms draped over each other like a shawl. Theyre laughing. I shove it in my back pocket, take the joint over to the boys.

It takes them an hour. Their hands choked in blood. Redheads got it all over his face in big smears like jam on toast. They leave her body, the hole in her chest clogged, her clothes in a heap beside her. We drive back to Andys, the radio buzzing. Redhead holds it in his lap like a puppy. They roll down the windows, barbed gusts of wind slashing my face. The night a hole, waiting to swallow me up. When we get back, Redhead plops it on the kitchen table. A gummy, tacky mess. A wad of chewed gum. A punctured water balloon. The boys take turns snorting snow. I sit against the wall, the clock above me pulsing to the beat of itself. My shoes stick to the kitchen tile. Want some? Andy asks. Redhead blows snot into his hand, wipes it on the back of his jeans. I join them at the table.

We wake to sirens. Our bodies spliced together on the floor. I pull a sweater over my head, gather my hair into a bun. Before I have time to stand Andy is by the freezer, his head buried deep inside, a fog of frost folding over him. I feel Redhead behind me, his presence a cloud suspended over the back of the couch. He puts his hand on my shoulder. Time to play, he says, silent enough that only I can hear it.

On our way out of town we pass her. A string of yellow tape tacked up around her body. A tow truck in the midst of hauling her car away. We listen to the news on the radio. Redhead and Andy snicker in the front seat. We pass exit after exit, every sign a blur. Three hours in we stop. A rest area. The boys pull the cooler out of the trunk. Open it up. Touch it, Redhead prods with a smile. His teeth are brown, gums bright red, the toilet after a period shit. He grabs my arm, yanks me close. Come on, its got special powers. Andy laughs. I pull myself away, away from them, away from the car. Youre a fucking pussy, Redhead coos. Andy runs at me, eyes thumping like a drum. I race towards the bathrooms, hoping I can lock myself inside, but Im too slow. His hand catches my wrist, nails scraping my skin like hot iron. His way of branding me. He pulls me to the pavement, pins me down, climbs on top of my chest. His face plump with rage. He socks me once, then again. My head goes numb. Vision dim. I hear Redhead slam the trunk shut, feel them scoop me up, toss me back inside.

We make it to a motel outside of Denton. All of us pressed into a full-sized bed. The boys strung out, their hands on my thighs. The TV blinking a scramble of shifts in front of us, the bed illuminated in a blue pixel haze. I reach for the remote. Outside, Andys car is on fire. I hear a boom, glass bursting onto the pavement. People yell, their voices strangled by the flames. The motel manager knocks on our door. Three long whacks. I scurry off the bed, out from underneath them. They roll over to face each other. Redheads got a few new ones busting from his forehead. A cluster of fresh eggs. The motel manager tells me I better get dressed and get down there, tells me hes already called 911. I shut the door, look down, untamed pubes erupting from my panties. Andy sits up, wiping his eyes. I take a beer out of the fridge, park myself beside him, offer him a sip. The cooler is in the car, I say, waiting, holding my breath. Redhead stirs behind us. Andy takes another drink. I expect it to hurt, but I barely feel a thing.

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