Vegas smelled of desperation—citrus, sweat, cigarettes. Joan, driving from Nevada back to Oregon, where she worked as a cashier at a car dealership, thought she smelled like Vegas.
She’d forgotten how endless the desert could seem. She remembered walking home alone from Beckley Elementary in sandstorms that pinpricked her cheeks and gave her hives. And the dump where she’d found her missing cat, dead—its empty sockets accusatory in her failure to protect him.
Joan’s first love, Brad, had taken two months to accept her friend request on Facebook. She’d memorized his photos and studied his posts. He was a tax accountant, watched Game of Thrones and enjoyed golfing. His quail-haired wife tagged him in pictures of a bug-eyed child named Brad Jr.—to cover her affair with a cicada, no doubt.
Brad “liked” Joan’s comments about Vegas and suggested she look him up if she found herself back in town. When she’d arrived the next day, she messaged him to meet at the Perpetual Church of the Forever Disappointed or something like that. He never showed.
What did Joan care? She didn’t need him. She didn’t.
Road signs warned of donkeys and cattle and people on horses. She decided if she could avoid the horses, she’d ram the people. She flipped on the radio. It looped, searching for stations but finding only white noise.
Her first-grade marriage to Brad wasn’t binding, she knew. His sister performed the ceremony on the four-square court by the swings. There were witnesses. A Twinkie wedding cake. She and Brad had honeymooned at the creek, tadpole fishing and stomping the water to scatter the frogs. They’d giggled until they’d cried.
Charisse Flynn is a fiction writer and avid reader, which she attributes to her mother’s love of books. Having moved many times–to such places as Utah, Alaska, Nevada, and Texas–she gathered rich material over the years. Currently, Charisse lives in Seattle, Washington, where she is at work on a novel.