Bin Liners are Cheaper at the Hardware Store by Cheryl Anne Gardner

"Shadowbox and Aftershocks" by Rachel Kertz
“Shadowbox and Aftershocks” by Rachel Kertz

It’s a noisy room. Jankety and damp. No open air. People stacked on people stacked on people. A suffocating blur of textures, of thoughts, of multicolored elixirs garnished with opinions non grata. I can’t focus on anything. Only his mouth, a mouth I’ve so wanted on mine. Well, for the last five minutes anyway. The five before that I wanted the carpet not to be orange shag, and before that, the celery in my Bloody Mary not to be bitter. I often want things like this when I’m in the midst of crowd-sourced terror. The vein in my wrist is throbbing, people can probably see my nipples through this shirt, and his upper lip is sweating spackle into his drink. Am I too close? He can smell the heat on my skin, a hint of honey on my breath. I know he can. So do it — I want to say to him — put your mouth on mine and stop talking.

I don’t say it though.

I just stare at him, a wounded bird with twisted wings, talons caught in the orange shag, wanting for something real. What can I say? I like the look of him. He’s definitely my type: buzz cut bronze with a muscle-stuffed frame, compact, my quarry dove, strewn through his sinews with pride and mud. No pulse. No breath. Just a sense of entitlement drooling from the creases at the corners of his pretty pouty mouth.

For the next five minutes I’ll be in love with that mouth. That black void of ignorance in the middle of his dim . . . dull . . . hillbilly face. And I’ll be in love with every damn asinine romantic thing comes out of that minty-fresh orifice.

He talks a good game.

Fucks a better one, I bet.

He’ll look good wrapped in black plastic.

I want to say that too, but don’t.

He nudges my elbow with his, smiles, and then walks his hipster bluejeans off into the next stupid conversation.

Five minutes always seems like forever.

We’ll go to my place after. I probably have more duct tape.


cheryl anne gardner

Cheryl Anne Gardner is a hopeless dark romantic, lives in a haunted house, and often channels the spirits of Poe, Kafka, and de Sade. She prefers novellas and flash fiction to writing bios because she always seems to forget what point of view she is in. When she isn’t writing, she likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. Her writing has been described as “beautifully grotesque,” her characters “deliciously disturbed.” Her short fiction has been published in dozens of journals including Dustbin, Hobo Pancakes, Carnage Conservatory, Pure Slush, Negative Suck, Danse Macabre, and at The Molotov Cocktail among others. She lives with her husband on the East Coast USA, and she is currently the head fiction editor at Apocrypha and Abstractions Literary Journal.


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