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by Hillary Leftwich

We wear dresses made from city chiffon and velvet; paint our fingernails candy heart pink and lilac swoon like our mammas. During recess we sit on the blacktop, pull strands from your scalp and braid them together. Our scabbed knees bake in the sun. We eat the hair bulbs from your roots like candy, popping them between our milk teeth, all smiles. You are new and not allowed on the swing set. You do not know the secrets of the playground. Your mamma sends you to school with a homemade lunch and a red gingham dress. When the final bell rings she is waiting with a smile and a wave. Our mammas don’t come for us. They sit on porches camouflaged by kudzu and observe our neighborhood with a guarded gaze. They smile with lipstick on their teeth, cradling glasses with ruby red drinks. We steal your lunch pail; toss the contents out on the lunchroom floor. We push you down like an obnoxious puppy. Kick dirt in your face. Tug the stitching from the hems of your dress. You don’t mix with us. There may be a way to join us, we tell you, but it takes an act of sacrifice. We take you to the sidewalk by the monkey bars and point at the fissure in the cement, demanding you raise your foot. Your leg is a tiny earthquake as we hold our breath, waiting for you to do what we know you can’t. What we’ve been sing-songing to you all week. We tell you: if you don’t step on that crack we’re gonna break your mamma’s back.

Hillary Leftwich resides in Denver with her son. In her day jobs she has worked as a private investigator, maid, and pinup model. She is the associate editor for The Conium Review and Reader/Marketing Coordinator for Vestal Review. Her writing has been nominated for a Pushcart and appears in a number of journals including Hobart, Smokelong Quarterly’s “Why Flash Fiction” essay series, Matter Press, WhiskeyPaper, NANO Fiction, decomP MagazinE, Monkeybicycle, Dogzplot, Cease, Cows, Pure Slush, Flashfiction.net, Gone Lawn, The Airgonaut, FlashFlood, and others. You can find her at https://hillaryleftwich.contently.com/ or follow her on Twitter @HillaryLeftwich.