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by Nicholas Cook

My brother keeps the car running. I tell him about my first boyfriend, how he bought me a hermit crab. We painted flowers on its shell and named it Daisy. My brother smokes a cigarette although he knows better. He says they will kill you, and he knows, he saves people. My brother says, “I remember Daisy.”

The car is hot.

Outside the air feels like the inside of fresh bread, steamy and suffocating.

“Well?” my brother asks.

“One more minute,” I say.

The boy’s house is orb-shaped. It looks like a UFO. I want to lick the boy’s arm and tell him I’m not sorry for stealing from him.

“Do you remember how Daisy died?” my brother asks.

His arm is outside the window. We’re parked on the street. I’m waiting for the boy’s house to take off into the sky, and be done with it.

“It just died,” I say.

“Yeah, that’s it.” He blows smoke out the window. He won’t blow it in my face because my brother is a decent guy. “You’re wasting my gas,” he says.

I open the door and feel the wave of heat hit me like opening an oven door.

“Remember, like a band-aid,” he says. He reaches for my arm to pull out a hair, but I don’t have any hair on my arm, so he pulls out his own.

I nod. “And if I’m not sorry?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he says. He neatly extinguishes his cigarette and places it in an empty cup. “Say you are.”

I step outside the car and say I’m not sorry for loving anyone.

“Huh?” he says.

I close the car door. The air smells like wet bread. When I blink, the house disappears.

“Nate,” my brother says. He’s outside the car now. He holds my shoulders down because I’m floating away. “You shouldn’t be sorry for that.”

I ask if he knows how Daisy really died, that I crushed it between my fingers because my boyfriend said he didn’t want to be my boyfriend anymore. Boys are supposed to like girls, he said, not other boys.

“I wasn’t sorry then,” I say.

“Daisy lived a good life,” my brother says.

I pull out one of his arm hairs and hold it between my fingers. I make a wish and it blows away.

My brother says, “There are other boys like you.”

Behind us the boy’s house isn’t taking off. It’s just sitting there like a rock. I want to lick the boy’s arm and tell him it’s like moldy bread outside, that I didn’t mean to kiss him so everyone could see.

My brother leans against his car door, then stops because the metal’s too hot.

“Crispy,” he says and lights another cigarette. The air is so heavy the smoke stays there like a cloud. My brother swats it away.

Nicholas Cook lives in an old house in Dallas, Texas, along with his dog. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in (b)OINK, Bath Flash Fiction Award (2nd Place, February 2017), 100 Word Story, A Quiet Courage, New Flash Fiction Review, and elsewhere. Find him at nicholascook.com.