by Jenn Powers
She swims in the above ground pool until her lips
match the blue dusk. She peers through the pines to
check for the signal to come home: charcoal grill
smoke. She bike rides in circles at the end of the
cul-de-sac while saying goodbye to her best friends.
They all live in the same neighborhood. They tell
her they’ll see her tomorrow morning at the park.
They tell her to be careful, to watch her back. She
laughs off their silly paranoia. She’s learned not to
take them too seriously since the fraudulent Ouija
Board incident and the time they tried (and failed
at) a séance at the local cemetery. Besides, it’s
already scary enough riding home alone in the
approaching dark to the end of the street. She
pedals fast, still soaked from the chlorinated pool.
She speeds past houses with yellow kitchen
windows where moms cook supper and blue living
room windows where dads watch cowboy shows,
beers in hand, grass-stained sneakers.

Then there’s the dark, moody windows of his
house—a lonely house, a creepy house diagonal
from hers. The lights are off. He’s not home. That’s
what she thinks until she spots the cigarette burning
in the yard. He sits in a lawn chair, smoking,
staring. He doesn’t say hello. He resembles a
decrepit stone yard fixture. She speeds by without
acknowledgment. A chill runs up her back. She likes
the yellow windows and the blue ones too, but not
the dark, moody windows, unless they’re decorated
around the holidays with colorful lights.

Her best friends said they heard rumors about him.
How he hunts animals in the winter woods and eats
their guts and brains for vitamins. Her best friends
said their mothers said he killed his own baby and
ate that too. He reported the baby missing over a
decade ago, before she and her friends were even
born, but it was never found.

“Was it a boy or a girl?” she asked her best friends.

They shrugged. “Does it

She wonders what happened to his wife. She
wonders if the wife’s dead too. She should’ve asked.
She skids into the dirt driveway, abandons her bike
(and her haunting thoughts), sprints up the back
steps, and bolts into the yellow-lit kitchen,
breathless, relieved. A plastic-wrapped plate is set
on the table: grilled hamburger, macaroni salad,
ambrosia. Bottles of Heinz, French’s, Hellman’s. A
glass jar of Vlasic pickles in a sickly green liquid. A
cup of lemonade with a striped straw from
McDonald’s. She eats her lukewarm dinner and she
thinks about her crush from school. She misses the
boy she loves. She kissed him on the cheek once
during recess by the monkey bars. Only two weeks
to go until the bus picks her up at the corner of
Chestnut and Maple.

Her mother runs a bath while she sits on the padded
toilet seat. She picks at her chipped nails. She
finally asks about the neighbor. “Does he eat
brains? Did he kill his kid? Is he a murderer? Why
haven’t the cops caught him?” Her mother won’t
answer. Her mother refuses to partake in such “gory
gossip.” She’ll ask her father instead. She’s ordered
into the tub. Her cold body slides into the hot
strawberry bubble bath and bits of fresh cut grass
from her best friends’ yards float to the surface.
Another brilliant day is over. A magnificent day,
decades from now, she’d give anything to
experience once more.  

For now, before bed, she hangs out her open
bedroom window. She peers into the dark yard
glowing with lime green fireflies. The crickets chirp
and the frogs croak. A cone of light emanates from
a single street lamp where they drew on the
pavement earlier today.
A colorless afterlife light,
she thinks. (She misses her beagle, buried back in
spring.) She chalked her name into the pavement,
along with the name of the boy she loves, enclosed
inside a crooked heart while her best friends
scrawled words like dick and boobs.

She peers down the street to the neighbor’s house.
His house. The light is on now. He’s inside. He
stands in front of the bay window, bent silhouette
facing her direction. Hot blood rushes into her face.
She feels weak, alive. She squats down low to
watch what he does. He’s frozen, gazing at her
house. She wonders if he knows her name. He turns
away from the window and his eyeglasses glint off
something. He yanks the drapes shut and all that’s
left is a slice of light from the television between
two curtains. She jumps into bed. She lets her mind
simmer around the fully lived late summer day. The
rawness of skinned knees, mosquito bites,
sunburned shoulders, slashes of blinding light that
hurt the eyes, like sun streaks on windshield. Like
milky teeth to flesh. Saw to bone. It reminds her
that she’s alive and just how much it hurts to be

Jenn Powers is a writer and artist from New England. She
has work published or forthcoming in over 70 literary
journals, including Lunch Ticket, Witness, Spillway, and
CutBank. Her work has been anthologized by Running Wild
Press, Kasva Press, and Scribes Valley Publishing, and has
been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and
Best Small Fictions. Jenn holds degrees in English literature
and creative writing. She’s currently at work on a mystery
thriller. Please visit