Rigorous
Volume Two, Issue 3



Laura Lucas


Empty Nest

Up the road, the sun was rising, yellow-white with the heat that would follow later. To Anjali’s right, telephone poles connected the street to an unseen outer world. On the left, a field of grass cut to brown and gold stubble was tipped in silver dew. She loved to walk along the streets at this hour, hearing the birds wake and the streetlights turn themselves off with a defiant buzz. Her mother would be angry. Mama didn’t like her early morning excursions. Anjali tried now to get out of and back into the house before any of the family woke. Sometimes Mama would complain that someone might “call the authorities,” so Anjali looked for little gifts to bring back that might ease her temper.

As she passed the next pole, her rubber-backed sandals slapped the pavement loudly. A flutter and soft cooing came from above her head, and she realized she’d startled a mourning dove. Slowly a russet-and-ivory feather came drifting down in sideways arcs. She held out her hand, and the feather landed in the center of her small upturned palm.

In her pocket, Anjali found a crumpled napkin from the diner where her mother had taken them for an unexpected grand breakfast yesterday. She wrapped the feather carefully and ran home. The front door was open a crack, and she darted in, excited to offer such a fine gift.

“Mama! Look!” she called. No one answered.

Anjali peered into the living room, the kitchen. She was back early, but Mama should have been up to start breakfast.

“I brought you a beautiful feather,” Anjali called. She noticed the driveway was empty. “Mama?” She looked back at the front door. Her mother’s purse, brown and beaten, was not on the coat rack. The car keys on their cracked plastic “Remember to visit the Alamo!” keychain, gone too.

A few pieces of paper lay scattered on the floor of the living room. The closest one had large block letters at the top reading “US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” Anjali gasped. She knew those were bad words.

“Anjali?” Her youngest brother was on the stairs. “Is it time to eat?”

“It’s only five-thirty, go back to bed. I’m going to start breakfast now. I’ll call you when it’s ready.”

Wyatt yawned. “Where’s Mama?”

“She… went to the store,” Anjali lied, for the first time of many.




Ready to Roll

None of the roller skates were right.

Kiki tried box after box – in-line lowtop, retro two-tone, high white with glittering pink laces. Everything was wrong somehow. The in-lines wobbled. The lowtops dug into her ankles. The retros were too tight across her toes. After two hours, they’d tested every brand in the store.

“Try Ricochet, on 5th,” said the salesgirl, who’d migrated from helpful to sympathetic to surly and certain of no commission.

“Kiki,” said Marian, checking her watch. They left.

***

As they pulled into the driveway, Kiki said, “Maybe we could try Richochet next Saturday?”

“I have to cover a shift.” Marian lit a cigarette, taking a slow drag as they walked to the house. “You can wait another week for your birthday present.”

Kiki was tired of waiting. Her birthday had been over a month ago.

She followed her mother into the house. Quietly, in the back of her mind, she gave up.


Laura Lucas: "I am a poet, fiction writer and essayist of African-American and Polish descent. I am an alumna of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop and an Artist Trust EDGE graduate. My writing has appeared in Poplorish, Beat the Dust, Falling Star Magazine, Line Zero, Imaginaire, Six Hens, The Poetic Pinup Revue, Vapid Kitten, Dead Housekeeping, the It Starts With Hope anthology, and Unchaste Anthology Volume 1. I live and write in Seattle, Washington. My short essay “Nine Kinds of Ice Cream” was a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. I joined Minor Arcana Press as Editor in June 2015."




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