I. Advice to my Drug Dealing Friend

Please go, Ayla, there’s more to life than window screens and dirty blinds. I’m telling you to bury the keys and run. No more cryin’ in your SUV, chasin’ pitbulls down U.S. 19, poppin’ Mary’s dimes and Crystal’s pennies. Run, honey, run. Don’t come back ‘ere. This kaleidoscope trip ain’t worth bloodstains. Some babies’ skeletons should stay buried, bogged down in Anclote River with Great Value, WIC, SNAPS and EBT. Stop breathin’ in my Pasco poverty and remember these words: birth control ain’t guaranteed; abortions don’t come cheap; not all mothers got that nurturin’ gene. So git on already, leave.

II. Offered to Tutor the Neighbor I Passed on my way to the Store

After school, Madeline walked to the Dollar General to pick her dad up some aspirin. If she was lucky, the retired cop would be hungover, and she’d trade pills for dodges. Tough life, without a mother. Tough life, as a daughter. Tough life, just living.

Sometimes, she’d sit on the sidewalk and share a Coors Light with two ex-military bums who skulked outside the 99¢ store. Building had been closed for six years now: an empty monument with concrete floors and broken grey shelves. Kids often drew dicks in dust that collected on the windows. She signed WWJD underneath their masterpieces.

“Plaza’s under construction,” Joe complained.

“Hopin’ we get another liquor store?” John asked.

“Nah,” Joe answered. “Universal Spirits good ‘nuf.”

“Watcha think, Sweetheart?” John asked, winking. “Maddie?”

Madeline shrugged. She glanced at her Hello Kitty wristwatch. Happy Hour started in thirty-three minutes at Bare Assets, but for the life of her, she couldn’t remember the page numbers for Mr. Dean’s algebra homework.

III. Missing Persons in my Life

I remember my middle school bestie, Shannon, with the wheat-blonde hair and turquoise eyes and a skinny nose dotted by reddish-brown freckles. We’d gossip about Avril Lavigne, trade Hubba Bubba for Juicy Fruit, and throw spitballs across the bus aisles.

“I’m joining a gang,” she whispered excitedly to me one day between the seats. “They need a mascot.”

I didn’t see her at my eighth grade graduation. She was an empty chair, a deactivated MySpace, and a missing person’s report. Rumors had it that she transferred to Gulf High School because she was caught putting used condoms in the teacher’s desks. Classmates claimed they saw her at Anclote Beach with a butterfly henna tramp stamp. My parents swore they saw her walking down our street, Pleasure Drive, on the weekends at four in the morning.

Six years later, I found her.

I was eating at Burger King when she walked up to the cash register in satin pumps and a see-through crop top. Her hair was dyed brown, and it looked like the thicket hadn’t been combed for several months. She wore enough concealer to paint her face into a salt mine, and enough eyeliner to permanently weigh down her eyelids into half-moons. She shuffled to the exit with depressed blue eyes downcast on her cellphone.

Five minutes later, she got into a black Ford pick-up truck with a redneck twice her age.

Thank God I’m not her. I sipped on my Coke, indifferent. Makes three people I know who’re prostitutes.





© Recheljoy Capitola