Westbound on I-74 we drive into the storm looming like a tidal wave over the state line. Like the sea churning upside down. Like the kind of storm thunder gods are made of. Double yellow lines—lightning we could hold in our hands if we stay still enough. But we aren’t still. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey coats our throats at eighty miles per hour.

With the ghost of Berryman in our ear we mine our lives out of the Appalachia and travel in the direction of our fear. Things piled window to window. Antique end tables. Couch cushions. Garbage disposal mangled heirloom silverware. Backpacks bursting at the seams with clothes, wrinkled money, and fraying pearl strands with memories threatening to break free. A flickering laptop of our meshing mythos nestled in ski masks. On the dashboard The Blessed Virgin Mary cracked from the last time we spread our wings and fled.

It is an insomniac summer. Ordinary angels live in static.

If we’d known back then, we would’ve never learned how to fly—that we could fly. We refuse to place blame on who was first to start. A knick knack here, a salt shaker there. Quick fixes. Then cafeteria trays, then store display perfume bottles, then an art deco Jesus, then, then, then—

Big and bold, Welcome to Illinois sits at the bottom of the hill.

We will rebuild on glacier leveled plains where there is no shattered glass window panes. There will be jobs. A down payment on a house. Block parties and barbeques where we can leave our neighbors without a souvenir.

We slam against our seatbelts as the car swerves onto the welcome center exit. Bottlecaps and lockless keys clatter across the dashboard. Two tires roll over the divide between car and semi parking. Narrowly avoiding clipping a red sedan, we skid across two parking spaces. We kill the engine and hear the first rumble of thunder.

The rain is coming. It will hit hard. So hard we can’t see.

As we step out of the car, mist spritzes our faces. In the backseat of the red sedan someone has left a handmade quilt that grips our hearts. Scraps of old memories—Sunday best florals, strawberries, and blue paisley—bound together with yarn tassels knotted at every other corner. Green trim and an ivy underbelly. The door unlocked.

Opening our trunk, we pack our wings in boxes and bet who will be the first to forget how to fly. I hope I win.

A. C. Warner is a hybrid poet from the Midwest. With an MFA from Temple University, she is currently working on her PhD in Rhetoric & Composition at the University of Louisville. She is the author of two chapbooks, tea’s aftertaste (Bronze Man Books) and Out of Translation (Kattywompus Press), and her poetry and prose have been published in journals such as NANO Fiction, District Lit, and Wyvern Lit. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @acwarnerlit, where she posts about enamel pins, atmospheric black metal, and sometimes writing.

© 2018 A.C. Warner. Published by LITTLE FICTION | BIG TRUTHS, November 2018.

Images from The Noun Project (credits: Viktor Fedyuk).


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by A.C. Warner
Final transmission