Table of Contents
and the Burn Scars
Fines Double In Work Zone
Guy and Doll
John P. Loonam
Erlynda Jacqui Chan
Allison P. Boye
Magic Bags and Forgotten Princesses
Baking Bread and Other Subtleties
Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb
Ekphrasis at the Mall
Games In Your Uncle's Den
My Spanish Rose
Northern Lights, Southern Soul
Posted on Fifth Avenue
The Himalayan Sunset
Time Decays, Clots
Kristine Ong Muslim
Where You Rest
Stephanie N. Barnes
and Digital Photography
Lala’s Diner had been
falling apart for years. It was built just six feet up the tree in
Reba’s backyard, on a branch that had once seemed unbreakable.
The cheap plywood, after daily wars with dewdrops, finally showed
signs of battle fatigue. There were leaves on the balcony from
last autumn, the autumn before that, the autumn before that, and
probably every autumn for the last thirty years. And seeing as it
was autumn, there were freshly fallen leaves as well, silhouetted
on the white floor by morning light. Beautiful leaves in saffron
and scarlet. They’d be brown and putrid by tonight, smeared on
the pink floor in a coat of decomposed muck.
The branch that supported
the main hutch now had mushrooms growing on its underside, yellow,
tumor-like lumps that had first bloomed a decade ago and now
threatened to engulf the protruding arm of the tree and suck it
dry. It was an oak tree, it dripped acorns every year around this
time, and it was very possible that little sprouts had taken up in
the decomposing leaves, turning the diner into some kind of
artificial, wooden egg sack.
Yet Lala’s Diner still
stood, long after the roses around it had withered for the last
time, the bushy grass had grown wild, then died from lack of
water, and the swing that hung from a low-down branch had, on a
clear, still April day, simply fallen, as though finally realizing
the futility of its struggle and given up.
There had been wind storms,
after the 21st Reba lost count; a record heat wave fifteen, then
seven, then two summers ago; sprinklers that had given out in late
’95 and never been repaired; terrible soil, dead cats, spawning
insects, dandelions, rusting metal, frosts, weeds, bugs, and yet
the diner stood, stood to spite her, stood just to prove that it
could do what it darn well pleased, stood to remind her every day
of her life that what man or woman has created cannot be so easily
destroyed. It was pink. Pink and white, little girl colors.
Reba never knew how it
stayed so pink; she would have thought that leaded paints faded
after a few years. It was cute enough to look at from the outside—pink
hutch, white roof, white balcony with a pink fence. And it was
ironic that worms were eating out the insides, burrowing into the
pink walls. When all was stripped away, Reba knew, it was only the
surreal-ness that sustained her, the detachment that none of it
should be real, yet it was. Then she saw Annie, and all was right.
Annie in the window of Lala’s
Diner, Annie, with her blonde curls, laughing, always laughing,
flying down the rope ladder like a little pink-cheeked canary,
painful to look at, yet impossible not to. She reflected light.
“Annie come here, come
“Mama! Look at me!”
“Come here, my darling.
Let me braid your hair.”
“Push me, Mama! Push me on
“Tell me again, darling,
what’s your tree house called?”
“It’s called Lala’s
“So tell me again why it’s
“I don’t know. It just
sounded like a cool name. I make all my teddies eat there, and my
dollies too, but not today. Wanna know why?”
“Tell me everything,
darling. Darling come back...”
But she was already gone.
Gone to find him, most likely. Reba knew that’s where Annie went
when she wasn’t looking at her.
That imbecile! She hated
him. She pitied him because he knew she hated him. How many times
had she seen him wince as she cut vegetables with the butcher
knife she kept at the front of her drawer? And how many times had
she heard the squeak of his key in the lock and dreamed of putting
that knife to better use? She knew he never slept until she did.
That imbecile, she should have killed him when she had the chance.
But she never did anything, never even screamed, never whispered
into his ear as he sat on the couch smoking a pack of Camels,
never taunted him, never acknowledged to his face what a sick
psycho he was. She had him.
She remembered the time she
mentioned to him, what, ten years ago? Twenty? That he should take
down that God-forsaken tree house, and he turned and ran. He came
back, of course. He always came back. He feared nothing out there,
all he feared was Reba. She dreamed about it, about his blood
splattering against the wall, fantasized his face as she brought
down the axe, yet she did nothing, and now her chance was gone.