Fiction · 01/09/2019

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There are no streets named after presidents in Port Storm. There are only seven streets anyway, and one of them is gravel. I wish I were a boy. It’s not that I mind being a girl, but there’s nothing for a girl to do in Port Storm. If you don’t work on a fishing boat, which means you’re never home, or if you don’t work at the feed store, which means you smell like grain and don’t make much, then you either work at Burpee’s or where I work, which is Texaco. Not that I make much either, but the smell of gasoline doesn’t bother me and it beats working a deep fryer. Also I get to be outside, which is good except for when it rains, and of course it rains here. The town is like a thumb bent backward — I mean when you look at it on a map. It juts out.

The ocean isn’t as romantic as you think. The air — everything turns to rust. The folding chairs. The gutters. Dean’s spoon chimes. Anything you leave out overnight. I keep telling Dean spoons don’t chime, all they do is clink, but he just laughs. His day off is Tuesday. Sometimes he’ll drive up to Goodyear and go to St. Vinnie’s. When I come over to make something in the microwave, he’s working on a new mess in front of the TV. I for one can say I hate TV. Everything’s depressing. It’s either law-and-order whatever, a game show, or the shopping channel. I will not shop. Dean knows my size. He goes to the boys’ section, which is fine — but no Pokemon shirts. I keep extra Tampax at work and Dean cuts my hair. His is the last house on Starfish.

Barnacle is a pretty ugly word when you think about it. The street’s not much better. All these overgrown bushes — people don’t know you can eat salal berries. My dad said they keep you from being hungry. When the men come back, they all go to Burpee’s and then Burpee’s runs out of steak. Burpee’s is a gross word. Dale Burpee. He doesn’t even live here after his son drowned.

I just wish something would happen. I save my paychecks and Roberta and I split rent. Having a step-mom only nine years older was weird at first, but after the divorce — now she’s more like a roommate. She’s like pretend you’re a guy when we go somewhere so that men will stop calling after her. She made a hundred dollars in tips one day.

Texaco is the only place that sells lotto tickets. The worst is when you let yourself start dreaming what you’d do with the money. I’d get an Airstream and go straight to the desert. I don’t know what I’d do, but it’d be dry. Then you come back to Earth — you’re the same and the world is the same and you’re just working, trying to figure things out.

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Laton Carter’s Leaving (University of Chicago, 2004) received the Oregon Book Award. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, phoebe, and Shift: A Journal of Literary Oddities.