Fiction from Abbie Barker

Photo: Jack Hodges

Alice, Some of the Time

Sometimes Alice waits at the end of her driveway for the bus. Sometimes she stomps in the slush, water seeping through the cracks of her boots, and she spends the day in damp socks. Sometimes Alice takes too long picking through her hamper for something clean, or mostly clean, and she has to ride to school in her mom’s Subaru. Sometimes the Subaru smells like skunk. Sometimes Alice’s mom jokes that Alice was late to her own birth. Sometimes Alice’s mom grinds her teeth without saying anything, searching the rear-view mirrors, the side mirrors, for cars that aren’t there. Sometimes her mom drifts over the rumble strip while tapping her phone, and Alice imagines swishing into a snowbank. Sometimes Alice imagines the car slamming into an oncoming truck, the airbags inflating with a hiss, bits of windshield skidding across the dash. Sometimes Alice wonders how it would feel to wake up in a hospital. Instead, she wakes up alone in her twin bed, missing her dad’s warm palms.

Alice’s dad never calls.

Sometimes Alice waits at the top of her driveway for a senior named Tyler to pick her up in his Jeep. Sometimes Tyler brushes the side of her leg when he shifts gears, his knuckles tepid and damp on her skin. Sometimes Alice presses her face on the passenger-side window so she can feel the chill against her cheek. Sometimes Tyler swerves while he sips his Starbucks and Alice wishes she could slap the cup away, spilling hot liquid across Tyler’s crotch. Sometimes she imagines his Jeep plummeting to the bottom of an icy river, a tower of bubbles floating to the surface. Sometimes Alice drives herself to school in her mom’s Subaru, reeking of smoke, and before she slides the car into reverse, she checks every mirror again and again. Sometimes Alice’s mom asks if Alice is okay. Sometimes Alice digs through her mom’s medicine cabinet, twisting the lid off every prescription, and later she forgets to twist the lids back on. Sometimes Alice wakes up in hospitals. Sometimes the blank walls and scratchy blankets make Alice miss her dad’s fickle warmth, how seeing him every other holiday was almost enough. Sometimes Alice’s mom squeezes her daughter’s wrists and says, I wanted so much more for you. Her hands are always cold.
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Abbie Barker lives with her husband and two kids in New Hampshire. Her flash fiction has appeared in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Pithead Chapel, Atticus Review, and others. She teaches creative writing and is a reader for Fractured Lit. Her stories have been longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50 and nominated for The Pushcart Prize. You can find her on Twitter @AbbieMBarker.

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