The early afternoon sun burns through the curtain, slow cooks the simmering throb in my head. Reaching past the near empty Jim Beam, I grab a pack of smokes from the side table. The bed sheets are a mess as is the woman next to me wrapped in a tangle of pillows and blankets. Eyeliner branches every which way, a poorly drawn treasure map down the weathered terrain of her cheek; she’s no treasure, not in this light of day. With each breath, her snore drills to the core of my pain. I’ll be damned if I can remember her name.

The screen door leading off the kitchen is cracked and crooked but I squeeze out into the back yard. Two young girls occupy a small pool, the older one blowing smoke, her hardened face clones the woman in the bedroom. Sheila up yet? the younger one says. Doan know, I say, searching my pockets for car keys. He’s gotta run, the older one says, her eyes boring another hole into my pain. Don’t ya.

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Paul de Denus publishes excerpts from the novels he's never written. This was one of them.

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