Not much to see in Tascadora, Texas. Rough strip of road, two liquor stores, three churches. The Happy Harvest Grocery, its parking lot smooth as buttercream.
Tessa holes-up in her minivan next to the cart return cage. Red velvet is the cake of the day. She scoops a glob of frosting with her fingers, sucks away the sheen. Artificial sweetness limns her cuticles.
In the next row, Dottie Stine yells into her phone. A shock of yellow hair is snagged in the grille of her van. Could be deer hide, Tessa thinks. Or fur from the Garcias’ dumbstruck goldendoodle; hadn’t it gone missing last week? Maybe it’s a wedge of Dottie’s husband’s scalp. That glint of white, there by the Chrysler logo, is that a shard of bone? Tessa gouges her fingers into the cake, raises the rigid clamshell container to her lips.
Constance Barnes slides into the handicapped spot. She keeps her motor running. Tessa watches as a boy no older than 17 lopes out of the alley behind the store. His thighs look like they could go all night. He approaches Constance’s car, smiles fresh. There’s a quick handoff of cash and Tessa wonders if he’s selling pot. Or, she thinks, maybe it’s those night-long legs that are on offer.
Constance cracks open her car door, leans out. Slashes a bright knife across the boy’s thigh. He hisses, clutches the wet gash on his leg. Constance guns her engine. Her tires sing as she launches out of the parking lot.
Tessa’s eyes follow the folded cash. It disappears into the boy’s pocket. He grimaces, teeth glinting like chrome. Tessa swallows the last of the velvet, licks plasticized buttercream from the palm of her hand. Wonders how much he charges per slice.
Myna Chang (she/her) is the author of The Potential of Radio and Rain. Her writing has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton), Best Small Fictions, and CRAFT. She has won the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the New Millennium Award in Flash Fiction. She hosts the Electric Sheep speculative fiction reading series. See more at MynaChang.com or @MynaChang.