June 21, 1984
Deaf Smith County, Texas
Moonshot Rodriguez used to mash up lightning bugs and smear them on his front teeth. His grandpa had named him, and told him the graveyard was haunted with the light of special lives. Moonshot believed him. He wanted to shine.
On her 17th birthday, Gracie Lynn Johnson stole her stepdad’s truck: freedom in the form of a twelve-year-old stepside Chevy, red, stick shift, with an empty gun rack and an AM radio. Pulse thundering, she stepped on the gas.
It was one of those close, rare summer nights when radio waves bounced from the WLS studio in Chicago across the continent and the mesquite and the grit, through layers of atmosphere miraculously windless and damp with possibility, alighting the Caprock like a secret love. Gracie Lynn adjusted the knob. John Cougar cut through the static, singing about Jack & Diane, bass setting the brittle speakers to a tremble.
Moonshot was parked outside the Church of Christ, in the gray Pontiac that once belonged to his grandpa. He crumpled a beer can, waiting.
Gracie Lynn rolled up in a swirl of caliche dust. “Shut up and get in,” she said.
Moonshot didn’t have to be told twice. He grabbed a couple of cold ones out of his cooler.
“Graveyard night,” he said.
They passed the hardware store and the diner, and then Gracie Lynn shifted into third, leaving town behind. Two minutes later, they topped Coyote Ridge and turned on the dirt track that led to the cemetery. The air tasted like sage and, maybe, rain. Lightning bug flickers lit the polished tombstones ahead, and it was magic, that quick sparkle of life under a starshine sky.
“This is almost good enough,” Gracie Lynn breathed.
A lightning bug fluttered through the open window, its glow fading. Moonshot cupped it in his hand and steered it back into the charged night and the AM waves.
Myna Chang writes flash and short stories. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in X‑R-A‑Y Lit Mag, Reflex Fiction, FlashFlood, Atlas & Alice, Writers Resist, and Daily Science Fiction. Anthologies featuring her stories include the Grace & Gravity collection Furious Gravity IX; and the forthcoming This is What America Looks Like anthology by Washington Writers’ Publishing House. Read more at MynaChang.com or on Twitter at @MynaChang.