• By Ariana Duckett (she/they)
  • Art “Ocean Express” by Jayson Socki (any/all)

i. Choir Boys

Suddenly, every boy in the Highlander, with a dash of half-acquired baritone, belts Frank Sinatra just before today becomes tomorrow. Like Popeye downing a can of spinach, the car gains a velocity otherwise unattainable before it veers to its destination, a home on a high hill.

ii. Tree Ballerinas

They spin faster on the blank highway between Northern and Southern California. My childhood recitals quake in the redwoods’ presence. Redwoods, despite their name, don’t wear crimson lipstick like I had to. My sparkly purple tutu was cooler than their fissured bark, but no disrespect. I couldn’t do pirouettes at eighty miles per hour. Pirouette: such a pretty word. Such a pretty dance for lonely trees to entertain tired travelers. They just won’t stop twirling • their centers of gravity, Twirling and twirling and twirling and

iii. Eavesdropper

A betrayal has occurred—the other person in the back seat has fallen asleep, and now there’s no one to talk to! I tune in to the Rockstar-jacked driver and navigator, and they’re pummeling tipsy questions at each other. Would you rather eat a family-size bag of sea-breeze-flavored Cheetos or kiss twelve ducks that smell like rotten milk? It’s hard to hear over the roar of the engine, but I think they’d both rather eat the Cheetos, and neither knows why.

iv. Boulder on Your Shoulder

We’re glancing at her with stifled snorts as her head tips farther and farther to the left. I sit up as tall as possible, tensing my achy low-back muscles to cushion her sleep-fall a little better. Two minutes later, the package is received: a bony clump of friendship and a hostile snore.

v. Bag World (Tears for Fears)

All around me are loud plastic bags. Worn-out luggage that threatens to slide onto my head if I move so much as an inch. What is tomorrow? Whose birthday is it? It’s a very, very bag world… bag world…

vi. Neon Home

Who knew the signs here had such powerful light bulbs? I thought I knew my town well! That open sign is giving me a headache. The red traffic light smells better than the green one. How many watts are in a thousand watts? What? ▲