Jennifer Pashley

She took me dumpster diving. She was eighty, and drove a powder blue Ford Fairlane with vinyl seats that stuck to your legs when it was hot. She never wore shorts, but I did, jean ones, cut off at the thigh. I did her bushes, and cut her lawn, and shoveled her driveway in the wintertime. In the summer she asked me to go for a ride. She had a special parking spot, she said, behind the furniture store at the strip mall, back where I had never been. There were weeds coming up through the concrete and the roar of the highway right above us. An embankment of gravel and trash. Blank doors without knobs along the backs of all the stores. She had to stand on the hood of her car to look in, and it scared me, her old, bowed legs up there, in her permapress pants and little tiny slippers that were the color of vanilla ice cream. She looked in, and advised me to dive. There was stuff to be had. I went down, and she held my ankles. I pulled up a lamp in the shape of a woman, with white skin and a powdered wig and a beauty mark on her cheek. Her lipstick had rubbed off, her mouth, just raw china. It was a treasure worth the danger of the dive, the danger of being alone, young and old, behind civilization, below the highway. It sat on the seat between us. Not long after, she parked that boat of a car in her garage and closed the door behind and left the engine running. They closed off the street. Fire trucks and an ambulance. You could smell the pent-up exhaust. When I went back, that night, I could see the lamp in the window, like a statue, a bust, they called it. The woman's face, turned to look out over the lawn, her shoulders smooth and bare.

Jennifer Pashley's new book of stories is THE CONJURER (Standing Stone Press). She's had fiction in Mississippi Review, Salt Hill, PANK, SmokeLong Quarterly and others.

Read her postcard.

Detail of painting on main page courtesy of Patricio Villarroel Borquez.

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