photo of wet cigarette pack

She Doesn’t Need Them by Keri Karandrakis

I hauled the broom across the floor yesterday morning just after opening. The smell of eggrolls sauntered out from the kitchen, and the only ones who sat in section twelve were you and her. You held up your hand with your fingers parted in a sign language “K” and I fingered the end of the broom to tell you: I’m no waitress; I’m only here so I can eat tonight. “Ling-Ling,” the blonde with makeup to disguise her white eyelids, skipped up to you with a Ni hao in an American accent, and I was off to brush the dust out of my socks.

Fifty-nine minutes later, I was back in section twelve. The peak of lunch hour brought you your check, but you lingered. The white waitress’s eyes narrowed in on the ice melting in your glasses. The woman with you read from a book she called classic while I pushed pretend dust closer to your feet. “The sunset is a metaphor for endings,” she told you, and dug into her purse. When I noticed the cardboard box in her hands, I stepped in and pointed her to the sign with a red slash through a black cigarette.

“She doesn’t need them anyway,” you said, and forced the box out of her grasp. She reached up to pull her hair, but her fingers fell short of the pixie-cut, reaching for phantom strands at her shoulders. You dunked the box into your glass and soaked it through with water, then pulled out its soggy carcass and laid it on the table. Fingers dug into her palms, she cast the purse over her shoulder. Her footsteps clicked all the way to the door, and back again, as she stretched out her middle finger just to give herself the satisfaction of telling you to screw yourself. You signed the cheque and raced into the parking lot in the September heat wave.

My grandmother reads the newspaper every morning, and today, as she was reading, I noticed a headline on the front page. It said your name was Samuel and that she took a crowbar to your temples. Her name was Rebecca and she had taken your last name. Her blood-dotted face with an Antarctic stare ran along the room. I directed my eyes to the last line in the first paragraph. The charges were dropped when she lifted her shirt up to her bust, and showed them your signature.

I caught Ling-Ling suckling Rebecca’s dried-out Camels at half past three, and when she came back to order eggrolls to-go, I stole the box away from Ling-Ling and placed it in your widow’s shriveled hands. She shook her head and told me she didn’t need them anymore.

Keri Karandrakis is a writer from Georgia. No, not the country, the state. She has worked for Polyphony HS and Winter Tangerine Review, and has been published in magazines including White Ash Literary Magazine. She is a cat-obsessed feminist, and probably should be doing something that she’s not doing right now.

Lead image“Untitled” (image via Flickr user Daniel Oines)