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Just a little She smiles – Spilled milk –

Just a little she smiles and opens her eyes. “All right then,” says Ysabel. Standing by the window in her yellow underwear. The daylight soft and grey, dappled by raindrops on glass. She looks down at the cigarette burning between her fingers. Black blood thick on her fingertips and palm. Blood smeared around her mouth, her chin. “Pfeh,” she says, cocking her hand, wiping her lips with the back of her wrist. Blood’s splashed between her breasts, a trickle of it black and shining oozes down her belly trembling a fat drop of it falling to plop on her bare foot. She takes in a sharp breath through her nose and lets it out in a sudden shivery laugh. “All right,” she says.

A rustle from the futon across the room.

“Jo?” says Ysabel.

“The hell you will,” says Jo, muffled. Kicking her mismatched Chuck Taylors in the sheets.

Ysabel stubs out the cigarette in a plate puddled with black blood, a slender bloodstained knife on the table beside it. Scrubs at her chest with her fingers, knocking loose a sparkling fall of dust. She crosses the room to kneel by the futon. “Jo,” she says again. Jo moans, her face buried in the blue-and-white striped pillow. Ysabel brushes Jo’s cheek with the back of her hand. “Wake up, Jo,” she says. “It’s October.” Jo jerks her head away, one arm fighting free of the blanket. Pushing herself up breathing sharply, blinking. “I can’t,” she says, “what?” Staring unseeing at the wall.

Jo spits toothpaste into the sink and rinses her toothbrush under the tap. Runs the brush around her teeth and spits again.

“What did she tell you?” says Ysabel, leaning on the open door of the refrigerator. She’s pulled on a white tank top. Something glitters at the corner of her mouth.

“She didn’t,” says Jo, running her fingers through her hair, pushing back the blond fuzz to reveal dark roots. Tugging at one of the longer black locks. “Not for real. For real, she just laughed that goddamn laugh and walked away across the ice.” Out in the little hallway kitchen Ysabel pulls a carton of milk from the fridge. “But in the dream it was like she’d been saying something all along and, it’s not like I couldn’t hear her or it was in another language or something. I could understand her. I just wasn’t paying attention.” Ysabel takes a glass down from the cabinet and pinches open the carton. “I was looking at something else, I don’t know, but by the time I figured out she was saying something important and started paying attention she was laughing and turning and walking away.” Ysabel sets one hand on edge by the glass, four fingers curled around it. She pours the milk slowly, watching the level rise finger by finger. “And whatever it was was so important,” says Jo, “and I’d missed it, and I knew I was never going to get another chance.” Ysabel puts the carton back in the fridge. “Which just. Hurt.” In the bathroom, Jo’s still looking at herself in the mirror. “Nineteen goddamn names and I don’t know a one of them,” she says, quietly. She runs some water, catches it in her hands, splashes her face. Shuts the water off. Something’s trickling. Jo frowns. Looks out, into the little hallway kitchen. Ysabel’s holding up the glass tipped over, pouring milk over the counter, down to the floor. “The fuck?” says Jo.

“You shouldn’t be having dreams like that,” says Ysabel. She shakes the last drops of milk from the glass and sets it down on the counter.

“So you make a fucking mess?”

“It’s a punishment,” says Ysabel.

“Oh,” says Jo, pushing past her, out into the main room, “the milk, the blood, that fucking tongue, it’s a punishment all right.” She stops, staring down at the plate on the glass-topped table, the cigarette butt in the blood, the slender bloodstained knife. “Ysabel?” she says, turning around. “Where’s the tongue?”

Ysabel’s dipping a finger in the milk.

“The tongue. That was ripped from the head of that – thing. And dropped on this plate right here last night. That tongue?”

Ysabel turns, opening her mouth to say something. The phone rings. “I’ll get it,” she says.

“No!” says Jo. “Let it ring.”

“It could be – ”

“Spam,” snaps Jo. “Fucking telemarketers selling a fucking timeshare or something. Look. Don’t tell me about the tongue. Okay? Fine. I don’t trip over it or find it in the freezer or something, it’s gone, I’m good. Okay? Just put on some pants or something so we can go to work.”

“Or we could not go to work,” says Ysabel. “Go see a movie or something.”


“We had a long night,” says Ysabel. “I’m tired. You’re exhausted. And you’ve already paid rent, right? So – “

“Yeah, but now I have to buy more fucking milk!” The phone’s stopped ringing. “We’ve been over this,” says Jo. “I have to go to work. And I have to keep an eye on you. So you have to come to work with me. Dead fucking simple. And it’s gonna be like that until, I don’t know. Something happens.”

“Like what?”

“Maybe one of your bully-boys challenges me to a duel and I lose and you get to be his problem instead.”

“That’s not going to happen,” says Ysabel, smiling.

“Oh yeah? Maybe I’ll just pick a fight with Roland the next time he swings by. I bet he’d like that. Are you going to clean that up?”

Ysabel looks back at the puddle of milk. “No,” she says.

“I’m not touching it.”

“Of course not.”

Jo throws her hands in the air. “Just, just get dressed. Okay? Let’s go.”

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M.E.Traylor    6 August 2010    #

I’m really really enjoying this. I love when storytellers don’t spoon-feed me, but make me use my skills of observation and make my own connections. Sometimes I’m confused, but I like that. :)

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