Snacks, Cigarettes, Beer, Slots, Sloths
Outside, the sun rose like an oncoming aneurysm. The gas pumps were explosive elephants, the parking lot, a potholed safari. It was the opposite of rush hour. A long row of sloths played the slots that lined the dirty window of the Circle K. All three toes curled around the arm of the cherry ringer. Everything was slower here; it took a week to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, moms never found their car keys at the bottom of their purses to head out to dead-end jobs, shitty coffee in hand. Ice hardly melted. A little girl spun on a slot stool, keeping it warm while a sloth snoozed with his back to the beer cooler. He dreamt of sugared peach rings—incisorless care bears, the little girl called the sloths. She convinced the store manager to swap the packs of cigarettes behind the counter with pacts about doing what you meant to do, the cashier would supply the spit and handshake as a witness. One sloth dusted his face muff with the powder from a Hostess donette. We laughed, which reminded us to fondle the lost and found pile next to the register. The little girl read the handwritten names out loud from the collars of abandoned jackets and the lining of school backpacks. We said the names until they became a spell inside our mouths to protect the losers of things: Billy, Sue Ellen, Harper, Frank. If Found: Leslie, Marcus. They smelled of erasers, smushed peanut butter, a city bus. Leaky pens bled into expanding blue planets inside of small pockets. Each name the little girl said out loud birthed a new sloth. The girl can do whatever she wants, this is her story.
Gums Across America
A nationwide search for the baby who shattered a shiny ornament with his bare gums is being funded by the Federation For Fluoride Fabrication. They’re calling it a Christmas miracle! They want the boy to be their spokesbaby! A detective is ensconced in an endless ribbon of cigarette smoke. He stares in disbelief at the bloodless glass shards, laid out onto green felt like a torn up love poem. An army of thumbtacks salute him, eager to fill a cork-board. Gums of Steel!, the headline reads—The Tinsel Heard Round the World! If the government finds him first they’ll begin secret experiments: roasting chestnuts over his open mouth, cracking the riddles of unsolved, limbless Hangmen, the abandoned ones with only a head and one winking eye. Pop-A-Locks will follow. The Russians are hiding behind their vodka. The race is on! They must find the boy before his teeth come in and his soft spot closes, like an earthquake in reverse. Whoopi Goldberg has volunteered to be the celebrity wearing the sunglasses and the busy blouse, her smile meant to sting the boy with nightmares. The mother is shopping at the local Woolworth’s, unaware of the boy’s soon to be stardom. She wipes a dribble of slobber with a burp cloth and offers the baby her knuckle to gnaw on, his cheeks hot with a teething fever.
Jennifer Battisti is a lifelong Nevadan. Her work has been anthologized in Legs of Tumbleweed, Wings of Lace, Where We Live, an anthology of writing and art in response to the October 1st tragedy and Sandstone and Silver. Her work has also appeared in The Desert Companion, Minerva Rising, The Citron Review, FLARE, Helen: A Literary magazine,Slant, Thin Air, Briar Cliff Review, 300 Days of Sun and elsewhere. She is a contributing writer for Las Vegas Woman magazine. In 2016 Nevada Public Radio interviewed her about her poetry. She is the coordinator and a participating Teaching Artist for the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in Clark County. In 2018, she was the recipient of the Helen Stewart Poetry Prize and was voted best local poet or writer by the readers of the Desert Companion. In 2020, she was runner up for the Western Humanities Reviewcontest for nonfiction. Her first chapbook, Echo Bay was released in 2018 and her full-length manuscript, Off Boulder Highway is forthcoming in 2021 (Tolsun Books).
Show Jennifer some love via PayPal at jennifer battisti(at)rocketmail(dot)com.