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Today's Story by Kip Hanson

I watch for news of missing children. There are plenty.

Build a Teepee, Come Inside

Ten after seven on a Sunday night. Tomorrow’s the first day of school. My wife says Billy needs stuff for a sandwich. He wants some potato chips, too. Ever since we lost Janey, she’s pampered the kid. Lets him sit in his room and play video games. When I was his age, I had a job. Washing dishes, delivering papers. I’d gladly work one of those jobs now. I take a piss the color of Kentucky bourbon and step into the high-nineties of late summer. My piece of shit car sits in the drive, broken and brooding. Worthless.

The clerk at the grocery store is cute. Trailer simple. She flirts, I flirt back, and I hope she doesn’t remember me tomorrow. Five minutes later, a lumpy sack of bologna, Wonder bread, and melting American cheese dangles from my left hand. From my right, a fresh pint of Jack. My last twenty bucks is gone until Wednesday. Maybe there’s some change under the couch cushions.

My flip-flops are loose. They chafe, and a small blister forms, between my toes. Bits of sand, like glass, collect there. The cool, fruity smell of the grocery store lies behind me. I miss it already. The Arizona sun hangs low on the horizon, bloated and lazy, but still bright enough to burn blazing pinholes of light into my brain. My head throbs like a whiny bitch.

A car honks, passes, and the driver flips me the bird. What’d I ever do to him? I sit on the curb to rest, then vomit discreetly into the gutter. I’m not drunk—not any more. Just hung over. A day of help wanted ads and pre-season football does that. Hoping the nausea passes before the cops arrive, I rest my head on my knees.

When I open my eyes, there’s a blot of color, a few yards away. On the sidewalk. It looks like a shoe. When I’m able to stand, I shuffle over and pick it up. It’s a child’s sneaker. Once pink, it’s now absorbed the color of the desert, dirty and sun-faded. Like the ones Janey once wore.

There’s a neat circle of darker brown on the edge, near the laces. Dried blood. The shoe is tied with a little girl’s neat bow. My hand trembles. I can hear her voice, high and clear, as she sings a tying song. Build a teepee, come inside, close it tight so we can hide. My head swivels about, searching for the body—a hit and run victim, wedged in a nearby tree. A mangled corpse in a bloody ditch. Muffled screams from the trunk of a car.

Where is she? Over the mountain, and around we go, here’s my arrow, and here’s my bow!  A sheriff’s cruiser idles down the street. I panic, shove the shoe inside my front pocket, and reach for my groceries. The cop drives past and I wave. Everything’s cool, officer. Fifteen minutes later, my kid’s lunchmeat is in the refrigerator, and some other kid’s tennis shoe is in my closet, hidden behind an old pile of magazines.

I watch for news of missing children. There are plenty. A five-year old boy from Peoria, found in the desert. Gone two weeks. Two girls missing in Scottsdale—teenagers, most likely runaways. But none from this neighborhood. No dead girls with one pink shoe. Not yet. Build a teepee, come inside.

I lay awake at night, wondering about a job, and how long I can feed my family—unemployment pays two-hundred bucks a week. I think about Janie, my sweet girl. She would be twelve now. But mostly I wonder what will happen when my wife finds that bloodstained tennis shoe. How will I explain it? I should get rid of it, bury it out in the desert with all the other bones, but then sometimes, oh sometimes, I can hear her voice, in the dark. Close it tight so we can hide. And then I wonder—was she still singing, at the end?


Kip Hanson lives in sunny Phoenix, AZ, where he chronicles the life of an exiled Nordic Warrior King at http://misterass.com. You can find him at Bartleby Snopes, Every Day Fiction, Waterhouse Review, Eunoia Review, A Twist of Noir, and a few other places. He writes to keep the flying monkeys away.


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