Vanessa Saunders
FIRST KISS




She is not sliding off a cliff stepping into the man’s red car. She is not falling like a
Silk porous unbearable hot dusk broken by the murmur. His car engine runs like open
Water, I’m stuffed he says, groping loosely his stomach. Thanks for dinner she says.
It was really liberating, he smiles, daylight but a moon is dropped like a low pearl open
Scent of shoals and evenings. A telephone pole dominates the raw blue. His hands
Brush her face. Chest pulses. His mouth is warm like gasoline and wood. Sitting in a
Room of his own. Her fabrics blush against the wounded seats. Underneath the skin
Is bare. Wordless or dumb. The man in the red sweet car. His eyes spindle at
Various attentions. Goodnight. Shut door. Evening is spilled onto the woman’s
Bedroom window like a milk. Clutch her pillow, her head rattles like a fecund car
Engine. The man’s face bounces across her soft canals. Her face trembles. She
Runs to the sink. In the mirror her face is hell. A water. Don’t know.




THE WOMAN: A WITNESS




The woman wakes to the pressing weight of the world. Her square sunken room is washed up in boxes to pack, trinkets memories to stuff into the throats of silences. Freedom is a sack of wet feathers, her sternum is cold, and the heat of the wrong season. Outside, a car oinks, rushing, at the cafe she sucks a bright sip of coffee, loud shouts, motorcycle oils. Wriggling slivers of sunshine dazzle in the cafe window, importing squares of sunlight on the table, one sun diamond unrolls against the baritone of her hand. A pretty wind slaps a candy wrapper against the windowpane. The man’s question is dipping: to go to Jerusalem? To leave the the freeways dizzy? The ocean to slap like a great theme upon the sand aglitter? She sits down her cup. Emptily. Beaches writhe in her ribcage. Nightclubs coo inside her stomach. Easy to say yes then to consider it. Gathering the strung out armors of the man’s question, her heart is a shoal licked in trash, outside, the sand-clapped wind slows to a somber strut. A drunk man enters the café, he is hollering, he is squeezing a dead seagull by its wet blue throat. The ocean steps in discreetly. It’s 10 am a faceless patron says quietly out loud.




AT THE PRISON HER HANDS CLING TO THE STING WIRES OF THE CHAIN LINK FENCE. DRAINED BLUE SKY. STARING AT THE RED-SIGN OF THE PRISON GATE. THE PLACARD READS. THERE IS NO UNCTION FOR THE DESTITUTE.




Unslept prison-guard sleeps in his office of wire-chair. She says in a voice gripping
water

I’d like to enter please. The desk inside the foyer empty. She is pressing the
desk-bell

with soft finger tip, the bell-sound lances the room. A blue-uniform stumbles out
from

a fake-wood door. Slow slurred slinky. His voice coils strangely, Please sign in,
he

commands and shuts the door. Waves of loud laughter seep out from behind
that

door. The woman relinquishes her Hancock. Minutes slide down the yellowing
walls.

The Blue-uniform emerges, a line of spittle quivering on his lower lip, he says,
I’m

not really the desk-guy. His smile is a blank check. Where’s the desk guy she
asks.

I can’t find your father, he says. I know he’s here, she says. If he’s not on the
list,

he says, he’s not here. Quiver-smile. He slides a distending tongue across the
span

of his distending lip. She adjusts her mouth to speak, his plastic sneakers squeak,
he

slinks out. Waves of laughter soak the woman in a black wave. Dripping.
Outside

in the splitting sunlight. Daddy is standing in the corner of the prison-yard. Daddy!
she

calls out. Daddy is encroaching the chain-link fence, his eyes are littering his
hands.

His orange jumpsuit reads COCA-COLA across the breast. I’ve been working all
morning,

he says briskly, his face hung in syrup and grease. She says, Dad I came here to
tell

you something. He says, That’s great, glancing at the prison guard near the
entrance,

Come back during visiting hours. An alarm is bouncing into the prison-yard, it
smacks

against the chain-link fence and drips off Daddy’s face turning. His hands, choking
the

fence, are cracked with COCA-COLA syrup. He says, I hope I’ll see you sometime
soon

I’m sorry. He is turning. The smog stirs the trickling ends of her hair. She says,
Dad

I understand. Her Father slithers inside a shapeless grey building, a long shapeless
line

of prisoners. Empty yard, empty woman. At the desk again the forms shapeless.
She

is unseeing the walls buzz, the orchestra of florescent lights peel yellow and
swaying

above her head, the Blue-collar is poured, slumped, against his wood desk shivers in
his

sleep, his snore fetters the air like perfume, a window opening, his dream unrolls like
a

fish in the space she stands clam-like, unseeing the walls buzz, unseeing the lights
chatter

overhead the shapeless form, unseeing the Blue-collar froth in his sleep. She is
smearing

seawater across her clipboard, smearing her ink signature, her body flood. A trail of
seawater

is marking her exit, a snail’s intoxicating signature.




THE TRASHED UP BEACH. IT TOOK HER TIME AND TIME TO FIND A CLEAR SWATCH FOR THEM TO SIT. THE MAN WAS TRUANT BUT HE WEARS A WATCH.




Her searching eyes stuck in a patch of gleam, the forward rippling ocean. Mounting
the

sand dunes, the man swells into a throbbing shape. Ascending the dune the man slides

a smudge in his alligator boots. He struggles against the sea-grass. Hey he calls out. The

puckering ocean stitching the sand into the smoke water. I like your dress he says. Thanks

she says I got it on sale. He says I can’t tell. She says This fabric is itch-worthy
I

don’t care. Grasping the sand in his wide open palms, clutching its natural pulp.
The

woman lets her knees drip against his terse, they stare at the particles of trash who pucker

the shore. She says There’s a dead seagull at your feet. He says Well. A seagull at
the

hull of his boot where the sun beats no relief. Its limp eyes, its glass eyes, adore its misfortune

yes. Its body limp on the sand in a splash, crooked, bizarre. Its no-luster wings
splurched

in a dizzy near a paper towel, coagulated in brine, struggles against the landscape
the

woman her stethoscope scalp is hot, she spindles inside her inner-map and fine
feeling

of granules beneath her toes, between fingers and elbows. Inside she is palpable
unzipped

space of black and quietude the woman splashes and splashes in herself, she scrapes

her oxygen against her topography, until the land scars. She’s finished. Sound is zipped

in a plastic bag. Death as cost of exchange, the man consigns his ear close to the
bird’s

chest, his knees ajar and knocking. Heat beats in her ear like the ear of a clock.
This

bird is still alive he speaks puckering his lips. I’ll have to kill it myself to shield it
from

a slow miserable… He stands up suddenly a harbinger, shrewd and composing a
blue

shadow across the woman who is prostrate on the bride beach licked in litter,
sun

drunk, her blood shouts into the edges of her levers. The man’s watch slides on
his

bulge wrist, grabbing the gull at its unbearable margins. Twisting its neck, a slow
departing,

bones puncture bird-skin, a sickle-crunch fetters the air like perfume, a solid blue
feather

flies off the handle body of the bird, its blood spurts in an arch, slicing the atmosphere,

its inside-heart smells like the gutter’sinside, oil, ripe gasoline, car-parts, factory-
lungs,

accidents and woman is nervous struck by its accidental blood among the perfume sewage.

She says, You’ve pulled its head off. The sand is speckled in a flag of blood. He
says

I guess so. I guess I don’t know my own strength. In one hand he holds its head, in
his

other hand its body. Can you put it back together she says. He says I don’t
think

so. From a distant lump, an ore smoke blows quietly from a factory. Inside the gull’s
pupils

the sun is blinking like a fume. Plop. He drops the gullparts. He drops the death at
his

feet, and they stare. Necessary. A flare of chartreuse blood smirks on the man’s
shirt.

He looks down, says, This sucks. He looks cold, this heat is frozen and hot. He says,
I

need to buy some detergent. His eyes buried inside a what. Relaxed like television,
the

woman is strewn, elegant. We can buy some on the way home, she nods. Laughing her

mouth spreads. A candy wrapper. She tastes like she burns.




Vanessa Saunders is the editor-in-chief of Helium Journal. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is currently an MFA candidate at LSU. She has previously been published in Stockholm Literary Review, Lighthouse journal, Haight Ashbury Literary, and others.