Spread | by Joy Overbrook

     The blade dropped, and its precision left much to be desired. Another rodent’s escape. She was spread thin, like the last bit of jelly on her Saltine crackers, sifting through a pile of yellowing envelopes weighted with bold-faced capital letters. The textured wall beside her supported a body that, though muscular, was losing its strength, and the tears that met the peeling paint softened its edges into the kind of fungal clusters that grow on dead logs.

     Three or four steps from her kitchen sink and she was spread atop her sheets and comforter, considering the irony of its name. It provided no sanctuary from the square of springs it dressed. Dressed, something she did and undid for the evening shift, and a heel had broken off her last pair of shoes the morning before.

     Her feet were sore, blistered in lines worn by cheap plastic, but her legs were firm, sculpted. Her legs had taken to the habit of spreading for money – how else would she pay for the electric? Her stove heated thick, flat coils rather than gas – not that she had anything to cook. The light only served to broadcast that she survived another day.

     The first time she spread her hands across the hood of the cruiser, she thought of the lights as her savior. She would “wisen up,” as her grandmother would say. “Why don’t you go to the hospital? At least you’ll get three square meals.” Even prison could provide the same. But old habits die hard, her legs had said.

     When the girls spread her ashes on the pavement, it looked just like the line that took her, thin and coaxed on both sides to be easily consumed by those around it, an imperceptible fog drawn toward hell.



Joy Overbrook is a writer of poetry and prose, with a particular interest in the brief yet poignant. Her work is published or forthcoming in Train Flash Fiction, SickLit Magazine, Story and Grit, among others. For more information, please visit her on Twitter @joy_overbrook.


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