Jane, Janice & Jackie
Jane's pot plant is on my coffee table. Says she's waiting for times to change. I say they already have. Cough-up your house key. Jane laughs, hits her bong, spewing a resinous cloud over our heads. It's physiological I say. No man, Jane says. It's all in your head. I remember the photobooth where we posed for all those funny-faced shots like we were incredible. Like we were in love. The Jack -n- Jill tattoos on our butt cheeks. Jane exhales. She's watching Archie Bunker, laughing nonstop. I've packed her bags and delivered them at her feet. Jane goes into the kitchen for a peanut butter sandwich. I open the door and the cat comes in and Jane just sits there laughing, melted peanut butter drooling down her chin. During a commercial break Jane asks, Are you okay? We've done this a million times before. Like a scripted intermission. No I say. Jane grins loutishly stroking my forearm. I say fuck it and take Jane by her wrist, dragging her and her duffel bag and her precious pot plant towards the door. Jane squeals, You're hurting me. I'm not playing that game anymore, I say. I kick the door shut, go, and take a shower. When I come back into the living room, I still smell the rankness of Jane's pot plant. It'll fade soon enough, that much I know.
Janice wore her father's headphones while she lay in her parents' king-sized bed. She drew on the last of her medical, humming to Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is?
In their his and hers closet, Janice slipped into her mother's favorite lime-green sundress. Went into her parent's newly remodeled kitchen. Pulled her father's margarita blender from the cupboard. Took chopped carrots and sliced beetroot from her mother's Tupperware. Snagged julienned red and yellow sweet peppers from a Ziploc baggy.
She fitted everything into the mouth of the machine. She watched in a drug haze as their blood filled her cup.
Jackie sees you for who you are. She sees your stoner face. Your bloodshot eyes. Your midnight cravings, your hands pawing at her for sex. You always talk of love, of you and her being forever soulmates. That she'll never find another like you because another like you doesn't exist not even in a multitude of parallel universes.
Jackie sees you waking up late with stoner crud in your eye. She sees you fumbling in the cupboard for your cherished Captain Crunch, for that hemp seed cereal you swore you bought. You bring her plants you stole from the neighbor's yard and call them houseplants. You tell her how you need her. That she could never go on without you. You speak of Carl Sagan and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa. But Jackie tells you Frank looked down on stoners like you and this miffed you and made your head get stuck.
Now Jackie sees you in the grocery scrounging for that box of hemp seed cereal and she avoids you. You wave at her from across the store aisles and she hurries through the checkout line and gives the clerk a funny grin, shrugging. She says, Heck, he must mistake me for his druggy girlfriend. And the clerk smiles grimacingly in your direction. She nods at the bulky security guard as Jackie scoots out the automatic door to safety. Jackie sees you in her review and careens around a corner running a red light.
The last time Jackie sees you is when she's driving her moving truck down Main Street. You're walking down the sidewalk looking forlorn, head down, hands stuffed in your once-cool jean pockets. But Jackie isn't looking for you. She's looking for her favorite
coffee joint for one last jolt. Because she's been up all-night packing, dreading your midnight return, rapping your knuckles on her bedroom window, begging Jackie Jackie with a bouquet of roadside-picked wildflowers clutched in your greedily loving hand. You'll be wearing your purposefully torn-rocker jeans, shaggy headed forever, in flip-flops and a Led Zeppelin concert T, still looking grudgingly sexy in a childish sort of way. But that's all in the past now because Jackie's gone, and she no longer has to see you and worry about whether you'll get up on time and get another job and not eat her out of house-and-home. This much she sees about you.
Bill Cook's work has appeared in various journals, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Five on the Fifth, Juked, The Monarch Review, elimae, New Flash Fiction Review and forthcoming in The South Shore Review and Stonecoast Review. He resides in a small community nestled in the Sierra Pelona Mountain Range.