Jacks

Lorette C. Luzajic

No way to divide the booty fairly: there are four cola flavoured Mojos and a packet of Popeye candy cigarettes, and six of us kids from up and down the street. We divvy up the sticks and pretend we’re smoking. I leave them to fight over the taffy — I prefer the banana or spearmint, anyways, and Mr. Liu always gives me an extra one because I don’t steal when his back is turned. Tammy usually nicks a handful. I’m guessing that’s how she got today’s haul.

No one likes Tammy. She is skinny and her face looks too flat. She has more fleas than Bandit and chews with her mouth wide open. Her little brother Harry wets his pants all the time. He is five but drools and grunts and doesn’t talk yet.

Once I told my Dad that I didn’t want them to play in our yard. I told him that Tammy peed in the sandbox and that I saw her slip our Star War figures into her pocket, too. Dad squatted beside me and scattered a handful of jacks. While I practiced my tosses and grabs, he told me that Tammy and Harry came from a Troubled Home, and that her folks didn’t know the Lord. He said they didn’t have a father and the man they called Dad didn’t have a job. He drank too much rum. There were rumours of worse kinds of trouble, too, but we weren’t to gossip because we didn’t know the circumstances or what was true.

My sister and I knew already we weren’t to go inside Tammy’s home. If by chance we were invited, we should politely say we had to go home to help with chores. Dad repeated this gravely and asked if I understood. He said that even though we couldn’t play at their house, we should always show them care and compassion, just like Jesus would, even when we didn’t feel like being nice. I argued that when we played Bethlehem, Tammy broke the arm off the Baby Jesus and then cackled as she tossed Him into the wading pool. All the more reason to be kind, Dad said, and rumpled my hair.

I remember all of this when Tammy drops her candy cigarette in a puddle. At first I want to laugh out loud, but then I see her turn away to hide her tears. Here, I tell her, and hand her my backup stick. We puff away, posing like movie stars. When she giggles, she is even a little pretty.

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Lorette C. Luzajic reads, writes, publishes, edits, and teaches flash fiction and prose poetry. Her own has appeared in Ghost Parachute, The Disappointed Housewife, Bending Genres, Unbroken, Trampset, The Citron Review, Flash Boulevard, New Flash Fiction Review, and beyond, as well as numerous anthologies. She has a handful each of Best of the Net and Pushcart nominations, as well as one for Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction. She won first place in a flash contest at MacQueen’s Quinterly. She has also acted as judge for the Tom Park Poetry Prize. She is the author of two collections of small fictions, Pretty Time Machine and Winter in June. She is the founding editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a journal of literature inspired by art. Lorette is also an award-winning neoexpressionist artist, with collectors in more than 30 countries so far. She is also passionately curious about art history, folk horror, ancient civilizations, artisan and tribal jewelry, and culinary lore, to name a few.

www.mixedupmedia.ca

www.ekphrastic.net

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