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May 18, 1973

Sedan, New Mexico

Smoke hugs the flare of Momma’s nostrils. “Why don’t you ever follow the rules?”

The last ember of her Virginia Slim glows stubborn, even after she’s ground it into the ashtray.

I sit criss-cross on the floor, hold my breath against the menthol sting, crooked rows of cards layered in front of me. I’ve played the six of hearts on the seven of diamonds.

“You’re not supposed to play red on red.” She looks away, glares at the clock. Daddy’s later than usual for his every-other-weekend.

I soak in the grey light of the television. Watergate men bluster where Gilligan’s Island ought to be.

Momma’s friend Alva Jane pulls up outside. Her El Camino always whines like something’s wrong, deep inside, but she keeps driving it anyway.

The paisley of Momma’s bikini peeks out of her purse as she leaves. County pool won’t open until next week; the Oasis Motel pool is for paying guests only, but the chain-link is loose enough on the east side to slip through. She lets the screen door bang shut behind her.

The old men on TV scold. I thumb my cards, consider my options. Lay my five of diamonds right on top of the six of hearts.

Myna Chang (she/her) is the author of The Potential of Radio and Rain (CutBank Books). Her writing has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton), Best Small Fictions, and CRAFT. She has won the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the New Millennium Award in Flash Fiction. She hosts the Electric Sheep speculative fiction reading series. Find her at, or on Twitter or Bluesky at @MynaChang.

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