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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 writes flash and short stories. Her work has been featured in X-R-A-Y Lit Mag, New World Writing, Reflex Fiction, FlashFlood, Atlas & Alice, Writers Resist, and Daily Science Fiction. Anthologies featuring her stories include the Grace & Gravity collection Furious Gravity IX; and the forthcoming This is What America Looks Like anthology by Washington Writers’ Publishing House. Read more at or on Twitter at @MynaChang.

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