Five Fictions
Kim Chinquee

I Had Time to Kill

I already lost the long jump, scratching. I'd had a tempo in my steps, knowing when to lift myself, after getting closer to the line, then up and up and in the air until I landed. But I misjudged more than once. Disqualified. The winner was a girl I went to school with.
I sat on the swing, feeling bad, soothed by candy bar and soda. I still had to run the hundred. I had time to kill. I got on the merry-go-round, letting it go slow, thinking of starting blocks, how I might push off them.
A group of boys came. They spun and pushed the go-round and I held the edges. They went faster, running it in circles. I slid closer to the edge. I hugged a rail, then harder, but I couldn't hold my body.They went round and round, and I could feel my body sliding. My arms weren't strong enough and I landed on the pavement. The boys ran away. I walked to the nurse's station, where she told me to lift my shorts. I needed lots of bandages and I could feel the stinging. The nurse said, "Now go and run the hundred."
I lined myself up. Some people asked what happened to me.
I got on my starting blocks and put my mind on something else: cereal, weeds, my father's hands, my mother's dirty apron. The gun went off. I just busted ahead and ended up winning. I got my ribbon and thought about telling the boy I liked. I imagined him helping me dress my cuts.
That night, my mom told me that this boy from my school had gotten sick of himself and it ended with a handgun.
I watched my mom's chin quiver and then she asked me if I knew him. I almost told her, but I decided not to.
I went to bed, lying on my good side.

He Went to Her: Oh Baby

They did laps at the mall, then ate their Dippin Dots. Civilians came through doors, dripping from their foreheads. They sat there in their jerseys and their sweatpants, they'd lost count of the times they passed Hot Topic, the teens in their nose rings and their purple hair and Mohawks. The gym was closed. She put her cup down, said to him, Hey Ranger, they kissed and he went to her: Oh Baby. They went back to their apartment, where later they put on boots and hats and kevlar, and he dug out their canteens, fixed and pocketed his compass, and she stuffed their duffels. They rode a bus, a plane, and then they set up tents there, where they marched and stood at ease and saluted at attention. They spoke in a cadence. They hurried up and waited. They stayed in line, pinching themselves.

Basic Training

She polished her husband's boots, using not the polish, but the liquid. Then she did her own -- she could hardly tell the difference -- they were boots like anyone's, and they only had to be free of dirt and shining. She ironed now, going over the zipper on her husband's trousers. Tomorrow he'd wear his blues, up against the brass -- he'd talk to the commander -- he'd touched a girl, denied it, and who was she. She listened to a beat and left the iron on his crotch, almost burning it and then going down to the leg.

She Felt Like Being Messy

He had red hair and two kids and he came knocking on that first night. Her son crawled, sucking his thumb, getting in-between them. "Welcome," the man said, giving her a cookie. He left his kids at home, since it was a duplex. He kissed her and she tore down the wall.

The Lot Was Almost Empty

As he drove, she watched his profile: pimples on his cheek, fine hairs on his lip and two or three long ones on his chin. His ears were dirty and his hair was shaggy. He wore an earring that looked like an almond. He slowed, and then the car stalled. She thought about the drives they could take through the grape fields, maybe they could stop and pick some, losing headway. "It's okay," she said. The car moved, then stalled again. "A little gas," she said, "a little off the clutch." A horn went off behind in a long WAAH. She told him to be patient. He laughed and she told him to concentrate.