A high school couple drove to a hillside on the edge of town. They’d said things to their parents they’d said a hundred times: the Charcoal Pit; yes, by eleven. They parked under a catalpa that dropped its long pods onto the windshield like small soft grenades. The radio crackled with a man’s urgent voice--electrical storm warning, shelter immediately. The girl said, I hear thunder. It’s nothing, said the boy, fumbling with clasps and elastic. Lately they could feel their insides pulsing with a violent heat, like something about to combust. In history, the girl had been studying the atomic bomb and spent her quiet hours—the shower, the walk home—locked in a prayer that went please no, please no. The boy was failing precalc because he didn’t understand Euclidean vectors. Parents were careening toward divorce. A sister had been caught with a needle in her arm, a brother hadn’t spoken in three weeks. But inside the car, there was no outside the car. The pressure shifted. The boy’s ears popped. The girl felt her bones start humming. They buzzed until they felt themselves ignite. All night, their parents panicked; all night, dogs moaned under beds. It never rained, though local homes reported flashes, spark showers, a massive white flare. In the morning, when the cop pounded on the window, the car was empty, the backseat charred black. In the dry dirt, no footprints at all.
Suburban Legend #2
The mother loved the drive home from the Kroger—seventeen minutes to think about the someday trip to Bratislava, the boy in college who took photos of her lounging foolishly lipsticked over headstones, how after she gave Thursday’s presentation the room would erupt into spontaneous applause, her boss offering up a red velvet cake and saying, I’m so sorry I underestimated your acumen. But overhead the black sky was turning light in cauliflower thunderheads, so she veered for a shortcut down the ravine road. A small SUV turned behind her and flashed its high beams. The mother squinted, waved him to pass. The light flooded her rearview again. Asshole, murmured the mother. The SUV got closer. Again the flash. And then the mother’s heart was pulsing inside her mouth as she accelerated. The SUV followed around each hairpin bend, blew through the stop light at the intersection, stuck close all the way to Red Mill Acres, all the way into the drive of 12 Farmhouse Lane. The mother got out, shaking. What do you want? she asked through her rage and tears. A woman stepped out of the SUV, opened the mother’s rear door. There was the daughter, asleep in her car seat. My God, said the mother, I forgot she was there. I know, said the woman. I didn’t want you to forget.
-- Catherine Pierce is the author of three books of poems: The Tornado Is the World, TheGirls of Peculiar, and Famous Last Words, all from Saturnalia Books. Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.