Jock girls in sweats and tee shirts advertising last year’s wrestling competition
laughing with eyes, mouths shmacking gum
swap private jokes with fist bumps, comfortable in their own skin.

Dancers crowd around mirrors in fifth position
adding a touch of blush, glittering eyeshadow,
hands wave like gilded fans;
appreciative eyes devouring sparkle.

Chocolate girl cranes her swan-like neck—
beaded braids spiral from the crown of her head
drape across slim/straight shoulders
then dangle near a wasp waist encircled with a rhinestone belt;
designer jeans curve around peach halves.
She stops, openly admiring the sagging jeans and tight butt of a construction worker
sauntering by.

Hair too henna to be natural, pin-curled like a crocheted cap above
eyebrows sketched like a half-moon over pale eyes
yet her smile is real, red as a delicious apple.
Sweat pants costume arthritic legs relaxing into a modified bow stance
as she grasps the wild bird’s tail with sing-song Tai Chi motion.
Her snake creeps down, straightens;
Golden rooster stands on one leg.

Twenty-something mother has fifty-year-old hips wide as Nebraska.
She clings to her three-year-old’s sweaty hand
as he screams like a banshee.
Oblivious to his rage she smooths back his hair with the same circular motion
of applying balm to a bee sting.
Exhausted, he yields to her fleshy arms that encircle him,
rock him gently into dreams.

Ear-length hair clean though scraggly,
brown face devoid of make-up
she wears four plain silver rings in each ear lobe,
plaid shirt, cowboy boots, worn jeans and
a horseshoe pendant around her neck.
“Twelve hundred pounds of horse and I weigh a hundred and twenty.
It’s crazy to be riding at my age.”
She toys with a smile. “It’s crazy not to.”

Young girl with winter eyes slumps into her sigh,
her belly pouching through her muslin dress like a hard-boiled egg.
“My mother is 900 miles away and my brother has power of attorney.
He wants to put her in a home.”
Her beaded blouse hangs limply on thin shoulders
as she leans against a wall.
It counteracts gravity; supporting her grief.

The bass guitarist wraps
forearms ruddy from the sun
around an instrument as tall as herself
even with her high heeled boots.
White shoulders bared by a halter strap
pulse strong muscles keeping time
with the slight suggestion of heaving cleavage
as she felts out a voice as strong as a hurricane,
swelling the auditorium with song.

Raven hair flowing she leans over the bannister
voice cinnamon and honey, a smile warming her brown-sugar face
as she calls, “Bring me a seashell from the ocean.”
It’s a hundred foot drop from the cliffs of Big Sur to the Pacific
but I’ll do my best—
that’s what friends are for.

Published in Stories