When I was little, I wanted to wear a long-toothed comb of tortoiseshell, and pull my hair back so severely that someone would have to listen. But as I grew, my hair in a bun looked too sweet and I settled into being ignored—well, not quite. I’d walk the streets at high noon, winking at strangers and unbraiding my hair and buying beignets that I would drop half-eaten as if by accident. As the pastry hit the ground in a puff of icing dust, my shoulders drooped, turning my elbows into magnets and drawing the nearest man. Could he buy me another? Yes, I always said yes, licking my crystalline fingers. His arm brushing mine, we’d seek out the nearest vendor and watch them fry and powder their shapely squares of dough. As the man busied himself with small talk, I pried open his wallet and dipped my hand in for something extra. I did this again and again until my blood sang and cash lumped my pockets. And if the man asked where I lived or for my number, I’d press my sticky, sticky fingers to his lips and never answer. It didn’t take long for the vendors to up their prices. That was fine—as long as I got my cut and sugar rush. Stuffed, I’d pluck crumbs from my curls like fleas and dance home on cobbled streets that buckled like singed pastry.
Kathryn McMahon is an American writer living abroad with her British wife and dog. Her stories have appeared in places such as FLAPPERHOUSE, Third Point Press, Atticus Review, Booth, Passages North, The Cincinnati Review, Jellyfish Review, and Split Lip. She is the 2018-19 winner of New Delta Review’s Ryan R. Gibbs Award for Flash Fiction. She tweets as @katoscope. Find more of her writing at darkandsparklystories.com.