What The Detectives Found in Her Abandoned Car

Chelsea Stickle

The guts of a dead mosquito on the inside of the windshield. Smashed by the recently rolled Elle on the passenger side floor. A can of OFF! rolling around next to it.

A hole in the dashboard where the cigarette lighter should be. An empty pack of Marlboros. The husband says she quit for the baby. She gave birth a month ago. The baby’s at his sister’s.

The car key hidden in the visor.

A holstered taser in the armrest compartment. A pill bottle—the label neatly peeled off—crammed with quarters. A packet of ladybug tissues. An iPhone charger. A first aid kit. A tartan wool blanket. An empty, unused gasoline container. A flashlight. Reusable grocery bags. An umbrella. Wet wipes: used and unused. Annie’s bunny snack wrappers crinkled under the seats. Crumpled Safeway receipts as long as her arm.

A child’s drawing of the family in front of their house. Stick figures holding stick-hands. A pregnant woman. A child with blue hair. A man towering over them.

Scatterings of loose soil and woodchips on the backseat floor. The husband explains that these aren’t clues. She buys indoor plants, kills them and replaces them regularly. And she never cleans her car. Inside or out. She always waits for the next rainstorm. He repeats his insistence that they interrogate the neighbor who eyed his wife’s belly. The boss who sat on her desk and played with his balls. A detective tells him now is the time for collecting evidence. The car is in front of them. It needs to be examined for leads.

When CSI searches for blood, they find none. In fact, there are no signs of a struggle at all. The husband doesn’t understand. A new mother would never. His wife would never.

***

It’s like she stepped out of the car and walked until she reached something. The sea air with her toes enmeshed in wet sand. A cave that echoed so she could finally hear herself. The quiet solitude of the dwarfing Redwood forest with trunks the size of cars. The past smaller than a speck behind her.

#

Chelsea Stickle writes flash fiction that appears or is forthcoming in Jellyfish ReviewCleaver, Hobart, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and others. She’s a reader for Pidgeonholes and lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and an army of houseplants. Read more stories at chelseastickle.com or find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.