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Here was my entry in the Angry Hourglass flash fiction contest. Based on this photo:

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Patrice just wanted to play. Better than staying cooped up inside that motel room, which smelled like piss-stained Marlboros and Old Spice.

And prostitutes. Prostitutes had a distinctive smell — sweat and mom’s makeup counter.

Dad’s only gift to me that I remember receiving was a dictionary. A prostitute is a “person, typically a woman, who engages in sexual activity for payment.”

I didn’t understand what they were doing; sometimes when I stayed by the door to listen, it sounded like what those two turtles were doing when mom took me to the zoo two summers ago.

“Here girl, three bucks, run down and getcha self a cola or sumthin’,” he would say.

The vending machine had become my motel friend. I liked to call him Moxley. Because a motel janitor once said I had moxie but it sounded like “moxley” due to his nasal, slurred voice.

Moxie meant “force of character, determination, or nerve.”

When I asked dad what it meant, he said, “Means a man wif a set o’ balls.”

Janitor probably said I had moxie since he caught me kicking the side of the old vending machine because my Butterfingers got caught on the spiral. Had to do something and I inherited my mom’s flash anger.

Gah, one time, dad came home with another woman’s perfume on his neck and mom hit him on the side of the head with one of her baking sheets. And the oatmeal raisin cookies were still on there. I ate one off the floor, anyway.

Went with old reliable again, Butterfingers, and skipped back to the room. Listened by the door to see if dad was finished with his prostitute friend.

And I heard a sound I had never heard before. Like a gurgling noise. Reminded me of those nights when mom would make me swoosh that Listerine stuff in my mouth. Then a scream and I knew what that was.

Footsteps and dad was at the door.

“Get outta here, girl,” he said, his hand held up, bloody.

Earlier in the day, I learned a new word. Trepidation, “a feeling of fear or agitation about something that may happen.”

I ran.

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