Magic Fingers by Elizabeth Fletcher

By the fourth motel, I knew to hold my breath for the exhale of mildew when mom unlocked the door. In the shadows of the blackout curtains, we spied the coin box between the two doubles. Josie set to wheedling a quarter out of mom. I surrendered my bulging backpack and sprawled on the orange bedspread providing poor cover for an unforgiving mattress.

With a clink, the bed stuttered to life. Blurred the rust-edged watermarks on the ceiling. Masked the highway whine. Josie flopped next to me while Mom carried in the brown paper sack of saltines and plastic-wrapped cheese, the powdered milk and toasted o’s that we’d eat out of plastic drinking cups left next to the ice bucket.

Fluent in Pig Latin since the beginning of summer, I said Isthay aceplay isay etterbay anthay ethay astlay. Mom shook her head, clicked her tongue. Our secret language drove her crazy, making us love it more. Josie reached over to tickle me. Aggiemay, areyay ethay agicmay ingersfay icklingtay ouryay unnyfay onebay?

I tickled back until our light bodies jogged toward the invisible sag in the middle. Until our sides split, the magic fingers shattering our laughter. Until our bones quaked apart. Until my head began to throb. Until I missed my own bed and my tears shook loose as we vibrated at the same frequency of my sadness. I curled away from Josie and squeezed my eyes shut, praying it would end.

Elizabeth Fletcher is a writer and yoga therapist from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Her fiction has appeared in Gone Lawn, Flash Frog, Lost Balloon, New Flash Fiction Review, and elsewhere. You can find her online at and on Twitter @esfletcher.

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