“0.00” by Grace Campbell

Ray makes bail at one-thirteen p.m. and overhead, the game show blasts the defcon-one siren and the red lights start to swirl and I have less than zero point zero-zero time to gather up as much shit as I can into the trunk of the car that runs on the roulette of bad luck. I lay into the key, into the ignition, into the metastatic chug of the beater old enough to have voted in the Carter administration. I make that ramshackle prayer that it’s not broke, broke like Ray’s supposed to be. Only Ray fisted forward the three hundo to make bail which came from nowhere and everywhere, exactly like Ray might do now, down my slumbering side street with one last reminder of his love, fully loaded, the safety clicked off.

In the days before Ray hit send on his millionsomethingish messages to my phone, my gmail, my facebook, my actual, physical mailbox, I used to watch that game show where ladies got to hoard their grocery carts with as much processed shit as they could hurtle in under zero point zero-zero seconds. Which was heaps of funny, which was what I called stress back then, sloughing the skin off my knuckles with my teeth, wondering who would win the cash prize. But now, it’s not Benjamins falling from the studio ceiling but the sky falling from the sky itself, a thing that happens every day ending in a Y when you’re the woman who has rejected the man.

So now I get the consolation prize for not being straight up dead: an endless syndicate of reassurances I offer every seasonally-concerned friend that I won’t be outlined in chalk the next morning. A script whose entire summary fits between ten and two on the wheel, a script old enough to have voted in any administration, one that works every time, until Ray doesn’t care if he makes bail any more.

Maybe I’m on the side streets with the engine needle lowkey flirting with the letter E on the gauge, or maybe I’m burning some pretend force field around my house while I stare at the box-font of the digitized numerals on the disposable clock clicking through the wee hours because, sleep: nice try.

Maybe I’m the next contestant on that frighteningly successful game show with no cash prize. I try to break through the hex of male entitlement by pushing a cart to some finish line that will never be crossed, the audience knows this already. I was too effin’ good at filling it full of crap in the first place.

Grace Campbell is the fiction editor at 5×5 and a founding editor at Black River Press. She is the author of the chapbook Girlie Shorts and was awarded a 2018 June Dodge fellowship at The Mineral School. Her work has been selected for inclusion in Best Small Fictions 2019 (Sonder Press) and has appeared widely, in such journals as Brevity, Joyland, Foliate Oak, New Flash Fiction Review, Spry and Jellyfish. She lives and works and hoards tinted lip balm in Olympia, Washington

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