Her toes curling in the sand, Tita counts the shells spiraling beside her. Their bleached bodies, remnants of once-living creatures, wondering if her bones will shine as brightly when she is dead.
“Eh, Tita. You like go swimming.” She shakes her head at the boy hovering nearby, his brown skin shimmering. She dreams of slipping it on, her body transformed. She thinks of the freedom such a form would give her, no pinching uncles, drunk on beer, hugging her too tight, no stupid boys pulling her bra strap for fun, laughing at her pain, no worrying about strange men, cruising slowly past, windows rolling down, as she walks home from school, wishing she could hide from all of their leering eyes and wandering hands.
“Fine den. Be like dat.” The boy runs off, his body cutting through the surf as he dives beneath the waves and Tita wishes he would stay there, his body forever tumbling.
Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Reckon Review, The Hennepin Review, Cheap Pop, Five South, Cotton Xenomorph, Parentheses Journal, Empty House Press, Sugar Sugar Salt and Indiana Review. She is in Best Small Fictions 2021, Best Microfiction 2022, and Wigleaf Top 50 2022. Read Hard Skin from Juventud Press and Kahi and Lua from Alien Buddha. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at www.melissallanesbrownlee.com.
Other stars in the Owl asterism:
Chloe N. Clark
The first time I’d held a basketball, I was four, and my Dad had passed it gently to me. In my hands, it was heavy and I dropped it. As it rolled away, I saw people climb up from the lines.
Jose Hernandez Diaz
The man in an MF DOOM shirt, “El Chacal,” was masked: a virus had spread that winter. It will all be over soon, he thought.
[i learned how to win in four moves]
i learned how to win in four moves at chess. i learned the three segments of every insect’s body. i learned that ms. jacqueline takes her smoke breaks behind the gymnasium and stubs out her cigarette on the oleander petals.