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Spring Life, with Cranberry Juice
Lee Reilly

Lyndsay’s mouth on your mouth. Our bedroom, our bed. I could check out the other body parts tangled up in our bed, but my eyes don’t move on command.

 

And my mouth? It’s inoperable. 

           

Her mouth has been mostly sealed (until now). She’s waiting for clearance to work at the CIA. When she lies about this, her left hand soothes a nearby surface, and her best friend looks away.  

 

I can’t believe you’re kissing lipstick.

 

*

 

My mouth is dry. This goes with the shaky left leg. Luckily I need only the right leg to accelerate. My back is thundering against the seat. Doctor says it’s kidneys.

           

So I drink cranberry juice. I can’t afford medicine, so I drink sickly sweet pinkness and somewhere near Delaware I realize it’s the color of Lyndsay’s mouth. The tollbooth guy suspects I’m drunk when I veer off the road to vomit. Probably that’s why he calls the police.

 

I walk a line. The cop who knows I’m not drunk nonetheless smells the half gallon of cranberry juice.

           

“Hate this stuff,” she says. “Urinary tract infection? Get antibiotics—that’s what works.”

           

Head shake: not UTI. My cranberry-colored mouth is still not working. Tears pressing from inside.

           

“Hmmm. If there’s something worse than a UTI, I don’t want it.”

 

*

Wondering where I am? Probably not. You’re kissing Lyndsay.

           

I’m at my parents’ place, 200 miles away, as we planned. To return the car we borrowed after you totaled ours. Cocktail guests chatter as if pain isn’t present. They drink, eat clams, bemoan the minister’s son, who plays in a godless rock band.

           

One asks me, How was the drive?

 

Go to your room, my mother says—at least that’s the gist—too embarrassing, this daughter living in sin with that boy, and now the girl is hobbling around and speechless.

 

What if  the girl opens her mouth? Something might come out. The words, Mom, I need a doctor, to a woman who could be giving me health insurance. Or, the words, Mom, he’s cheating on me, to a woman who predicted this. Or empty air. Or maybe some excess cranberry juice. That could be interesting. Disturbing.

 

Your hand on Lyndsay’s breast. My mother’s hand on my mouth. My hand in a pocket, where’s there’s a card, highway patrol officer Alissa Greene.

 

“Just in case,” she said. 

 

 

Lee Reilly writes about women, marriage, and the intricacies of family, identity, and care, and is working on a novel-in-flash about her grandmother. Her work has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Hippocampus, London Independent Story Prize, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, and elsewhere, and she’s earned support from Barbara Deming Fund, Ragdale Foundation, and other arts organizations. The author of Women Living Single and Teaching Maggie, she hosts Shannaghe, a residency for writers in Maine, USA.

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