Ella endured another round of fouette turns, the joy gone, as gone as air once you breathe it — that is, not gone, but having suffered an irreversible process. The joy was outside her body, beyond the iron curtain of her leotard. She could see it in the mirror, watching class from one of the folding chairs by the door. She wanted to blame the sub, with her nasal voice blasting, “That’s not what I wanted you to do,” even though the woman kept changing the combinations midway through her instructions. “You’re too jerky,” she yelled at Ella. “You know what I mean? Jerky? Kicky. Your arms, too.” “OK, thank you,” Ella said. After class, Ella drove to the gas station next to the McDonald’s, and there was the sub, outside the restaurant at the last remaining pay phone in the Western world. She had a jar in her hand. After filling up, Ella drove her Mazda truck closer to the payphone. Inside the jar was a human heart. Through her open window, she heard her teacher say, “I don’t know what to do with the old one. They wanted to incinerate it.” When Ella got home, her husband was holding one of their children, who had woken up crying. “There’s some macaroni and cheese on the counter,” he whispered. Her daughter’s arms draped like willow branches over his shoulders. “Good,” she said, “I got gas.”
Kelly Dolejsi is a climbing instructor with an MFA from Emerson College. Her work has been published in Mom Egg Review, Mothers Always Write, Trickster, Santa Fe Literary Review, and Bitter Oleander. She also has poems forthcoming in Denver Quarterly.