Three Acts

A glint in the desert past the parking lot was lost in the shimmering air. Kim caught herself pretending it was a crystal ball. She looked inside the ball and found the end of her story revealed.

The lookalike was calling from Paris. She wanted something again. Kim couldn’t remember what. She’d ignored calls, but took this to kill time while Kanye was gone and she was too angry to write. She sat in the driver’s seat of the beat-up Cadillac, outside a bank in New Mexico. The car stank of unwashed clothes. The AC was broken. She told the lookalike no and wondered what would happen.

Though she’d woken up with ideas for her novel, she hadn’t written yet. Kanye had wanted to fight about bank robbing, so she’d fought. When she was about to yell, she drove him to a bank instead. She grabbed his phantom mask from the back and pushed it into his hands. People would cringe if he didn’t wear it. He was still inside, and she hoped he wasn’t trying to rob it. She wouldn’t worry, but he’d burned his face off.

“I’ll go to the press,” said the lookalike. She said it like a reminder. “You have so much to lose.”

“I don’t care.”

The lookalike shut up. There were blurs in the desert. Kim thought they were coyotes until one glinted. The lookalike kept her attention, though. Kim wondered what she would try, how long she would think she could gain an advantage now that her bluff was gone. The curiosity was a welcome distraction from the sticky heat.

“Fly to Paris quick,” said the lookalike. “‘Cause I’m not sending you any more pictures to post.”

“I still don’t care.”

The lookalike whimpered then shut up again.

The desert blurs were people. The sun was behind them, but their shapes were human. There were three of them. One held a waving thing that threw another glint. They claimed enough of her attention for her to hit the lock button. Then the lookalike spoke.

“I mean it,” she said, but didn’t sound like she did. Kim thought she could talk her back to work, but she didn’t want to. “I know people. They’d love to help me tattle.”

“Read your contract. Then disappear.”

The desert people wore costumes with red and yellow stripes and three red puffs down the middle. Kim gasped and lost interest in the phone call. She held all four window buttons and willed them to rise faster, already panicking. The clowns walked toward the Cadillac. Their faces were spattered with blood.

“I’m taking my daughter,” said the lookalike. “Good luck explaining that.”

Kim hung up. The clowns were staring. They’d reached the parking lot. All three were scary clowns. Two wore red wigs with gold strands. The third had gauze wrapped around his mouth and greasy black hair. The glinting thing was his chain.

She looked to the bank. Kanye was leaving the building, but he stopped to hold the door for an old woman. The clowns surrounded her. Two blocked the doors, and one stayed in front of the Cadillac. The black-haired clown was at her window. Half of his face was covered, but his eyes were cruel. He tried the handle.

Kim blasted the horn. The clown at the passenger door blocked her view of Kanye. The panic was big now. The clowns were monsters. No. Kids. Caught up in an antisocial trend. The creeps were in the south. That’s where. Before the fad.

The clown in front jumped onto the hood. His big red shoes banged when he landed. His teeth were fangs. Actual fangs. Or he went to a costume shop. A good one. Bought fangs. Not the plastic kind.

He licked the windshield. She lost words. Jumbled fear and silence. She tried the horn again. Someone was shouting. The clowns turned to look, then scattered. The one on the hood slipped as he hurried off. He got up saying, “Shit shit shit.” They ran back to the desert. Not monsters. Not kids.

The shouting was Kanye. He’d pulled off his mask and aimed a gun at them. Kim had another crazy thought: it must be the first act. The end of the first act.

Kanye tucked the gun back into his jeans. He stopped at the passenger door and knocked. She let him in. They sat for awhile, breathing hard. They let themselves calm down. Kanye opened the ashtray and dropped in two rolls of quarters. For laundry. He threw his mask in the back. Kim tried to smile. He didn’t try back.

“Did you steal them?” she asked.

“Next time, Bonnie.” He opened the glove compartment and pulled out his painkillers.

“I didn’t know you had a gun.”

“I do.”

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