She has a dead fetus in her purse, the third one this year, dropped from a bloody stream. Thighs. She felt a stinging cramp and then rushed to the bathroom where a blob hit the edge of the toilet seat then fell to the floor. It was wrapped in toilet paper.

Green sweaters, the mantel at Nana's – Christmas and smelly candles. Starlight mints from motels, secrets in locked trunks, and the cedar of memories. This time, Johnny never came back. Yet, she waits by the wall phone whose long spiraling cord hangs like vortex. Like time bombs. Like migrating insects found dead at the bottom of the closet next to his dusty boots. Boots of a man...always leaving. She taps her fingers on the table, heart dropping like a favorite coffee mug on tile. You know, the one from San Francisco, the last American vacation of (full) gas tanks, 2 door Monte Carlo's, and Samsonite luggage. Back when high school romance meant proms, teddy bears, underground music, and dreams of foreign lands. Pen pals in India, Czechoslovakia – she wads the tablecloth in her fist. When she realized he never came back to try again, she climbed the fire escape, planned and denied suicide, decided on shopping instead – lace up boots for long treks on bustling rainy streets. Postcards of back wood roads and farms, picturescapes of a naturist dream – tree houses, backyard wells, small town bizarres, and babies. Those elder lady bizarres of felt ornaments, knit socks, blankets, and mirrored knick-knacks. Those small towns of elder ladies, 50 years of marriage, lipstick gunking in the cracks of their lips, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and Bible societal lies. 

She burns those postcards in back alleys; lighters and sketches of phantasmagorical horror. Sold at art festivals in flimsy makeshift booths of steel pipes and plastic clips. Beneath the tarps, the tall pines are tucked within the last botanical area within thousands of miles of city sprawl. Concrete, plaster, condo's blocking views, rush hour traffic and millions gather.

On her way to work she waves as they drop their children off at school, elementary smiles and chubby cheeks. The women protect their babies from this predator. City streets, dawn of the dead, clock in, clock out, rush home. Computer strain, fluorescent lamp tan, elevators, and parking garages. Fire escapes. Fire escapes. The fire that burns inside of her when the babies all die.

She never knows what to do with the bodies.

She would buy a wig, a new wardrobe, tell her friends to call her Jackie, sign up for screen-printing classes. Yes, make t-shirts of all the places she wished she could visit. Every day, strapped behind that desk like a matrix revival of the main-frame. T-shirts that say, “I love Prague”, “I love Berlin”, “I love Russia”, “I love France”, “I love Great Britain”, I love everywhere but this hell I'm in.

Tracy L. Lyall resides in a dungeon beneath the steamy streets of Houston, TX. Born in the 1970's during the time of roller-disco and cool, cigarette-smoking tomboys, she spent her early years travelling on Greyhound buses and experiencing life, much of which became the basis of her writing/art/photography ventures. After writing for underground zines then progressing to poetry, her writing spanned into journalistic media. Published by university presses, magazines, and small press. Currently raising a series of fiction and creative non-fiction novels along with two Joeys, she continues pursuing degrees of all kinds and running an online literary zine – while producing works of art and photographing many moments.

Genetics in Scribbles

I have been told by numerous people over the years that I look exactly like my mother. Your eyes, they say, have that same glint of amusement. It’s something about her mouth, others say, how it always has a secret hidden behind its smile. To me, these were always compliments that held no ground. Just conversational, empty comments that people fished around for when meeting me for the first time.

I could never associate my clumsiness to my mum’s lyrical grace. My lacklustre hair couldn't possibly hold a candle to her rich, luscious locks that never seemed to age. Her soft curves and supple back peeking out from beneath her embroidered saree showcased transcendent beauty. I looked nothing like her.

Even though I knew that these words were vain attempts to connect our shared genes, I still treasured them in the form of crumpled paper pellets at the back of my mind. Every time a relative or a well-meaning friend would tell us of our physical similarities, I would smile shyly, adding another piece to my pile of these false compliments. 

It was only after a certain age, perhaps past my preteen years, that I began to notice my mum’s sad, silent smile contrasting lightly against my sheepish one. It wasn't until another few years later that I attempted to unearth the meaning behind it.

She just looked into my eyes before she kissed me on the cheek. That was the moment it dawned on me. For the first time, I noticed creases underneath her eye that were always invisible to me before. Her cheeks took an effort to match her smile.

I went and looked into the mirror. I pulled at my eyelids and scrunched up my nose. I analysed each feature, putting it under the microscopic lenses of my judgement, to find similarities to my mother. There were none.

I hid this disappointment behind my stolen collection of false compliments, but didn't contemplate on the matter further. My mother continued being her composed, flawless self, while I, the shadow gratefully hidden from view. I liked that instead of forming a judgement of my beauty, people noticed my mother in me. I felt that it saved me from the scrutiny that I might have otherwise been subjected to. To be my mother’s daughter, however? Well, of course, she looks just like her.

Yesterday, someone made a nonchalant comment on garden vegetables. It was thrown in in the middle of the conversation, perfectly obscured amongst the other syllables surrounding it. There was absolutely no intention of a joke in it.

Still, a smile escaped my lips. My eyes fell shut in an attempt to contain my laughter. When I opened them, my mother was looking at me from the corner of her eyes, half-covering her mouth that gave away her obvious giggle. As I looked at her, my grin widening before we both burst out laughing, it suddenly made sense.

Nandini Goel is a writer whose work often focuses on metaphors, abstraction, and vague endings. She shares an explosive relationship with coffee, spends her time making mixtapes, and always has a book in her hands. You can follow her on Instagram at @thebrokencassette.