Just After Joy

Pushcart Prize Nominee: Cheap Pop, 2019
Long List: Bath Flash Fiction Award, October 2018

Just After Joy

In her hometown, when Melody was thirteen, a nineteen-year-old flipped his Trans Am on the highway feeder road right outside the main entrance to the mall where Melody used to get dropped off to meet her friends at the food court outside the cinema multiplex, and the next day The City News printed a picture of the upside-down car on the front page, which is where Melody saw it in black and white: the car fully upside-down and teetering on its crumpled hood.
There wasn’t any blood or anything, that’s hard to tell in black and white, so Melody looked extra hard just to be sure, but the story was that the boy had been speeding—really speeding, not just a little-bit speeding the way your parents might if they were late for something—and tried to take that turn too tight, and so over it went, the Trans Am, all three thousand pounds of it—with both its windows wide open, it being August, and the song, My Hometown, blaring from the radio as the car sat there rocking, upside-down with a dead boy inside of it.
Melody felt every inch of that story in her bones every time she passed that spot in the car with her parents for weeks afterward, even as the little pieces of glass and metal on the road gradually spread out and disappeared—and later, too, when she was learning to drive—and as an adult, any time she took a turn too tight—and even after that, too—for the rest of her life, really, whenever she almost started to get that feeling that you feel, that forever sort of soaring feeling, when it’s August and late, and you’re free.