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Last Laugh by Cheryl Snell



I got out of the car when my sister and her man did, and he clapped his greedy hands. I only need to use your bathroom─don’t get any ideas. He unlocked one door of a characterless brick building and another to the apartment. Second door on the right. There was no furniture in the whole place, and only a roll of paper towels in the bathroom. Did he really live here? He said he had just bought it. What—today? In that case, it was reasonable that it was still bare. Maybe we had not stumbled over a headline in the making after all. I drowned Marie’s giggles under the faucet for a minute but I couldn’t hide in the bathroom all night. I couldn’t sit on the living room floor either, waiting for her, listening to her sounds. There was no other choice but to tough it out in the empty parking lot. I wasn’t wearing a watch, so every so often I’d turn on the light to look at the dashboard clock, quickly switching it off before anyone saw me. It would be bad enough if a cop drove up and challenged me about being there, but it could be worse if someone else did. A drug dealer. A rapist. An evangelist looking for converts. If Marie had known how vulnerable I felt, biding my time in the blindness of an unfamiliar side street, she would have laughed at me. It’s what she did whenever I showed fear—like last week, when we walked in our high heels to a new club in a bad part of town, being cat-called up and down the street by men whose hopes had long dried up. I hated it and she thought that was hilarious. When had the change in her personality started? The time our father brought back a doll for me and she sent him back to the store for hers? When she threw a fit when he named our boat with my first name and her middle name? No second billing for Marie! When we were kids playing on the swings in the backyard, we’d both rise so high we thought we just might kick the clouds, but she always wanted to jump off first. I wanted her to wait for me, for us to take the leap together, but she never would. She soared without me in the instant before she crashed. She always rose up laughing, despite her newly-skinned knees and elbows. When Marie finally straggled out of the man’s building and saw me in the car, she did, in fact, laugh. She ran towards me, wildly waving her arms and pumping her fists, laughing until we both began to cry.


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