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Darlene had finally found a place
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Darlene had finally found a place

by Dennis James Sweeney

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About Dennis James Sweeney

Dennis James Sweeney hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of the chapbook What They Took Away (CutBank Books) and writing that has appeared in Alice Blue, DIAGRAM, Juked, and Unstuck. Find him in Corvallis, Oregon, in the MFA program at Oregon State University.

Darlene had finally found a place where everyone was as wrought as her. The Venice Beach Pot Head in his white suit with the leaves. The woman who sat every day with black strings woven round in circles spread on a thatch mat in front of her and never sold a one, never seeming to know it was because she had nothing on offer. Everyone poured out of the last freak show in America at half past nine and the beach got to smelling like a rash of chemicals. The freaks danced until they collapsed somewhere in the sand and during that time Darlene, with a couple tattoos on her neck, felt invisible. I tried to tell her about the time we came: when we were free, when the copse of people was just another place off the steps of a bus, a small point in the great constellation of the universe’s cities. We’re travelers, I told her, not fucking carnies, and she slapped me. She wore so many rings it looked like a tiger had decided to leave me alive. What about the rest of it? I said. She whimpered. Everything’s right here, she said. I snuffed and moved my eyes toward the endless legs and bodies patching dust rings on the boardwalk. The nightly woman with the fake tits and the horrible face roller-skated by. While we watched, she nicked a crack that had been growing in front of our spot since we had stepped into town. We’d never seen her fall before. That night she fell, and her arms instead of extending forward to make it look as if she flew squeezed inward to hold her enormous breasts and she landed with their cushion, forearms and knees to the path. When she rolled over crumpled onto her back her face, too, had been torn by the walked pavement and embedded with small, black stones. Darlene didn’t stand, because we didn’t know her, even though we saw her drifting eight wheels up the crowded boardwalk every night. She had to wait until a tourist saw and leaned down, horrified, and then began to cry. A circle formed in a minute. We didn’t make a dollar the whole rest of the night.