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Semblance by David Mohan


Beatrice is walking—no reason except the cops have moved her twice.
     
The sirens are in remission. Now is the hour of fire hydrants opening—of street geysers. The world—drunks, whores, sidewalk passengers—seems to be taken with a thirst. People are drinking—impromptu fountains are opened by the cleaning trucks. The garbage is swept, sprayed, whirled out of sight.
     
Beatrice stops outside a department store, its windows still lit. It’s cold—she shuffles on the spot. She won’t sit.  She’s proud that way—they won’t let her sit, she won’t sit. Not even if they begged her. She can learn to sleep standing instead. She turns to face the window scene.
     
They are taking the spring sale displays apart on the inside—everything is up for grabs, everything is broken up.
     
She admires the chaos of it—all the dummies are nude this season. Their bodies are smooth— their faces nonchalant as though they don’t notice they are undressed. She admires how neat they’ve cut the plastic of their hair. Their crotches are hairless, unbroken. She wonders what that must be like—these girls are edits, neuters, virgins.
     
One seems to look straight at her—a provocation.  It’s rude to stare, her mother used to say. That was a long time ago. They don’t seem to mind, these dummies. They’re looking out, disdainful, like visitors at a zoo.  Beatrice won’t let it hurt her. What do they know about being alive, anyhow?  They are all armless, decapitated.
     
Next week this store will be selling pinks. The models will live in a garden of cellophane. She poses for a moment with the cape of her sleeping bag slung over her shoulders.
     
Until then Beatrice is their queen, dressed in her body-suit of neon, weather, the night.
     
     
———————
David Mohan has work forthcoming or has been published in Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, Opium, SmokeLong Quarterly, FRiGG, Contrary, elimae, decomP, NANO and The Chattahoochee Review. He has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.