The Killing Blow
Vicky did karate. Vicky did taekwondo. At thirteen, we made her president because she had a plan. For cancer, for the mission, every Friday, barefoot Vickey blew up apples perched on the lips of her boyfriend while his hands hung dead at his side. She started calling herself Vickey Rae and wearing eggplant lipstick.
Over the intercom, at the varsity meets. Vickey Rae. Vichy Vich. Her thighs broke boyish ribs at the County Invitational. Skull on skull, the skin of her forehead cracked and bled from the scratch of the harness and the jaw hairs of her rivals while she bore them into the mat with the authority of her neck. Bulldogging. She wore the medal to school.
Then it was August. Vickey said, I forgot the most important thing. She did karate at the job fair and missed the kick. She grew distant. She left her boyfriend at the blood drive. She was seen to cry. Vickey like a viceroy, in kindergarten I kissed her hand. Vickey, it’s fine. She was only afraid to die.
End of summer carnival, in the donkey’s tent, I made my play. I closed my arms around Vicky’s shoulders. She laid her head against my cheek. She was crying, and it embarrassed me. I slipped the apple from my pocket and held the stem with my teeth. I made my lips a pedestal. Vicky said, I could have been anything. I waggled my hips and the apple bobbed. I hoped she’d get on with the thing.
Stephen Hundley is the author of The Aliens Will Come to Georgia First (University of North Georgia Press, 2023) and Bomb Island (Hub City Press, 2024). His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Carve, Cream City Review, The Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. He holds an MA from Clemson, an MFA from the University of Mississippi, and is currently completing a PhD in English at Florida State University.