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Red Ink

Tommy Dean

She showed him how to crush Smarties and snort them. The sugar made his nose bleed. She wiped it away from his lips with her bare hands. She wiped it on the paint-peeling bench seat of the picnic tables under the park pavilion. Both fourteen, but she was the one with the wicked imagination, the skin pulsing with Bath and Body Works lotion that made him follow her every day after school. She let him kiss her once, his hand shaking on her chin, her hair tickling the inside of his ear. Any more and you’ll become obsessive. She drew matching stars on their wrists with red Sharpie. Blew across the ink and ran from him, up the tornado slide, screaming, Fuck the World, until the street lights came on. Years later, when he’d found out about her OD, his phone buzzing with the usual banal notifications, he left work. He stopped at a gas station and bought a bag of Smarties. The sugar tart on his tongue as he stopped at the first tattoo parlor in the city. Far from home, his wife and daughter in another time zone, their voices tinny through the cell phone speakers. In the chair, he held out his wrist, asked for red ink, welcomed the blood. At home, his wife finds the star, traces it with her finger, her smell different, alluring, and when she asks if it was for her, this marking, he says, Of course, and snorts the lie, his sleep fitful for the rest of his nights.

Tommy Dean is the author of two flash fiction chapbooks and a full flash collection, Hollows (Alternating Current Press, 2022). He lives in Indiana, where he currently is the Editor at Fractured Lit and Uncharted Magazine. A recipient of the 2019 Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction, his writing can be found in Best Microfiction 2019, 2020, and 2023, Best Small Fictions 2019 and 2022, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere.  Find him at and on Twitter @TommyDeanWriter.

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