Glacier Freeze

K.J. Nakazawa-Kern

Grace told her little brother to chew her gum for good luck. She stuck the wad of it on the corner of the desk in their room and he said, Yeah right. The desk was the kind with the chair attached and a basket underneath. Their mom had snagged it at her job as a crossing guard and lunch aide. Almost nothing in the world pissed Grace off more than having this artifact of school three feet from her head while she slept.

Grace slid the window open, kicked her legs through, and landed on the other side—sneakers crunching the rocks. She looked at her brother back in the room and made a throat slitting motion. She tried to wave and smile at him after, but he was already looking down with his PSP glowing on his face.

It was dark out, and hot. The light pole that had always been in the exact center of their backyard did its flickering. Sometimes she wondered if the ancient peoples got freaked out when it was over ninety degrees and they couldn’t see shit but the stars.

She jumped the backyard wall, weaved through the trash cans in the alley, and was out on the sidewalk. Westbound on Glendale Ave, headed toward the Walgreens for a bag of Hot Cheetos and a light blue Gatorade. At a stoplight, a pickup with a wheelchair crane in the bed bumped a song she was more used to hearing in ringtone form.

Grace entered the Walgreens, its harsh light and conditioned air. The employee welcomed her. She remembered being little and asking her mom why they were so nice when you came into a store. They aren’t really being nice, she told her. They’re trained to greet you so you don’t try to steal. Grace wasn’t going to anyway. She had five bucks from walking the neighbor’s two ugly dogs.

She opened the Gatorade fridge to reach for the light blue when someone spoke to her. She looked to her right, through the glass of the open fridge door, and did not instantly recognize her biological father. My daughter drinks like an athlete, is what she thinks he said. He had a chicken-fried steak Hungry Man that looked cold on his fingertips. She told him he should eat real food as she closed the fridge and walked to the register. He called after her about what did he do wrong and why was she angry.

She walked home. Decided she’d share the chips with her brother. Pay him a little attention for once, and not because she was making him do something dumb. He’d like that. There’s a lot that neither of them know right now. They don’t yet need to. When she climbs over the wall with her bag of snacks and taps on the window, he will be there to slide it open, let her back in.

K.J. Nakazawa-Kern lives in Phoenix, AZ. He received his MFA in Fiction at the University of Montana. His fiction has appeared in The Cincinnati Review, The Montana Quarterly, and The Southampton Review Online.