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Traffic Lights | John Ginsburg

The Timing Chain | Angela Hamilton

Stupid | Michael McCarthy

The Dullest Star | Sheri McCord

My Love Letter to KISS | Jim Ousley

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Firecracker Press

Caroline Huth

Michael R. Allen, Andrea Avery, Aaron Belz, Jack Biggs, Andrea Day, Piedmont Chris Johnson, Chris King, Jim Klenn, Nina Lägel*, K. Curtis Lyle, Sarah Raischel, April Seager, Mike Steinberg, Kerry Zimmerman

The Timing Chain | by Angela Hamilton

I turn on my hazards, prop up the hood (as my dad had taught me when I turned sixteen), and take off walking down the highway. The rush hour traffic creeps along with me. Only steps away from my truck, I feel a car next to me, an old Chevy. The window rolls down. A man calls to me about a ride.

“Yeah, alright. Thanks,” I say as I slide into the backseat, eager to escape the swirl of car exhaust and summer heat. “A mechanic told me not long ago that my timing chain was about to go.”

The man nods. Two girls accompany him, both under ten years old – the reason I believe it is okay to get in the car. The elder sits next to me, expressionless, not curious about this woman her father has just picked up.

Her father, isn’t that right? I try to scan them for similar features. I cannot see a resemblance in their profiles from the backseat. I admire women (always women) who can tell where certain body parts originated in the family tree. My knobby knees are from the Jackson side. Oh, and my lips, well, those are from Aunt Betty.

“Where you from?” the man asks, trying to catch a look at me in his rearview mirror, but it is positioned low on the girl sitting next to me, so he throws a glance over his shoulder.

“Around here,” I say, trying to be vague but not wanting to offend.

“We’re from Illinois. Headed home.” A pause. “Where should I get off?”

“Bellevue,” I answer, before I have time to think. That was my exit. Should I have told him another? This man is a father. The two girls appear healthy, yet quiet, but that’s how I’d been as a child.

The Midwestern humidity hangs in the air. I scan the dashboard, no air conditioning. The windows are open only a crack at the top, not enough room to stick out your fingers. A sweat starts, slow and deep, tickling under my arms. A storm brews north of us, north of what seems to be a collection of girls the man has chosen out of convenience: one, perhaps, from the local library, another snapped up at the mall, and me, the last one, right off the highway. Impeccable timing. I finger the keys in my pocket, taking one in between my index and middle finger, making a fist. Why had I told him my exit?

I think of my first self defense lesson from my father, a Marine who’d been stationed on Okinawa. He is small like me, 5’5” maybe. I could stretch to 4’11” on a lofty day, one hundred pounds tops. We find other ways to defend ourselves. “Place your thumbs there, close to the bridge of his nose, and push out. His eyes will pop out like grapes. Knee him if you can, but only if he gets too close. Don’t hesitate. He’ll get the best of you.” I was seven when he taught me this.

“Which way do I turn?” the man looks around as we drive up the exit ramp.

“You can let me out here.”

“No, it’s no problem. I don’t want to leave you right by the highway.”

“Okay,” I say, trying to sound even-voiced. “Turn left. Then turn right at the stop sign.” My mom always tells me I am a bad liar.

The man drives through the streets of Richmond Heights.

“Here I am,” I say, the car’s brakes protesting the stop. No one out on the sidewalk, no cars, no buses.
“Bye, then. And thank you very much.”

The man looks somewhere behind me, then at my face. “You’re welcome.” The car sits. Then, I hear the crunch of slow-rolling wheels, no gas. Suddenly, it pulls away. I want to run, straight for the strange house where he’s deposited me, but the backseat girl looks out the window to see where I go. I wave to buy some time. We watch each other, only distance dulling the intensity of our exchange. That’s a father, driving his daughters away. I fake an entrance to the backyard of the house. She was watching, wasn’t she? No signals, no gestures, just that blank expression, almost lifeless, like something had been taken away from her. Once around the corner, I tear through the alley, gunning for my fire escape. I’d like to say this was the first time I’d ever run for my life.


Angela Hamilton Angela Hamilton is an Assistant Professor of English at St. Louis Community College at Meramec. She received an MFA from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Her work is forthcoming in Peculiar Pilgrims (Hourglass Books) and has appeared in various places, including Natural Bridge, Opium Magazine, Travelers’ Tales and Ghoti Magazine. Currently, she is living in Istanbul, Turkey, teaching at Faith University on a faculty exchange. .