Hang a Crooked Star (excerpt)

By: Brooke Shippee

I awoke from the dream, still somewhat fatigued and ravenously hungry. The wheels beneath me stammered over the open road, bumping along like Morse code in tune to the music of the teenager seated beside me. She rolled her head in rhythm to the music and I wondered if she was aware that her shoes were incoherently tapping to match the heavy bass screaming from her disc player.

 The teenager beside me stirred suddenly and pulled out a plastic baggie from her pocket. Her black fingernails flicked back the opening and she pulled out three Christmas cookies. The girl crammed half a reindeer in her mouth, crumbs sticking to the black lipstick that outlined her thin lips. Satisfied, she executed Santa with her sharpened teeth and mumbled to me, bits of St. Nick’s face flying from her mouth and landing on my arm.

She offered me the last cookie, a yellow star adorned with a thick frosting layer. It was broken in half, which I assumed to be the consequences of such a long journey. She tossed the cookie into my lap and I noticed the gold frosting was cracked as if it, too, had been traveling for a long while.

I sat there for the longest time, contemplating whether or not I should eat it. Was it safe? What if it was a rogue cookie; a poisoned cake cleverly disguised as a seemingly ordinary holiday treat. Tempted, I brought one edge to my lips and caught the fragrance of something I hadn’t smelled in a long time. Home.