RACKET

         Somewhere, an old woman was screaming at the pendejos in the parking lot to turn that racket off, the cilia in her ancient lungs straining to suck in enough oxygen to keep her red blood cells fat and happy.
         Somewhere, the girl thought, someone might give a damn about the noise. Someone, maybe, but not her. Not anymore. She could give a flying fuck what the pinche cabró n’s music sounded like.
         Now.
         She pulled the cool blue metal of the headphones over her ears. Her headphones. The deluxe, high fidelity, fuck-the-rest-of-the-world, I-am-in-my-own-universe headphones that had cost her a week’s pay. A week of cleaning motel toilets, getting down on her hands and knees to pick the pubic hair off the tiles and the used condoms out from under the bed.
         But it was worth it. Worth it to not to have to listen to her bitch-on-wheels boss droning on about how you couldn’t find good help anymore these days. Worth it to not hear the kissing, humping sounds from those hijos de puta hanging around Room 102.
         Fuck it, she thought. Just fuck all of it. She was clean now. Clean and sober a hundred days and on her way out of here. Nevermind what the statistics said. There were lies, damn lies, and then there were statistics, like the man said.
         Non, je ne regrette rien.
         She tightened her headphones, turned up the volume, and Édith Piaf sang on.

DC-based, “Tex-pat” writer Elizabeth Bruce’s novel,  And Silent Left the Place, won WWPH’s Fiction Prize (distinctions: ForeWord Magazine/Texas Institute of Letters). Her collection, “Universally Adored and Other One Dollar Stories,” is forthcoming from Vine Leaves Press. She’s published fiction in the USA and ten other countries, and studied with Richard Bausch, John McNally, the late Lee K. Abbott, Janet Peery, and Liam Callanan. She’s received fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation; her new initiative, “Creativists in Dialogue: A Podcast Embracing the Creative Life,” launches at creativists.substack.com. For more info, visit elizabethbrucedc.com.