1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. The water and sugar weren’t enough to inflate the adipose cells around the ten naked boughs surrounding the ticking time bomb in her chest. 11, 12. Both were floating at the beginning of the curvature of her back. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Squares outlined with blank cartridges and numbered with gun powder. She hopped to hopscotch rhymes she hummed with the uncertainty of tomorrow. Her gaunt fingers, like a soldier’s meaty ones, grasped a sun-baked stone, like a cold rifle, tightly. Her arm wheeled backwards, the way she sometimes wished time would. It fell onto number 1. Then, onto 9. Then, onto 4. And then, occupied 8. The plastic soles of her slippers could never touch those squares again.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. No need for any more sugar mixtures. The hot energy was a liquid that seeped through her clothes, soaked her cells with toxicity, knotted her nasal hairs with nostalgia, burned the bare branches in her chest, and displaced all 750,000 limbs that now take refuge choked between repellant slabs of stone. The ticking of the time bomb had stopped, yet the stones somehow kept falling on the hopscotch’s squares rimmed with now loaded cartridges.
Now, her plastic soles can’t touch any square again.