The Most Vulnerable Brains – Cory Popp


            Luanne has spent ages saving stray cats from untimely demises. From cold dark city alleyways, to country trees stalked by canines, to psychotic neighbors with diapered children branding kittens with hot coals. She can eerily and accurately mimic the meows of the two-dozen cats that hang amongst the hay filled boxes that line her front porch like a kind of makeshift feline resort. One morning at brunch she shows off the uncanny talent to her son’s new girlfriend, much to his chagrin. She has no idea that he will spend the rest of the day, and the many days following, trying to convince his love that she should still marry into his family.


            Taking the last step up the ladder, Derek pulls himself onto the platform that lines the edge of the giant billboard proudly advertising, “The loosest one dollar slots in Indiana.” He looks far below at a group of his friends staring back up, holding their collective breath as they closely watch his every move. He pulls spray paint from his pocket and slowly makes his way five words down where he blacks out the apex of the o, transforming it into a u. His friends below begin laughing maniacally. They clap and cheer, some falling over from the fit of laughter. He steps back to the edge of the platform, scans the billboard, smiles the biggest smile of his twenty year old life and takes in, what he believes to be, his greatest accomplishment.

 Hackneyed Black Eye

            The kids are asleep upstairs when he shows up at the front door, eyes like the purple pillows on their beds, bleeding from his lip.  When she lets him in, she doesn’t even ask why. She knows where his girlfriend lives. The kind of place where, if someone were kicked out of a car and left stranded there, they’d come home with a fucked up face.