KIND OF REGAL

FIRST APPEARED IN REFLEX FICTION
15 June 2021

The only place for her to sit was on a freestanding lawn chair in the back of his dented car. Moncef broke a sweat trying to secure it with the help of three ropes, a broken seat belt and the two Mohammeds from reception. This wasn’t what she had in mind when he offered to take her up to Tunis, but when she crawled in, feeling all eyes on her rear, she had to admit it was kind of regal.

On the highway, they chugged up the right lane with the windows open. Moncef caught her eye in the rearview and shouted over the honks of passing trucks. “They think they’re gazelles now, but when we’re all sitting in the same traffic, who will be the gazelle then?”

She leaned further back, straining to catch a shock of sea between the dirty buildings. Moncef jerked the radio dial back and forth, rolling over sparks of static and something like language. On the third pass, he locked into a song and blasted the volume.

“Tell me you don’t know this song!”

“I don’t know this song!” she yelled back, wary of the slurred, alien scale.

“You don’t know Fairuz?” The chair lurched as he hit the brakes. “Maybe your ex was right.”

She rolled her eyes while he cackled over the drone of slowing engines. She tried to hear the music, but the plaintive voice slipped through the tinny speakers and out into the haze.

“Fairuz is a legend – a queen, really. And she was the favorite of my one true love.”

“You were married?”

“By some standards, yes,” he said, grinding the gears. “She was bright and relatively quick on the uptake, like you. But she knew Fairuz.”

*

This piece will also appear in the Reflex Fiction Volume Five anthology, scheduled for publication in 2022.