Jolene, Jolene by Kathryn Kulpa

Jolene, Jolene

After William Carlos Williams

The pure products of America go crazy, and this girl is as pure as they come, pure as 150-proof corn liquor strained through copper coil deep in pine-shaded hollers that were moonshine country once but they’re meth land now, and how many missing fingers, how many missing teeth, violent explosions or slow erosion. Somewhere in this country there’s a magic cave where all the lost body parts wait to be reunited with their owners, but this girl, this Jolene, she’s all there, all the original parts. This girl is Viking queen, Highland warrior, skin like icy buttermilk and hair like October leaves and a deadeye shot that can drill you at 50 feet. This girl can hit hard and run fast but once she didn’t run fast enough from the man her mama let into their house. You have options, the school counselor said, but the options were boyfriend’s house and baby bills and night job at the warehouse, she’s a picker and a packer, her arms are sinew and blue veins and she is fierce and she is dreaming, waiting; she is saving, every paycheck one more drop in the bucket of someday. This is her country, where the turkeys pick through the fast-food parking lot looking for butts of French fries and the people come to that same parking lot after hours looking for those same turkeys, but she’s looking for more. Her mama babysits. She’s done with that man now, her mama says, only it turns out not to be true and when Jolene finds out she makes it true. Her mama’s done with him for good now, Jolene can tell herself that, and she’s not sorry. She’s sorry for lots of things but not his worthless ass, and she wishes she could still think of someday but it’s gone so far away, that old wooden bucket’s bone dry, and all she can think of now, as she kneels in front of the CO, is the cigarette he’s going to give her after, he promised he would, and how much she needs it, to take the taste away.


Jolene, Jolene


Kathryn Kulpa is believed to be indigenous to Rhode Island, although her true origins and purpose are shrouded in mystery. She was a winner of the Vella Chapbook Contest for her flash collection Girls on Film, published by Paper Nautilus, and recently won the 101 Words monthly flash fiction contest for her microfiction “Potato Eyes”. Other stories may be found in Monkeybicycle, Smokelong Quarterly, and Thrice Fiction.


(Next “Kill People” story: Pack Mentality by Jan Elman Stout)

(Previous “Kill People” story: Maude’s Cards and Humanity by Jennifer Fliss)

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