City Streak by John Wentworth Chapin

Darlene’s dad had sent her down here from the county to keep her from the drugs and the pregnancies that had trapped her older sisters. She missed him, but there wasn’t really a place for her there anymore, and that was okay. She liked thinking of herself as the One Who Got Away.

When school was about to let out for the summer, she needed to find a reason to stay in the city, so she got a job around the corner sweeping hair at the little crummy salon that churned out little fat women with pinked curly hair. They had daughters they fought with and daughters-in-law they fought with worse. Darlene listened carefully; clearly, unless she figured out things for herself, she was in trouble no matter whether she was out beyond the bus line with her father or here in the city. The old women were miserable, and the young women were miserable. They all nestled up against convention and obligation, and it beat them down.

As far as she could figure, the only way not to be one of them was to be something else. She played with the coloring chemicals at the salon after hours; weird hair was enough to keep immediate trouble at bay for the short term. Keeping the world at arm’s reach over the long term was going to take more than some colored streaks and unconventional cuts.

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12 Comments

Filed under John Wentworth Chapin

12 responses to “City Streak by John Wentworth Chapin

  1. “They all nestled up against convention and obligation, and it beat them down.”
    Nicely done! Psychologically insightful. Thanks!

  2. This was utterly lovely. Well played.

  3. I love the choices, the problems, the journeys around them. Well done, John.

  4. This seems somehow familiar the way you have drawn the characters, infinitely magical and yet so real. Just like life. Great job, John! Damn, the editor can write, too! So talented.

  5. Oh this is fun and sad and real … trying to keep your head above water or not succumb to the crowd and doing so through a tiny stab o independent thought, expressed in hair colour.
    “weird hair was enough to keep immediate trouble at bay for the short term. Keeping the world at arm’s reach over the long term was going to take more than some colored streaks and unconventional cuts”
    Haven’t we all been – and some of still are – there?

  6. Thanks so much, folks! I really appreciate it; this is one of those pieces I was on the fence about, and it is delightful to hear the positive response.

  7. Kim Hutchinson

    A deceptively perceptive story. Love the insight into this character.

  8. Kelly Grotke

    good luck to her, and nicely drawn portrait of individuation

  9. You do girl good, John. You got the insecurity and yearning down just right. Peace…

  10. Al McDermid

    Another one of the real winners this week. She sees herself as ‘the one that got away’ and yet understands, it is not enough. Great short-term solution, though.

  11. Pingback: Week # 30 – Urban convert | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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