Michelle Greco and
Jenny Cutler Lopez

Michelle Greco
“Explosive Bloom”
Gouache in Sketchbook

My Girl Angel Is As Shallow As Sin
 Jenny Cutler Lopez
Inspiration piece

I meet Angel by the metal payphone outside 7-11. I stroll outside with my breakfast, a giant-sized blueberry Slurpee. It is a sugared flight from the cod I slice and fry and serve and, after my shift ends, the cod I steal from the food court.

Angel is as fragile as a newborn bird shoved from the nest, gulping air on the edge of a busy sidewalk. She clutches the payphone. Tears drip onto her toes. I know just how she feels. Free-falling nausea. But she also seems as vicious as the leashed feral cat at her feet, shoving it with her boot whenever it swipes at her. She looks like her cat: black hair, golden streaks, light eyes narrowed in hatred.

I hang back under the narrow awning to escape the lidless prairie sun. Two months of unrelenting summer heat. Two months of Calgary city buses to turn up for the morning shift to cut up dead elk and deer and pig at the sausage factory. Two months of slicing fish at the food-court for the afternoon and dinner crowd. Two months since I moved into an apartment close to downtown, mouse-ridden until I bought two kittens.  And over a year since I hitchhiked 3000 miles to the prairies with my boyfriend. I still sense relief when I think how many trees and lakes and cities separate me from home on the east coast.

Angel hangs up the phone.

“You ok?” I ask.

“My boyfriend’s an asshole,” she says.

“Yeah, they all are,” I say. I straighten my forearm to show her a bruise. “Wanna cigarette?”


I hand her a John Player Special and a zippo.

The first inhale of the day sears my throat.

At sixteen, Angel is two years younger than me and half the age of her boyfriend.

T.L. is also her pimp.

“He’s on his way up here,” says Angel. “He’s pissed. He had to bail me out last night.”

“Oh.” I exhale.

We discover we both pay cash-only to Trudy: the fat slumlord who cools herself behind a rattling desk fan which spins cigarette smoke and stale sweat around a cramped second-floor-apartment-turned-office a few blocks from the 7-11. Angel and I live in the same neighborhood – and we both live with our boyfriends. We both know of the drunk senior citizen who stumbles around front of the 7-11 slurring shameful comments at teenage girls.

We discover we traveled the same highway. Angel escaped Drumheller, what movie cowboys would label a one-horse town, hidden in Alberta’s Badlands 50 miles northeast of here. The same town I hitchhiked through last year. The endless burnished fields a hypnotic finale to a three thousand mile odyssey.

We share a second cigarette. T.L. saunters around the corner of the 7-11. His legs are too long for his torso, his goatee and eyebrows sun-bleached. He squints when he speaks.

“You owe me money bitch,” he says, not caring who hears.

I wonder if I dare burn him with my cigarette.

“Let me come home and I’ll pay you T.L. I promise.” She twists her arm out of his fingers.

A few days later, I see T.L. and Angel on the city bus, a few seats ahead of my boyfriend and me. The bus strains up the hill when I hear words crack the air like a rodeo whip, “Hey asshole. That’s no way to talk to a woman.”

“Mind your fucking business,” says T.L over his shoulder to the farm-boy in military uniform. I ring the bell for my stop – our stop – and Angel, T.L., the soldier, my boyfriend and I file off the bus.

The soldier strides past Angel and shoves his face right up to T.L. so their noses almost touch. Rising waves of hot asphalt and bus fumes cage us.

I say to Angel, “You wanna come back to my place?”

“No,” she says, her eyes fixed on the soldier. “That asshole better not hurt my boyfriend.”

T.L. slides his leather belt from his waist. He cracks it on the parking lot.

The soldier laughs like he doesn’t care who hears him.


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