about the author

Chris Murphy has had work published in Gulf Coast, This Land, The Jellyfish Review, and Five Quarterly, among others. He received his MFA from the University of Arkansas and is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK.

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Your Burning Hair 

Chris Murphy

The front window of the pub blew out and I was swept off my feet. Whistling glass took the tip of my ear and the back of my hand. A little god, the bomb cupped me off of the ground, popping windshields in succession down the block, people flying like teeth from a struck mouth.

On the ground I lost skin to the pavement. That was my contribution. Glass melted into discs caught the raining cinder. You lay across from me, probably dead. Your blue-yellow makeup was clotted with blood and your dreadlocks smoldered. Your pair of brown eyes was waiting for me when I looked over. You winked.

Industrious types rushed here and there collecting parts to stick back on or plunging into the enflamed pub for the not-quite-dead. I watched your eyes, your burning hair, until ambulances picked us up. Also, I lost some toes.

They bombed two cafes—one frequented by journalists and one by boutique foodsmiths—a Foot Locker, a Subway, and two pubs—one frequented by politicos and one by white-collar professionals employed on a temporary basis without benefit. Twenty-seven people were killed.

I was released under my own recognizance, having agreed not to explode things or be exploded. A few blocks over was the great sneeze of a bomb, then the screams of people and the machines that attended to them. It was impossible to tell at this distance who was celebrating, groups asserting themselves, ideas taking to the air.

First it was the Tamil Tigers. Or it was Sinn Fein. But definitely next came the United Automobile Workers, Shining Path, the Free Holiness Church, the Foxconn Underground, the Homs Martyrdom Brigade, the Trayvonites. They all wore each other’s masks during broadcasts making demands or taking credit. Some hated each other. Some allied with the city, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, Men’s Rights Bronies, the Coalition of Derivatives Analysts, the Minutemen. Everyone joined at some point, how could you not? You didn’t know who owned the neighborhoods on the commute home, which colors meant what. Everyone felt the lash.

A message board sprang up by the pub’s blown out front window. A white scrap of paper with a burst of eye shadow, yellow turning to metallic blue with charming streaks of blood at the edges said


I wrote

-hello brown eyes


HOW R U?!?

-i hook my canes on the bathroom stall to pee.

-[Picture of you laughing. You have endearing yellowish teeth]

- ☺

I lost my job. Who wants to work with a man without all his toes? It was enough to turn you off your free lunch. No, I had to go.


-i’m so sorry



- I’ll temp for you. I have furry sweaters.

- ☺


You worked mostly in states of undress. At the start I paid for your time. You had a tattoo of Pinocchio becoming a real boy on your neck. People called you ‘Pin.’ I called you by your last name, Jennifer. You said no one ever called you that. You were endeared by the remainder of my toes.

By the streetlight through the window I couldn’t afford we ate Chinese food we couldn’t afford on newspaper on the floor in our underwear. We know why we laughed. Who else needs to? We hold on to those things still, stubs, an extra set of chopsticks, a dreadlock melted at one end like a shoelace. There is a point where this will curdle and the good will puddle at the bottom and what’s left will smell foul, but not yet, not yet. It doesn’t matter. Maybe never.

Outside the bombs continued. Who could say if they would stop? Not us. We saved a dog from the pound and never talked politics.

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