Loretta Lovelust lived in a turquoise and white trailer with her husband, Vladimir, who sat at the kitchen table, eating a bologna and Cheez Whiz sandwich. Loretta stood on the front doorstep, watching Zelda and Poindexter, the pink flamingos in her front yard. Something about them didn’t look right. They were . . . pale. Maybe it was the way the sunlight hit them. Or maybe it was the fact that the milk on her Froot Loops this morning was five days out of date. Vladimir mumbled something incomprehensible.
“I don’t know about that, honey,” Loretta replied, leaning against the doorframe. “I think maybe they’re in heat.” She rubbed her dimpled chin, pursing her apple red lips. A warm, muggy breeze swept by, whipping the skirt of her floral dress and causing the flamingos to sway. Vladimir let out a long, deep groan.
“You could be right. Maybe it was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Ever since I told them we worship Ba’al, they’ve been awfully cold.” She closed the rickety screen door and shrugged the thought away. “I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m sure Zelda and Poindexter are fine.” She assembled a bologna and Cheez Whiz sandwich for herself, smiling as she slathered a slice of snowy white Wonder Bread with sticky Cheez Whiz. “You know what we should do? We should take Zelda and Poindexter on a vacation. Maybe to the Grand Canyon—or Vegas! They could finally get married. I know they’ve been dying to finally make it official.”
Vladimir gave an affirmative grunt.
“That’s it, schnookums, we’re goin’ to Vegas! Just let me finish my sandwich.” She laid two slabs of bologna on the Cheez Whiz-smeared bread, then topped it off with another Cheez Whiz-drenched slice. She sunk her teeth into the sandwich, wiggling with delight in her creaking chair. “Oh, they’ll be so thrilled to finally go on their honeymoon!”
Two bites into her sandwich, Loretta heard a shriek in the front yard.
“Oh, what is it now?” She set the sandwich down and opened the screen door. It was the flamingos. They were even worse than before. Poindexter looked like he was going to lose his cookies, if plastic lawn flamingos even had cookies to lose.
“Zelda! Poindexter!” She waddled toward the weather-beaten plastic birds. “Guess what! We’re going to Vegas, and you two can finally tie the knot! Isn’t that exciting?”
Zelda and Poindexter stared blankly at Loretta with their black painted eyes.
“Just let me finish my lunch, then Vlad and I will take you on a wonderful trip!”
Loretta shuffled indoors and picked up where she left off on the sandwich. Vladimir smiled. The black and white television on the kitchen counter was on Divorce Court.
“I don’t know how you watch that, Vlad! It’s so depressing!” She changed channels until she found America’s Most Wanted. “There, isn’t that better, baby?”
There was a knock on the door.
“I’m never going to finish my lunch!” Loretta answered the door to find a shapely blonde woman in a skintight pencil skirt and halter top. “Can I help you?”
The woman looked upset, if her lipsticked pout was any indication of her mood.
“Lady, I think there’s something wrong with your flamingos.”
Loretta poked her head out the door and saw, to her horror, that Zelda and Poindexter had been uprooted and were laying on their sides, their painted eyes now black X’s.
“Poindexter! Zelda!” She ran to the dead birds, stroking their hollow plastic heads. “My darlings! I knew we should’ve got to Vegas sooner!” She threw herself on the ground, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “They were young! So young! They had so much to live for!” After several minutes of mourning, Loretta returned to the trailer. The blonde still stood by the door. “Would you like a sandwich, my dear?”
The woman shrugged.
“Sure.” She followed Loretta inside. “Sorry about your birds. That’s pretty gruesome.”
“I know, I know. It’s tragic!” She introduced Vladimir to the young lady, whose name turned out to be Vicki-Lynn. Loretta made Vicki-Lynn a sandwich and the three of them sat around the table and watched America’s Most Wanted.
“You like Vegas?” Loretta asked.
“Sure,” Vicki-Lynn replied, wiping Cheez Whiz off her lips.
“Good. We’ll go as soon as I finish this sandwich. No need to let a tragedy put a damper on our vacation.”
“This sandwich is wonderful,” Vicki-Lynn said.
“Thanks! I came up with the recipe myself!” Loretta grabbed a couple of Tab sodas from the fridge for Vicki-Lynn and herself. “Are you from around here, dear?”
“No, I’m from North Dakota.”
“Oh, what’s in North Dakota?” Loretta was three bites from finishing her sandwich.
Vicki-Lynn’s answer was interrupted by several of Vladimir’s indiscernible grunts.
“Vlad, don’t interrupt the nice lady!”
Vladimir persisted, grumbling with a genuine sense of urgency.
“Vlad! Don’t interrupt!”
He pointed to the TV. Loretta looked up from her sandwich. John Walsh was introducing a new criminal.
“Oh, you don’t wanna watch that,” Vicki-Lynn said. She reached for the television dial.
“Hold on a minute, Vicki-Lynn.” A mugshot of a pouty redhead appeared on the screen. She looked familiar. Loretta scratched her chin like she always did when she was deep in thought. The turned up nose, the full lips, those piercing hazel eyes, the thin, cockeyed eyebrows. “Vicki-Lynn, that woman on the TV looks like she could be your sister—”
Vladimir groaned in despair. Loretta looked at the TV more closely.
“Vicki-Lynn,” Loretta said. “I think that might be you! Is that you?”
Vicki-Lynn dabbed her lips with a paper towel and stood up.
“It’s not what you think,” she said. “I used to be bad, but I’ve changed. I promise! I broke out of prison. All I need is a place to stay for a while . . . really.”
“You killed Poindexter and Zelda didn’t you?” Loretta hissed. “I should’ve known I was looking into the eyes of a cold-blooded killer! You killed my sweet, sweet babies!”
Vladimir grunted in enthusiastic agreement.
“No, it wasn’t me . . . it was someone else! I didn’t see their faces, but I saw people . . . they did something to them, then they ran off!” Vicki-Lynn’s hazel eyes looked into Loretta’s pleadingly.
“A likely story.” A rage unseen before or since flared in Loretta’s blue eyes. “Vlad, tell our friend Vicki-Lynn where flamingo killers go!”
Vladimir grumbled loudly, stabbing a pointed finger into the air.
“That’s right, baby! You get to go where all my poor, deceased lawn creatures go . . . the hall closet!” Loretta shoved Vicki-Lynn down the wood-paneled hallway to a locked door. Vicki-Lynn tried to escape, but Loretta was too large for the petite convict to contend with. Loretta yanked the closet open. Inside lay a jumble of lawn creatures—garden gnomes, plastic flamingos, a Virgin Mary statue, and a few lawn jockeys, all with black X’s for eyes. “Take it all in! Let the guilt consume you!” Loretta locked Vicki-Lynn in the closet and returned to the kitchen. Vlad had nodded off in his chair.
“Oh, Vlad, I knew I should’ve got some nice Chia Pets instead!” Loretta wailed. “Their natural habitat is indoors, where I can watch them, take care of them, protect them!” She wept on Vlad’s shoulder while the closet door rattled and Vicki-Lynn’s screams filled the trailer. “Zelda and Poindexter were special! How am I supposed to go on without them?”
Vlad shrugged. Before Loretta had time to mourn any further, Vlad began mumbling and pointing at the kitchen window.
“Vlad, what are you . . .” Before she could finish her sentence, Loretta saw exactly what Vlad was mumbling about. Jehovah’s Witnesses!
She rose and marched out the front door. A group of three Jehovah’s Witnesses, all in short-sleeved white dress shirts and ties, Watchtowers in hand, stood on her lawn, arms crossed, brows furrowed.
“I thought I told you boys, Vlad and I worship Ba’al!”
“We have sacrificed your flamingos in the name of our Lord Jesus in hopes that the grief will bring you to Christ! God have mercy on your soul!”
Loretta leapt at the Jehovah’s Witnesses, her hefty figure soaring through the air at an alarming velocity. She collided with all three young men at once, pinning them to the ground beneath her girth.
“Murderers! You killed my babies! My sweet, sweet babies!” While Loretta maimed the Jehovah’s Witnesses, something occurred to her. “Vicki-Lynn!” She hobbled to her feet and bolted back into the trailer. Inside, Vladimir stood before the closet, door open, shaking his head. Vicki-Lynn lay huddle on the floor of the closet, black X’s where her eyes once were. Vlad and Loretta exchanged uncomfortable looks. Loretta could hear the three men’s footsteps pounding toward the front door.
“Pack your bags, schnookums. We’re goin’ to Vegas a little earlier than expected.” She paused to reflect, feeling a touch ill, then looked longingly at her unfinished sandwich. “Permanently.”
Stephanie Scarborough’s work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, The Harrow, M-Brane SF, and Shallow Graves Magazine and is a staff writer for VegFortWorth.com. She lives in Texas with her husband and two cats.