The Bird and its Cage This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Stacy looked at her lover, and saw how the day had gone in the casino. “Rough day?” She asked him. He grunted and trudged into the bathroom, ignoring her question. She sighed and poured herself a glass of whiskey. She wondered why she bothered with him.

“Stacy,” he called. Her heart silently fluttered against her will, and walked over to the bathroom. Something about his voice made her forget her worries. “Yes love?” He opened the door and stared at her, his eyes vacant. A second of awkward silence, then he closed the bathroom door.
She laughed at herself. “I’m going to church then.”

“Bring back some Newport 100s and Bacardi 151,” he hollered over steam and rushing water.

“Okay.” She closed the door behind her. Wanting to disappear, she felt herself dissolve into air.

It was quiet in the church, maybe one or two people in the pews. “Father,” she silently called.
“Over here.” She went around the back to the praying room. He was on his knees praying to a miniature alter.

“Good morning Father.” She kneeled beside him.

“Good morning Stacy, what brings you here at such an early hour?” He adjusted his glasses.

“Oh… you know, I was passing by…”
He knew she was lying through her teeth. So Father Daniel put his hands on her shoulder, and smiled. He bowed her head and began to send a prayer to God. She could feel a slight coolness as the Holy Water was sprinkled on her. To her, this was her salvation.


Father Daniel began to make Green Tea as Stacy prayed to Virgin Mary. “So Stacy, you come here every Sunday and Wednesday. You help out with every fundraiser and Church fair… tell me, why is it you breathe God so deeply?”

Stacy thought about it long and hard. Flash backs of her mother popped into her head. A frown chiseled itself onto her face.

“When I was younger, I didn’t have a dad. My mom liked the taste of alcohol and heroin more than anything in the world… except one thing. God. And you know, I never understood why, because it seemed like irony to me. Someone so in love with God was in love with the complete opposite too.

But, she decided that she couldn’t be in love with two things. So she brought me to church three times a weak and made me pray daily. She made me confess any little sin I had ever done and washed my mouth with soap and holy water.”

She hadn’t noticed how much she had talked until she was all out of breath. Father looked at her and with a solemn face and nodded. He handed her the tea and placed his big, stern hand gently on her hand. “It’s okay,” he said. He was the only man she believed when they say ‘it’s okay.’


“W****, did you get me my bogies and booze?”

“Well hello there too, how was your shower? My time at the church was great, thanks for asking.” Sarcastically, she put down the bag.

He grabbed the bag and took it to the room. She rolled her eyes. “You have to go to work,” he said. She sighed and mumbled, “It’s not like you will.”

“What,” he asked; anger tinted his voice.
“Nothing, I, I, didn’t say anything,” she stuttered.

Matco pushed her up against the wall, holding his forearm against her neck. “Got something to say to me b****?” Stacy tried to speak but she could feel her throat constrict and salvia build up in her mouth. Whimpering she shook her head. She became light headed against his tight grip. Seconds later he let go; her body went limp against the wall. Stacy slid down, silent tears streaming down her face. Moments passed before she pushed herself off from the floor and went to go get her uniform on.


Stacy dealt the cards in her possession and watched men play poker. How she detested poker with every fiber in her. “Hey sweet stuff,” someone called. Stacy turned around to meet familiar hazel eyes. “Hey Dan,” she grunted quietly.

“Hey dealer, get me something drink,” one man with a heavy Texas accent commanded. She looked towards Dan, “Cocktails,” she mouthed. Dan grinned at her. “Yes ma’am.”

Nearly thirty minutes passed and the game was over and about to start again. One player left while the other three remained. “Seat open, box 2,” she announced to the loud, crowded casino. Stacy looked around and saw a familiar man coming towards her; she smiled, offering him a seat. “Willing to play good sir?” The man stared at her with knowing eyes, not moving. Stacy could feel herself get antsy. “Sir,” she asked with a worried tone. He sat down with out an answer.

“Okay,” she said to herself quietly. She washed the deck and squared off the cards. She took hold of the deck diligently and shuffled it low to the table. It was known all over Las Vegas, that Stacy Proud was proud of being one of the best Dealers around.


It was nearly Three-thirty in the morning and finally her shift was over. She clocked out, tired and alone she walked outside of the Casino. “Hey, how’d you do in tips?” Dan synced his steps with Stacy.
She smiled, “Passed Ben my good sir, you?”

“Damn mama, why you be making so much money!” Stacy laughed, what she felt was a long, revitalizing laugh. She didn’t find how he said it funny; she didn’t actually think any of it was funny. She was laughing because no matter how much money she earned, she would never leave this hell. No, she’d never be able to go to Missouri.

Stacy had been so deep into thought that she hadn’t noticed Dan calling her name. “Lace,” he shouted into her ear. Stacy was shaken into reality, drifting away from her sweet dream of Missouri and Molasses cookies. “You okay?” He asked one more time. Stacy forced a smile and nodded.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because you’re awfully quiet for making that much money.”

“I’m just tired,” she said with a yawn, trying to make it as convincing as possible.

He just stared at her. “I have an idea… my apartment is right here, how bout you stay the night if you’re that tired. Or wait till its light out, it’s dangerous to walk alone at this time of night.”
Stacy giggled. “Aw you’re worried about me, thanks but, I got to go and I bet you snore when you sleep so I wouldn’t get much sleep anyways!”

Dan still looked at her, worry written all over his face. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” she promised. He shook his head.
“I don’t have a good feeling right now, please stay,” he begged. Stacy didn’t understand what he was saying. She gave him a kiss on the cheek, and left.


She was only half way home when she began wishing she had stayed the night at Dan’s. She tried to ignore the feeling rooted deep inside her stomach. Something bad was happening or would, she thought. Swap she heard, somewhere from her side. Gasp, swap, gasp. Her heart raced.

She looked in all directions until her eyes fell upon an alley, a few steps away. Everything inside her screamed not to go near it, but her feet seemed to move on their own. She peeked her head around the rough brick wall.
All the air in her body left her and she could feel herself about to faint. She didn’t want to believe, that the love of her life was standing a few feet away, doing something unimaginable. He was making love to another woman as his pawn, Jacko, sliced a knife through someone’s neck.

Stacy could feel her body move into full view, gaping at the scene. “Boss look!” Their heads twisted towards her. Jacko rushed at some unwelcomed guest and it took Stacy a few seconds to realize, she was the unwelcomed guest. It was too late though; he grabbed her and pulled her into the ally, with out a scream pulled from her. Jacko threw her against the wall so hard she felt herself break into two. She realized, as her world went black, God was never able to save her.

Stacy had seen the whole thing, but yet she still couldn’t believe. Her legs were jelly and her hands shook. Her eyes hurt and she couldn’t breathe. “Are you okay?” Stacy looked up to see the man that came in time to save her. Dan, Dan who she had known since she was three-years old, the one she worked with for five years, the one that had loved her unconditionally and she turned down, was her savior. She tried to get up but he pushed her back down. “It’s safe, Matco is gone.” “What about that girl,” she asked, remembering his hands on her body. “Ran too, Jacko though, got his a** handed to him.” She sighed. With Matco gone, maybe she would finally be able to go to Missouri.





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