by Alexandria Prosperie

First Place Albert Davis Fiction Award

Growing up, Charlotte never knew she’d have such an affinity for lights. Not for how they
worked, or for aiding her vision. She appreciated lights for their ability to blind her. When lights change color and flash and follow you around stage, you can’t see the lingering eyes. The slack mouths. The tight fists on the top of the sleek bar. She can’t see a damn thing. For all she knows, she’s alone, dancing because she has something to celebrate. Dancing because she likes to. Because she’s happy.

An electronic cat’s meow vibrates through the speakers and wakes her from her daydream. Who really knows if they’re happy? One day you’re fine—the next you’re convincing yourself that you only have to pull this G-string up your ass a few more times to get where you want to be.

Her leg slides up the pole. Even though the lights have shined on it for hours, it still leaves a chill on her skin. She’s flying now. That’s what it feels like the moment she starts twirling.
Flying. She pulls herself up, twists her body around the pole, opens her legs, then slides down. Her whole night consumed by variations of these moves. Over and over. Pull, twist, open, slide, pull, twist, open, slide. Everything around her one blur of light.

“Take it off already!” someone yells. Probably a frat boy, or maybe a husband whose wife started saying no a while back, or maybe it’s the guy who always cries when he hires her for private dances. Maybe it actually is a woman. It’s hard to tell.

She leaves her pole alone and bare and starts her promenade toward the voice. As she unclasps her bra and throws it, the cheers begin. She finds her gentleman caller—a new face— playing with a wad of cash, sitting at the only chair in front of the blood-red booth. His cronies are cheering for the other girls on stage, telling them where they can sit—it’s not on a chair—and yelling for more beer.

The sound of glass shattering doesn’t stop her from forcing his legs open with her ass. She continues on, but when she turns toward him she sees the chaos at the bar. Some drunk roid-rager is following the bartender, shoving the liquor bottles off of their pristine mirrored shelves and yelling about being ripped off. In seconds, Rooney’s there, bat in hand. He grabs the dumbass by his neck and pins him to the chrome bar until he stops fighting back.
Her bachelor didn’t even turn around to look, but then again, why would he when her tits were so close to his face?

She sits on her back porch—if you could call it that, it’s just a small slab of cement with plastic chairs–and finishes her imaginary cigarette. A real cigarette has never made it to her lips because she refuses to get more wrinkles than necessary, but she needs one now. She can’t sleep and her stress proves itself every time she looks in the mirror and is welcomed by dark craters around her eyes. She’s tried everything the internet has told her. Yoga, meditation, massage, sex, masturbate, eat apples. No, eat ginger. The list goes on and on, but nothing works. So she’s left to her imagination and inhaling her joe seems to be working.

The orchestra of crickets puts her mind at ease as she looks toward the rows of sugar cane. Even though the leaves are as sharp as blades, she’s always had the strangest desire to run through the field. Far and deep. Just to see if she could find her way out. She’s pretty sure she could. But what would she do if she couldn’t?

She flicks her faux cigarette on the ground and starts to get ready for her nightshift.

The dressing room is a megawatted hub for beauty. They can’t get their contours perfect if they don’t have the right lighting. The floor is covered in glitter, sequins, and feathers.

“Tonight never wanted to end, huh?” Chasity wiped off her makeup in her mirror, already changed into her leggings and tank top. She looks like she’s going to a yoga class instead of straight to bed.

“God, I know. How many guys did Rooney have to kick out tonight?”

“I don’t keep track anymore,” she says. “Anyway I’m sure you didn’t hear about this in your “science” classes, but I saw Kaku’s tweet about new evidence that could possibly tie string theory and loop quantum gravity together. They don’t know much about it yet but they’re saying…”

She goes on a five year story about string theory. When Chasity goes on these rampages–and she does often–it’s best to just sit and nod your head until she says everything she needs. If you ask her a question you’ll be sitting for a ten year story instead.

“I’m telling you. Someday soon I’ll be the next Isaac Newton.”

“Well, of course you will. I heard he was super boring too,” Charlotte jokes.

“Whatever, bitch. Don’t come crying to me when I’m on the cover of Science Today and you’re still talking to Joe Smith about how sad his life is. Have a good night.”

“Bye, asshole.”

Call her small–minded but she thought that when she came here she’d find emotionally damaged strippers who would need Charlotte’s psychology skills. She’d be able to sit with them and help them sort out their feelings about their tortured lives. By redeeming their self-esteems, she would help each one of them, and they would appreciate her for it.

What she found instead were strong-willed women who were here because they chose to be. No underlying issues of confidence; they couldn’t care less what others thought. And not in a way that you could tell they were convincing themselves not to care, but in a truly indifferent way. They are who they are, if you don’t like it you still have to deal with it.

Most of them didn’t even need the money. Want it maybe, but need it, no. And she couldn’t really say that they were materialistic either. Chasity has two kids at home, who she eventually wants to send to private school. “They have my brains. I can’t have them going to the shit schools that I went to.”

Fiona, one of the oldest at the club, is the chairmen and founder of so many non-profits no one could keep count.

If you ask Melissa why she does it, to her it’s simple. “I know where I stand. I don’t have the brain for school. I don’t have the patience to deal with people in stores and I’m pretty fucking good at taking my clothes off.”

All of these women have separate lives. Their club lives and their home lives, none of which consisted of a double-wide trailer or drugs or men in wife beaters. They were just normal lives. Buying groceries, taking care of family, going to events in the city. Normal.

Charlotte has separate lives too. School and club. She could lie to herself all she wants, but deep down she knows she isn’t here just to help her grades. Even though her psych professor was against it, she thought if she could get into a situation where being degraded wore on her psyche—like it would with some of the patients she’d work with—she’d be able to understand better. But it was really the money. It all comes down to money. No student debt. No stress. New toys.

Her new stilettos click as she struts up the white stone steps. The echoes of the piano and choir can be heard from outside the wooden door. She’s late. As she opens the door incense brandishes its scent in her nose and the cool air leaves bumps on her skin, her senses violated by a place that supposedly incites peace. The choir’s symphony of voices serenades her with some song about a precious hiding place.

She searches the glowing faces in the congregation and takes her seat next to Lanie. I was straying when Christ found me…

“Wow.” Lanie leans close, giving Charlotte a look as if she’s just left a nightclub then went to church.


“Nothing. I just really expected you to go up in flames when you walked in.”

Charlotte closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “I’m flipping you off right now.”

Precious hiding place. Precious hiding place.

Who was she kidding? She thought the same thing, even felt her skin burn the moment she walked in. But she was feeling guilty lately. Not for stripping, but for not committing. Everyone is supposed to believe in something, right? It’s a yes or no situation, not the “I’m not sure about this or that” bullshit she’s been thinking. Church was supposed to clear things up for the goer, not make them more complicated. Not make their stomachs churn with guilt because they are questioning God’s existence while sitting in a church pew.

That’s why she’s friends with Lanie, though Lord only knows why Lanie is friends with her. Lanie brings balance. An every Sunday church attendee, Lanie brings spiritual faith and optimism to the table. She’s one of the few true religious people Charlotte knows; the real true to Jesus people. The ones who don’t judge. The ones who try to help others. That could help Charlotte. God bless her.

The preacher talks about how rewarding it will feel to get where we are meant to be. Through happy times we should be grateful, and through hard times—even if it’s difficult—we should still be grateful. Because we all go through these times and our Father is watching us. He is ready to accept us through anything.

At that very moment, a light above the altar flickers and goes out. Probably the works of the devil. It’s surprising that no one in the congregation passes out.

“How much longer do you have?” Lanie asks as they walk out of the church.

“I owe school a little more, then I’m done. Probably like a month.”

The putrid smell is stronger than normal. The bayou that runs behind the church must be steaming. Nothing like the smell of mud stew.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Of course I am.” Charlotte focuses on the swaying flag in the front yard.

“What happened to your cheek?”

Charlotte has to swallow down the bile that builds up in her throat.

Four children are having a rock throwing contest in the gravel parking lot while waiting for their parents. A little boy throws his rock and screams in a younger girl’s face, “Beat that.”

“Lanie, I’m a spastic woman who dances on a metal pole. Bruises everywhere.”

The little girl winds up her throw with baseball player grace.

Lanie nods, but Charlotte knows she’s doesn’t believe the story. She should try to persuade her. The least she could do is put her friend’s mind at ease, but she won’t be able to convince her. Mustering the effort to make up a story seems like way too much today.

The rock flies through the parking lot and lands well past the boy’s. The little girl looks surprised for a moment that she won, then she yells with joy and twirls around with her arms wide. The boy moves like a whip, sticking a foot behind hers as he pushes her down.

“You probably aren’t even a girl. You’re a little boy.” He stomps off.

Goddamn it hurt. The sting. The words. He smelled like nicotine and motor oil.

Charlotte helps the little girl to her feet, both of them hiding their watery eyes. “It’s all right. You’re gonna be okay.” Her eyes bore into the little girl. “But if that happens again, you need to push back.”

No doubt or fear, since my Lord is near.

The girl nods, wipes her eyes, and runs to her mother.

She’ll be okay.

She’ll be okay.

She drives through the city and parks behind the club. They have private parking, but there’s only one light and you have to walk through a small alleyway to the back door. Doesn’t help that Rooney never works on Thursdays, and the other bouncer is a jackass.

She thought she saw the guy’s face lurking in the shadows and she let out a small squeal. Just the light reflecting off the car in a strange way. If Rooney were here, he’d already be by her side, but mister doesn’tgiveashitaboutotherpeople is here instead, and she walks the rest of the way by herself.

Pull, twist, open, slide, but she’s not flying tonight. She’s too tense; her anxiety maximized by all the tricks her mind is playing on her. All the men at the club look like him. Now, almost every sound she hears makes her jump. Her chest is tight and she feels like if she takes a deep breath she might explode. Sounding like a sledgehammer inside her head, her heart can’t slow down. She can’t help but think that he’s hiding somewhere, waiting for her.

“Come on. Get into it, girl,” someone in the audience screams.

No time for trauma right now. Don’t think about it. With her hand on the pole to steady herself, she takes a deep breath and forces the air out in a loud sigh. Putting on the seductive mask she’s never supposed to let slip, she pokes out her chest and arches her back. Strippers are put on this Earth for one thing, and if you disagree just talk to some of the people yelling at her.

Her shift is over—finally. As she saunters off stage to collect her things she knows she won’t last another month here. She’s leaving. Leaving and never coming back. No two weeks notice—do strippers even do that?—no talk, she’ll just disappear.

Though it’s warm and bright, there is something sterile about the dressing room. How could she have missed that? The white walls. The tile floor that’s probably used in every hospital in the country. The smell, like a landfill for cheap Bath and Body Works products.

She’s done. She won’t have to deal with this shit anymore. The smells, the music, the people. She won’t be degraded anymore—well, she won’t be degraded as much.

She sighs, slides into her car, and pulls the door closed. She’ll be back tomorrow.


by Michael E. Mathieu

Look! A swimming shadow,
she rises from Sheol.
A spectre, a phantom—
wiggling and twitching,
darting to and fro.
A sickle tail, angled fin,
cutting ‘cross cobalt blue.

She thrashes her bent dagger
in vain; they’re plastic lures.
Ah! She feels the steel—
the fury of Furies,
a blue sea Mastodon!

Like an outraged Messiah,
she walks the mirrored sea.
Kicking crystals and diamonds,
incandescent sides, aflame.
Then–an ephemeral hole,
for the cerulean blue sea,
tis all that you leave.


by Julie Franks

Black water meets grainy shore—my shoes are ruined. I take a step farther and my pants get heavier. My favorite song blares from a bright red Gremlin speeding past with the windows down, a sign for me to take another step. It’s harder to stand, so I let the current have its way with me. The strings on my hoodie float past my head. The world grows darker as I drift. My eyes close and the ocean claims its prize. As I wait for my ending, I see his face. At least he won’t see me cry here.

"Impalpable" by Jenifer Richardson
by Jenifer Richardson

Blacktop Entropy

by Cyrus Picou Jr.

For the eighteen years I’ve traversed the open road, I’ve always noticed how the blacktop roads seems to have a smoother quality than their concrete brethren. The transition from the rough concrete to the smooth blacktop is joyous. As I lie here on the asphalt, listening to the whimpers of a weenie dog limping back to its house and feeling the subtle burn of the cool air, one thought fills my head. Has the blacktop always been this rough?

That night started out like any other. I was working on my homework, trying with every ounce of willpower not to put it off until later. My cousin Josh opened my door and invited me to go on a bike ride with him and my brother Shane, which was the equivalent of throwing my homework into a bottomless abyss.

We followed our normal routine but, unlike the past few nights, the air was unusually comfortable. This didn’t occupy our thoughts for very long, however, as Josh and I noticed that Shane, who usually led our little pack, was falling behind. Then, as we rode in the adjacent neighborhood, a weenie dog chased us as far as its shock collar would allow.

As Josh and I rode on, we noticed Shane was no longer behind us. We’d left him in the dust. With nothing else to do, Josh decided to see how fast we could go. I felt the hellish burn in my legs as I pedaled as fast as I could. We were fast, and I was about to be furious. As I checked my speedometer and discovered we were going 26 miles per hour, that little weenie dog, this time collarless, ran into the road right in front of me. Before I could even think what would become of the poor dog that I just ran over, my face was burning from sliding on the rough blacktop road.

As I lay there, it occurred to me that this blacktop wasn’t like all the others. This blacktop wasn’t smooth. Of all the blacktops that I could be lying on, it had to be this one, rough and jagged.


by Sarah Boquet

The trees had this artistry to them, a beauty that reflected on the water they guarded. I couldn’t pinpoint where I sat, despite the thousands of times I’d trekked the area. The scenery always seemed different when I roamed alone; the trees that generally danced in the wind stood still, and the crows spoke a more tranquil, melodic tune. Even the creek sat silent.

I watched the six and seven-year-olds run around the wooded area in the same manner I used to. I’d been instructed to keep a close eye on them, as if they would disappear to a place we all unconsciously desired to visit. The children were never as fearless as I used to be, never as audacious and presumptuous.

Perhaps, maybe, they deserved a day on their own, a day to truly feel amazed by the mere concept of this place. Perhaps these six and seven and eight-year-olds needed to sit on the wooden bench, surrounded by maple and oak and the caterpillars that fell on your shoulders, begging to take them to a place they’d always imagined. Maybe the children needed to laugh a little more and trip a little more and cry a little more. Perhaps they needed time to run off course, over the bridge that was constructed by Katrina’s wrath, and into the land I found my soul in. Perhaps these children needed to be lost, disunited from the society that reprimands them for being courageous.

I stood from my resting place, my observation post, and followed the dirt trail that opened to the world I shunned. For a second or two, perhaps maybe five, I turned back toward the children, who were doused in nature, who had disregarded the exodus of their lifeguard, and bid them good day, for when they realize they are alone, they will finally find the serenity we all await.

These Lines

by Sydney Bergeron

Papers filled with failures were strewn across the bed. The girl let her eyes follow the dancing strips of sun at the window. She’d been sitting here searching for something— something clever to hide beneath the words, a thought worth thinking. Hands drawn up to her face, she took notice of the small lines that riddled her palms. These lines, so tenderly placed, stretched across hands that were once new. Lines from the first days branch out for innocence, laughter without price, a promise for the future. They’d seen the first book she’d ever held, the arrival of a partner in crime, and messes in the kitchen—chocolate-smeared cheeks and batter rain. Lines etched there not just for uncontained happiness and the best of yesterdays, but for broken promises, loss and sacrifice, for sleepless nights.

Thin markings of pink and pale apricot bend and adapt to the journey, claiming their place as permanent. They’d seen so much and yet so little. Just above faint green and purpled veins, other lines seemed to shy from the surface. Lines for tomorrow? Or were they for another “someday”? The girl smiled and watched her hands for a moment longer. Had someone years ago done the same, looked at these lines this way? Surely they’d seen traces of the kind of long day the world has already forgotten, signs of true dedication, a life lived with passion. They had to have found something worth more. Catching the light in fragile fingers, time marked right there on her palms.

Sister Joan

by Allison Curth

The rosary beads pooled in my palm. I weaved them through my hands, between each finger. The nun beside me counted another bead and muttered a Hail Mary, but I pulled my rosary into a game of Cat’s Cradle.

“You should know better, Sister Joan,” Mother Superior would say if she saw me. “Rosaries are for praying, not playing.”

I pulled the beads tight and imagined the delicate fingers playing along as they used to. They grasped my own as her amber eyes filled with wonder. “I want to try!” I gently intertwined our fingers with the old fraying shoestring. But the sound of the bell brought me back to reality. It was time for Mass.

Father gave his homily on the importance of the saints as intercessors. I had my own saint to pray for me. Her tiny fingers had turned the pages of her prayer book as I had read aloud our bedtime prayer. When we finished, those sweet little fingers clutched her book to her heart. “Jesus loves me very much!”

“Yes, darling. Very very much.”

Not three hours later, my beloved saint had evaded hell— but not the Flames.

"Fall of My Beloved/Elephant Man" by Michael Binder
“Fall of My Beloved/Elephant Man”
by Michael Binder

What Remains

by Hannah Kidder

First Place: *The Albert Davis Fiction Award*

The woman stooped low. She cradled the dead raccoon in her arms before laying it into a sack that hung from her shoulder. She finished her round of the neighborhood, finding a flattened squirrel whose tail had fallen off. There was also what she guessed was a crow, but it was hard to tell. She brushed down the feathers and her thumb dipped into its skull. Maybe it was a young raven. It went into the sack as well. She walked to her house, careful to hold the sack in such a way that it didn’t bounce against her hip too hard. She walked into the backyard and closed the gate behind her.

Her spade scraped away small chunks of dirt. The sun had begun to set by the time she finished the carefully-squared hole. She laid the raccoon in and pushed handfuls of dirt over him. She patted it into a mound and topped it with a small rock. Sitting back on her heels, she wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. The squirrel and what remained of the crow got their own graves and stones too. She brushed her hands on her pants and stowed her spade and sack.

She padded through the back door into her kitchen and filled a glass with tap water. Dishes were piled in the sink, spilling onto the counter. The window above the pile was dirty and smudged, but she couls still see the rocks in her yard. Some had words marked at the surface where she had painted their names. Others were blank, names forgotten to the bleaching sun, lying on grass where the graves had flattened and grown over. She sat at the kitchen counter. In another world, he’d be stooped down beside her in a garden of flowers, not bones. She looked at the small silver frame that held a picture of a newborn baby. Pinned to the wall next to it was a newspaper clipping: “Local woman mourns loss of child in house fire. No remains found.”

Her baby was ash, long-lost to the wind. She looked out of the window again and wondered if he was there. The mud she stomped off her boots, the sand in the park. She pictured her son with the raccoon, swaddled in the dirt.

The Albert Davis Fiction Award

Est. 2016

The Albert Davis Fiction award, established in 2016, is awarded to a work of fiction submitted to Mosaic in a single publication year. The prize honors long-time English professor, Dean, Novelist-in-Residence, and Pulitzer Prize nominee, Dr. Albert Davis.

Dr. Davis has worked for nearly thirty-five years at Nicholls state University, serving as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of the University College, Head of the Department of General Studies, and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. For his service to the University, Dr. Davis was named the Alcée Fortier Distinguished Professor in 2003, and was awarded a Distinguished service Professorship in 1994.

His novel, Marquis at Bay, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award by his publisher, Louisiana state University Press. He is also the author of Leechtime, a novel, What They Wrote on the Bathhouse Walls, Yen’s Marina, Chinese Bayou, Louisiana, a collection of poetry, Virginia Patout’s Parish, a poetry chapbook, and other works. His short works have been published in a number of prestigious literary journals, including The Southern Review, The Sewanee Review, and Louisiana Literature.

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