The Masters Review Blog

Oct 24

New Voices: “Creeper” by Taylor Sykes

Today, we’re pleased to share the third place finalist from our 2021-2022 Winter Short Story Award for New Writers, “Creeper” by Taylor Sykes! “Creeper” was chosen by guest judge Ye Chun, who writes: “Set during the Trump presidency, ‘Creeper’ examines the abuse of power in both public and private spaces while following a woman’s lone battle to make things right. Grieving for her newly deceased mother, the narrator-protagonist becomes fixated on her cousin’s rapist. As she seeks to take actions against him, she finds her life spinning out of control, and the action she eventually takes does not come without further confusions and sorrow. Narrated with a searing voice and great control and acuity, the story rejects any suggestions of simple resolution in this world where injustice stalks our daily lives.” Read Sykes’s story in full at the link below.

Flipping through social media, I see Rebecca’s posted a picture of her and a friend out at a bar in Brooklyn. Isn’t that nice, how easily she’s enjoying her time in a distant city while I’m at home in the real world fighting her battles. Look at her, living her best life on her profile, and my own profile essentially empty.

On my first day back to work at the salon after my mom dying over the summer, I see from across the shared parking lot my cousin’s rapist and his wife picking up their daughter at the Holy Family daycare. The last time I saw him this close was when I was 20 and working at a Joe’s Crab Shack. Of course he and his wife sat in my section on a busy night. I went outside and smoked a cigarette because I was still smoking in those days, and almost got in a catfight with a coworker when I asked her to take my table. I’ll never forget the way her hard eyes broke, her sass softened, and she held me when I told her why I couldn’t serve them and was quaking all over like I’d overdosed on caffeine. Fuck him, I got this, she told me, anger instantly redirected and heightened. In a six-table section there was no avoiding him, and I knew he knew me, remembered who I was and how we were connected, but my coworker helped carry out my steam pots and crab nachos so I could mostly hide. I wonder now if he was as shaken by me as I was by him.

But here in the parking lot I’m not shaken, I’m curious. Before today I’d seen him around town only occasionally and at a distance, sometimes with his wife, but never his child. A little girl with cupidlike hair in his arms. He wears glasses now, keeps his hair cut close to balance the balding. His wife is short and reminds me of a champagne bottle. They look like anyone. There’s no going into work after that.

When my husband Luke asks how it went that day, I almost lie, but I was bursting.

“I saw Rebecca’s rapist,” I tell him. “In the parking lot.”

He’s sitting cross-legged on the couch eating his pizza on a paper towel like the manchild he is. He’s 35 and I’m 30 and we don’t want kids. It makes us feel younger, I think, to not want kids. Last year we bought our little blue bungalow in a cul-de-sac three blocks away from downtown and the house where I grew up, but our investment in suburbia only grows to a certain height.

“Rebecca was raped?” Luke asks through a bite.

I can almost hear him tack on his usual that’s a bummer, man, but thankfully he returns his focus to chewing.

“Use a plate.” I hand him the second plate next to the pizza box. “And yes, I told you this, forever ago. In high school. By a guy who graduated with me.”

“And you saw this dickhead in the parking lot?”

“With his wife and daughter.”

Luke speaks with a clot of food rolled toward the back of his mouth. “That sucks,” he swallows, “for Rebecca.”

To continue reading “Creeper” click here.

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