I didn’t really know the girl, so I’m not as sad as I should be. And anyway, time makes things blurry. There are people who’ll say Maria Alvareño never lived here in Phoenix, or maybe that she never existed. All I know is I was in the stands with my boyfriend Lenny when she made that backwards Hail- Mary-seconds-ticking-down shot from half-court. She was pretty enough to make Lenny want an eyeful. We lost the game, sure, but Maria won over the crowd; especially los chicos.

Girl got eaten by an orange. Lenny saw it too. We were behind the Circle K waiting for his brother to pick us up. There’s an alley there and Maria came down it with two guys, rolling oranges down the road so they’d spray juice everywhere and leave this dark trail behind like a sticky shadow. I was gonna make a joke about the sticky trail when Lenny’s face blanked.

I looked over and saw Maria hopping around on those long, basketball legs and screaming so rough my own throat felt raw. Normally, I wouldn’t want Lenny to watch since the skirt she had on just hopped along with her, but by then both of us were past caring what color her underwear was. Maria was waving one arm around. First thing I saw was how much shorter it looked than her other arm; next thing is that where her wrist should’ve been there was only a round orange blob – with teeth, like nails.

Thing ate like a fucking piranha, up past her elbow, drops of blood falling pitter-pat to the road. Just a little orange ball, chowing down. It moved fast. We heard it snapping her bones like fresh stalks of celery. It ate until the screaming stopped, then swallowed the scraps.

I didn’t know her. The orange thing stayed in the street for minute, grinning at us through its reddened rind, but before me and Lenny could get up to run it had rolled itself into the gutter.

Poof: perdido. Never to return.

There are some who say Maria deserved what she got; girls whose novios had watched her play and forfeited their hearts. As for me, I don’t eat oranges anymore, but then I never liked them much. For me, anyway, it’s no great loss.

Katie Cortese received her MFA in Fiction Writing in 2006 from Arizona State University, where she currently teaches creative writing. She has earned several Swarthout Awards and two Sonoran Prizes for fiction and poetry, and her work is published or forthcoming in St. Ann’s Review, Zone 3, The Comstock Review, Zahir, Marginalia and Poetry Motel.