“The Street Artist,” by Judith Janeway
Apr06

“The Street Artist,” by Judith Janeway

  I don’t do that old trapped-in-a-box routine. Uh-huh. I’m an artist. I grow a giant flower from a seed. The tourists at the cable car turnaround love it. Makes them forget how cold they are in their shorts and sandals, fog whipping around their knees. Don’t know why the lady cop picked that moment to bust me. Came right up, her cop stuff hanging off a black belt. Made her hips look huge. She goes, “I want to talk to you.” Like she didn’t get I’m a mime. Talk is what I don’t do. And where the hell was Digger when I needed him? I froze in the middle of watering my invisible flower and scoped the crowd. No Digger. Fucking rat. Must still be pissed that I’d slept with Jasmine. But like I’d said, “What about bi-sexual didn’t you understand?” The cop scowled. “What’s your name?” A by-the-book hardass, but she’d have to play by mime rules. So I gave her my “who me?” bit and added head scratching and squinting skyward like I was trying to remember. That got a laugh from the tourists but not from the cop. She stepped closer, hands on hips. Just then Digger showed up in the crowd, glaring at me. He held up his hand like a gun, pointed and fired. Bang! A mime would’ve grabbed her chest, staggered backward ten feet and fallen, all in slo-mo. But the cop just went down. Plop. And everyone screamed. Even me.     Printed with permission from Judith Janeway, copyrighted by Judith Janeway @ 2015. This piece, winner of the Spring 2015 Orlando Prize for Flash Fiction and selected by Finalist Judge Joni B. Cole, originally appeared in Issue No. 18 of the Los Angeles...

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“The Spinning Field,” by Lisa Nikolidakis
Sep01

“The Spinning Field,” by Lisa Nikolidakis

We are silk people. That’s what I tell the dipshits at my new high school, but they call me Spider-Girl. They yell, Hey, Spider-Girl! Tarantula-Breath! Arachne! Because in Tarpon Springs, everyone’s Greek. A tourist might think it’s a sweet nickname, but the rest of us know that before becoming a spider, Arachne hung herself, which is exactly what I’d do if it wouldn’t give them all globs of satisfaction. They’re sponge people, the legacy of this stupid town, and my father always says, Never trust a sponge diver. Bottom feeders. At home, I get lost in cleaning silk, plucking debris before twirling the gossamer strands until they’re strong enough to wind around spools. But at school, I help Mrs. Papadakis organize the art room and fantasize about letting loose a Rose-haired Chilean in Alexa Ballas’ backpack. We had a good life in Soufli, my family’s silk museum in the center of town, but people stopped caring about 75-year-old looms. So now we’re here, and nothing makes Alexa smile like making me feel like crap. Alexa’s dad is King Sponge, half the harbor’s his, and maybe that’s why the adults around here can’t see her right. She could be chewing glass, spitting blood, and they’d let out long awwwws, maybe toss her a twenty. She only hit me in the face once, my cheek split like an overripe fig. When my yia-yia saw me, she thumbed a wad of cobweb into the wound. I know, I know. But it worked. In the art room, I drag my finger along the smooth edge of a bowl that’ll be someone’s ashtray because that’s how the world works. And there’s something about this perfect hunk of clay, the way it’s a fraud, that’s got me shaking when Mrs. Papadakis comes in. When she asks what’s wrong, I want to spill my soggy guts but can’t. She looks like she cares—eyebrows pinched and pointed—and hell, maybe she does, but telling her that I’m wrung out from hating, that the town’s darling has something rotten at her center, would only bring trouble. I’m fine, I say, and look out the window, sure that if I make eye contact I’ll cry. There’s Alexa on the steps, smoking a cigarette she thinks no one sees. She lifts her foot and brings it down, grinding something into the concrete. I assume she’s stomping out her smoke, but when she takes another drag, I know sure as anything that she’s just killed a bug, something she thinks small and beneath her. I imagine running down there, my body changing with every step of the molt, this human skin a...

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“Of Possible War,” by Caitlin Scarano
Jan01

“Of Possible War,” by Caitlin Scarano

When I wake up and come in to make coffee, my dead brother sits at the kitchen table. He doesn’t look much different than he looked before, except his skin seems a bit thinner. As the florescent light buzzes on, I think I can see the whole blue-green cartography of his circulatory system. He is naked. I’m cold. You must be, I reply, making a point not to look at his genitalia piled there between his legs on our mother’s nice mahogany chair. This is more for his benefit. I give him our father’s robe from the bathroom. It nearly swallows his translucent, lean body, but a robe is not a man’s mouth. I tighten the rope of it for him. There. Where are Mom and Dad? he asks. Oh, they’ve been missing for several days. I measure scoops of coffee into the crisp folds of the paper filter. Did you file two missing person reports with blue or black ink only? No, no – I sent the family dog and some messenger pigeons. Oh. Cream? No. I’m angry I’d so quickly forgotten that he liked it black, so I remind myself to give me an extra paper cut beneath my tongue later as punishment. Since everyone left, I’ve become quite disciplined. I drop three sugar cubes into mine, sit at the table, and slide his mug toward him. He nods in appreciation at me as if I am a diner waitress. He’d always been a perfect gentleman with strangers. A real southern boy in that respect. When I was a girl, I named all my male stuffed animals after him and demanded that my mother cover me with them before I fell asleep. I think there is a war going on, he says as he scrutinizes the curls of heat coming off his coffee. Might be. I spoon out a sugar cube and suck on it. The grits of it catch in the cuts under my tongue. He tells me he’s always loved me. Thank you. If there is a war, can I write to you like a sweetheart? Yes, I sigh, but there’s a general shortage of stamps. Also potatoes. What have you been eating? The bad guys. He laughs. A few of his teeth fall into his coffee. I tell him he looks handsome and offer him more coffee. My cup is full. I pour some on the floor. That’s better, he says. After we make love on the linoleum, we shiver beneath the robe and he explains how heaven is a network of tunnels, and there are all these rabbits dragging themselves through with broken...

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“Bus Ride to the City,” by Marsha Mathews
Jul01

“Bus Ride to the City,” by Marsha Mathews

Afghanistan, 2013 Father’s beard twitches whenever my older sister, Mezhgan, comes into the room. His eyes glaze the way they do when they fall on a flower in the snow. I have tried and tried to elicit that same response. I have trimmed my dark brows like Mezhgan’s, I walk slow and purposefully like Mezghan. I have a bright purple banqa like Mezghan. Last summer, I learned to make minced lamb like Mezhgan, and pistachio dessert, too, but I have never once seen Father so much as lift his head for me. Am I not his daughter, too? I have cried until no tears ran. I walked to the river, and the river explained, “You are Hazaras.” Hazaras. Five mirrors I have shattered because of my small, flat Hazarus nose and my chinky eyes. Why did Mezhgan get the fine, stately nose? The large flower eyes with lids? I love my sister, yes, but even so. I asked the Kabal River to wash her away. Today, on the bus, Grandmother puts her hand on my arm. I don’t know how she knew. I don’t know how she got the money. But here we are, approaching Kabal, and my heart is all drums. I’ve never seen such commotion. People, everywhere. They walk and walk. So many out at once. The streets, full. And the buildings, tall, taller as we drive . Yet the signs confuse me, so many shapes and colors. Grandmother doesn’t smile but nods at me as we wait to see the doctor. “When your procedure is over and bandages come off, you will not look Hazarus. Your nose will be large and dignified. Your eyes big, so big.” My heart tatatats like a kite pushing into a gale. “And Father?” Her large hands clasp each of my shoulders. “Don’t worry about him,” she whispered. “For he, knows where he’s from, though his features do not shout it.” My hand reached for my bandaged nose. My fingers touched the soft gauze. My story unraveled. Printed with permission from Marsha Mathews, copyrighted by Marsha Mathews @ 2013. This piece originally appeared in Issue No. 15 of the Los Angeles...

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“The Boardwalk, 1969,” by Helen Jones
Jan01

“The Boardwalk, 1969,” by Helen Jones

Well I took my three youngest kids and their friends to Santa Cruz. Bought them sodas at the boardwalk, played in the waves, had a great day. And then shit, the real fun begins. When it’s time to go Alice and I get in a tiff cuz she doesn’t want to leave and finally I say “Fine you can walk home.” Home is twenty miles over the mountains, and damned if that brat doesn’t start walking. I figure she’ll be back soon, tail between her legs, so I don’t go after her. Then we all wait. And wait. She’s twelve years old for godsake, setting off alone over the Santa Cruz mountains at dusk. So I send the tads off to find her saying you better find her before I do, for her own good. Finally they bring her back, cat-eyed glasses flashing. I tell them all to get in the van except for Alice. Grab her by the shoulders and start in on her, saying she could have gotten lost or kidnapped and why does she have to be so fucking stubborn. The damn kid sometimes I could just kill her. There’s a bank that drops eight feet to the sand and I shove her towards it. The kids in the car start shrieking “don’t, dad, don’t!!!” and I’m shaking her shaking her all I wanted was to have a fun day at the beach with my kids goddamn it was that too much to ask. My father never did that for me but I do it for my kids. My mother taunting your father hates you hates you hates you hate and everything is swirling and there’s that shack on the river where he lived with his bottle and did those things but now it’s me shaking her and seagulls are screaming and people are staring and oh god no I do not hate her and what the living fuck am I doing? I swear I did not mean to hurt her and I didn’t hurt her, not really. I crack a smile, tell her “it was for your own good, now give your old pappy a hug.” Pull her into my arms for a nice big hug like I always do to make it all better. But this time she doesn’t hug me back. Her arms hang limp as socks on the line. I lift them, shake them, say: look! She says: what. “Your arms! You’re not hugging me back!” I shake them again but they just flop lifeless and she’s staring at me with this new flat look, and it hits me in the gut...

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“Nitza Kosher Pizza,” by Annie Dawid
Jul01

“Nitza Kosher Pizza,” by Annie Dawid

Nitza Kosher Pizza 1977- 1978 Elbow-deep in warm suds, pressed against the stainless steel sink, I feel my boss’s muscular arms envelop me. “Quit it, Sam.” “Kisses sweet in wine, kisses sweet in wine,” he says, kissing the back of my neck. Or is it “kisses sweet and wine?” “Sam, leave me alone.” His wife, Marie, does the books in one of the booths while I scrub pots and bowls, the remainders of Sam’s private time in the kitchen; no one is allowed while he prepares his “special sauce” for baked ziti. A Yemenite Jew, Sam broke with his brother in biblical fashion and quit the family business in Flushing to start his own shop in Great Neck, a suburb with plenty of kosher Jews to patronize this dairy vegetarian restaurant, with falafel, tahini, and the best baked ziti on Long Island. Sam wears heavy black shoes and the checked tweed trousers of a real chef, a starched cap cocked atop his head. By day’s end, his apron is filthy. Around Marie’s pale neck hangs the star of David, a golden pendant also worn by her daughter, Teresa, 11 years old, who sits in another booth, doing homework. Last year, Marie converted to Judaism to marry Sam, who immigrated to New York as a teenager. He must be in his forties, Marie in her mid-thirties; I am 17. “Why you don’t like me kissing you? You need to laugh! To love! To feel joy! I make you feel joy,” he says, kissing me over and over on the nape of my neck. He is short, just my height. “Sam, your wife and daughter are ten feet away! Please leave me alone.” It’s hard to push him away with real force, because his heavy arms feel so good, his backward embrace a kind of home. “So what? She doesn’t love me! And that girl isn’t my daughter. Besides, Marie’s not a beautiful Jewish girl like you, Ruth.” He pronounces it “root.” “You even have a book of the Bible named after you.” I’ve always hated my one-syllable name, but in his mouth, it sounds exotic. His wife calls, and Sam backs off, storming through the swinging kitchen door, angry with her for interrupting his moment. One of a handful of high school girls who work for Sam and Marie, I get minimum wage, under the table, plus tips. We work behind the counter and bring food from the kitchen. Sam tours the narrow aisle, booths on both sides, to schmooze with customers who love his food, which is, in fact, delicious. My friends and I put up with Sam and...

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“The Smell of Other People’s Houses,” by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Jan01

“The Smell of Other People’s Houses,” by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

In 9th grade my boyfriend was Jason Johanson. His father was a dentist and a hunting guide in the Bush. They built a new house on Campbell Lake where they could park their float plane and we could snow machine all the way down Campbell creek in the winter. The whole house was made of fresh cut cedar. All of Jason’s clothes smelled like cedar, and it made me sneeze when I got close to him, but I got close anyway. To this day, when I smell cedar, I think of swim team parties at their house and the big 8×10 Ronald Reagan photograph that hung in the living room. Cedar is the smell of Republicans. It’s the smell of sneaking from Alsion’s room, his older sister, who I befriended out of necessity, and into Jason’s room where I crawled into his queen sized bed which faced the sliding glass doors that looked out onto the lake. How many 9th graders have a queen sized bed? I’m guessing one, and it had sheets that smelled like cedar and Tide and they held a boy with curly blonde hair that reeked of chlorine. He was the best diver in the state and I was only on a stupid JV relay team. But we could have drowned in the smell of chlorine and naivete. He knew how to french kiss, which tasted like a forest of promises, once I got used to it. He said the lights on the lake were “our lights.” And because I was Catholic, and smelled stiff instead of wild, he promised not to do anything but touch me lightly and only in certain places, where the smell wouldn’t give me away when I went back to my own house that held nothing but the acrid stink of cigarette smoke in second hand furniture—also known as guilt and sin. At the Johanson’s, everything was fresh like it had just been flown in on a Bush plane, and you could do anything. Their shag carpet was so thick, in the morning I followed my own deep orange footprints back to Alison’s bed and pretended I’d been there all night. “You smell like my brother,” she’d say as we curled up together. “You smell like your brother,” I’d tell her. “Yeah, well don’t try anything,” she’d say. The Johanson’s were friends with John Denver and when he came to stay with them he slept in Alsion’s bed. (She had to sleep on the pull-out couch) After he left she told me she was never going to wash the sheets again. We laid on our faces and tried to breathe...

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“Write this Down,” by Amy Silverberg
Jul01

“Write this Down,” by Amy Silverberg

I’m on the phone with my best friend, while she dumps her boyfriend over e-mail. I am dictating what to type, and I hear the keys click in another state, me holding on the line while she breaks a heart. She lives by the beach, my friend, and at times I think I can hear the water in her voice, frothy and transcendent. I know, because I once lived there too. Time passes differently by the beach, sometimes not at all, because sun and water blend, and it’s not the easiest way to measure days. I live in Seattle now, where time moves quickly, by means of gray rain and public transportation. My friend on the phone says, “This e-mail will be good. It will spare me the embarrassment of seeing his face or hearing his voice.” I say, “He’d be embarrassed?” “I’m not sure,” she says. “But I don’t want to see it.” It’s quiet where I am, in a coffee shop, just the low, tinny rumble of other peoples’ conversations. I’m talking softly on the phone, as to not disturb. My friend is an actress—strictly plays—and you can hear it when she talks, the range of highs and lows, she is always emoting. “What went wrong with him,” I say, because I realize I never asked. Outside, a dog is tugging on its leash. The owner has his back turned. “It was no fun anymore,” she says. “It got too serious.” This friend and I were college roommates. We went to school on the beach, where the days moved slow but the years passed quickly. It was fun. I know this, because I barely remember it. Happiness tightens up time, solidifying it, until the years feel shot out of a cannon—a tiny steel ball passing you by. “How’s work,” says my friend. She is the only person I know who likes to hear about offices and cubicles and water cooler talk. She likes it because it’s far away from her. In college, I played in the orchestra. I thought I’d make a living that way, touring with my violin. “Work’s fine,” I say. “Now read me what you have.” She coughs once, preparing, and I can tell she’s standing up. She reads me the e-mail as though she’s talking to him face to face, as though he’s right there in front of her. “What do you think,” she says. In her mouth, the words don’t sound like mine. In fact, I wonder if she changed them. In college, we drank too much wine, and then after college, I continued to. I have many photographs with red-stained teeth....

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“A Woman’s Glory,” by Ashley Kunsa
Jan01

“A Woman’s Glory,” by Ashley Kunsa

She’s at the island with a knife. Body bent over the cutting board, like a diver taking leave of the land. In one hand, the golden bale of her hair; in the other, her santoku. “Oh,” I say. “No.” A rush of warmth washes over me as I think of the softness of those strands in my fingers, on my breasts, my lips. “It has to go,” she says, face flush with the wooden plank. “Let’s talk about it.” I edge a painted toenail onto the kitchen’s polished concrete. “I’ve got nothing left to say.” She stands upright, her locks coming loose, falling over her shoulders, about her waist, nearly to the countertop and the spread before her: potatoes peeled, legs of lamb skinned, star fruit freed of their browned flesh. In the orange glow of the hanging pendant, everything looks sour. “You don’t want to do anything drastic.” “I do,” she says and swipes the blade from the board. “Not this,” I say. “It won’t undo anything.” Two years ago she lived with a man. A video game developer who ate lots of take-out. That first night she came here, she built sashimi salmon roses, a beautiful, delicate dish I couldn’t stomach. We called for pizza instead, inhaled it at the island, and she laughed and said I reminded her of him. Then she coiled her hair like a snake and kissed me below the ear. Now she stares at the knife, swirls it above the wooden plank, like in a magic trick. She says, “Think of it as a reduction. I’ll be a more concentrated self.” “This isn’t some cooking metaphor,” I say. “It’s real.” “That’s it exactly.” She raises the blade, light glinting off its fine, flat edge. “Please,” I say. “It’s done.” She begins to chop. Here is what you have to know: three weeks ago she walked out of Paradiso with the pastry chef, a rail of a black woman wearing dreads, who climbed on her bike and rode away. The night swallowed the engine’s groan. She locked the back door, then lidded the garbage cans. It was late, almost one a.m., andas the sous chef, she’d closed the kitchen as usual. The wisp of a moon was tucked into a corner of the sky; the air was stiff and cool as a drink. Under a dimming streetlight she stopped walking, un-tucked her shirt, shook out her braid. Then, from behindthe way a sound comes at youhe threads his hands through her hair and twists, slips it around her neck. Holds. Like a rope. Drags her from Smallman down a side street, behind a...

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“Mouth,” by Malene Kai Bell
Jul01

“Mouth,” by Malene Kai Bell

The girl sat at the table with a twisted mouth. The brussel sprouts, cold knobs on her plate; the baked chicken, cooled, from her refusal to open up. Her mother, having had enough of the girls ways, barked at her across the table; her mouth moving like a cow, her tone , a shrill blow horn. “Eat the food, Hen.” The girl earned the name after she’d dug up two juicy earthworms and shared them with the dog, Pluto. Her mother, when she found the pair, told her she had less sense than a chicken. How stupid it was to go pecking at the dirt like some hen. Then she called her in the house by her new name; Hen.The girl knew enough by now to keep her eyes down in silent protest. To steady herself, she squirmed back in the wicker chair which creaked under her tiny frame. The pillow placed under her bottom slipped underneath her small thighs and the girl shrank a bit in her seat. “I guess somebody will be eating this for lunch if she don’t eat it for dinner,” her father said. “And sit up. Straight.” His teeth gritted together like chains. The girl sat up tall as she could remember, pressing her back into the chair’s cross-stitching and stealing glances at the grown-ups chewing their food like cud, talking about nothing in particular. Her mother’s mouth moved in big, slow circles as she tried to drum up conversation. Her throat, when she swallowed, turned into a muscular snake, the neck tight, the gulps big. The father liked to pour all manner of sauce over his food. Molasses on french fries. Hot sauce on eggs. Gravy over spaghetti salad. This night, he squeezed ketchup on baked ham and mashed potatoes and mixed it up into a kind of stew. The girl winced, and the father caught it just as she tried to tuck it back into the pocket of her eyes. A slight grin visited her father’s face, then retreated. He brushed past the girl on his way to the cupboard and on his way back he placed a clean white plate in front of her. He wiped his fork off with a napkin, then put it next to the girl’s plate. “Eat up,” he said. The girl said nothing. She just caught the image of his tongue running over his teeth, then looked past the empty plate. “ Eat up,” he said. Looking forward and speaking low, the girl said, “Ain’t nothing to eat.” The father snatched the girl’s fork from the table and used it to slide his stew onto her...

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“Buoys,” by CJ Hauser
Jan01

“Buoys,” by CJ Hauser

I have two lobsters in my bathtub and I’m not sure I can kill them. New England will know if I don’t. Henry is from Maine, which I found charming, until we moved here post-honeymoon. I am sitting on the rim of my bathtub. It has curled, porcelain feet with flaky rust between the toes. Everything is anthropomorphized in this house- that’s my first problem. My second problem is that I pet the lobsters. I roll up a sleeve and run my pinched fingers along the length of Lobster No. One’s antennae. It feels sensitive and unbreakable like coiled wire. Lobster No. One knocks his crusher claw against my hand, but there’s a thick, pink rubber band binding it up so I’m in no real danger. I stroke Lobster No. Two’s antennae, just so they’re even. Both lobsters have dark spotted backs that remind me of Dalmatian puppies. I really should not be thinking of them as puppies. I get a six pack from the fridge. This is my plan: I will get blind drunk and then I will kill these lobsters. I tie my hair up in a dark knob and hike my shorts so I’m ready. I open my beer on the faucet and foam geysers up. Beer froth plops in the water. Henry says his mom gave her lobsters beer before cooking them. She also bathed them in seawaterso they’d have one last taste of home. I ask the lobsters, “Do you feel at home?” Of course not, some bearded yahoo caught them in a pot. “I love you and I get my mail here, isn’t that enough?” I’d asked Henry over dinner negotiations. “Of course it’s enough,” he said. “But this is part of the culture here! I want us to participate in the local culture.” When I say culture I’m saying let’s go to the Moma. When Henry says culture he’s saying cul- chah! in a wicked Maine accent. I stare at my underwater feet. My toes are painted the color the lobsters will be once I boil them. Lobster No. One and Lobster No. Two conference at the other end of the tub. Do they suspect? They are currently bruise colored. I’ll find a way to do this, because love is boiling the lobsters your freckle-backed husband thinks will grow you instant roots. And because I want roots too, even though the soil here is black and full of salt. My parents raised me an only child in a nineteenth floor penthouse. No one grows roots nineteen stories long. The lobsters jostle around my feet and I know I won’t be able to...

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“Tin Man Tick-Tock,” by Alyssa Cooper
Jul01

“Tin Man Tick-Tock,” by Alyssa Cooper

It’s like someone forcing you wide open with metal hands that can’t feel. (I sure do love redheads, sweetheart.) It’s like that Tin Man grabbing around on your insides and wrapping your intestines all in his hard cold fingers that never numb you but just slice like ice. (You’re just pink and red everywhere, aren’t you now?) You reach out to grab him back but his razor sharp skin leaves shrapnel in your fingertips that grabs onto your nerves and migrates through your system all the way to your eyeballs until all you can see is metal and blood. (You seeing red, sweetheart? You squirm just like I thought you would.) And when he roots his hands around enough—gets that hole inside you big enough—he sits his hard cold self right down inside your base and in your being where you thought that you could keep things safe. He leans down real close to speak in your ear because now he thinks he owns you like the lover you have at home, waiting on you—unaware. (Aren’t you glad I’m here?) And then that Tin Man pisses his venomous liquid, freezing cold—just like him—with metal shards that flow from his insides now. (Feels like I’m the only thing that’s ever been inside you.) And those shards travel in mercury currents up through your veins and into your throat and everywhere in between. Shards of him just sticking into you all along the way where you know they’re going to stay no matter what you wash them down with. (Shh…sweetheart, don’t cry now.) And you can’t scream because if you open your mouth to try and force all the poisonous metal parts out, those bits and pieces of him just dig down deeper into your throat until you can’t even speak above a whisper. You think of your lover and how he loves your red hair, burying his face in it and breathing in deeply as if the smell of your hair has the power to wash his sins away. But you can no longer hear, no longer see, and you feel this wound forming that not even your lover’s sweet words could ever close up. And once you’re nothing of yourself and all hard cold metal inlay—with thoughts of a Tin Man ticking inyour brain—that hard cold metal man is just going to walk away. (I told you it’d all be alright, sweetheart.)   Printed with permission by Alyssa Cooper, copyrighted by Alyssa Cooper @...

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“The Rings,” by Jennifer Woodworth
Jan01

“The Rings,” by Jennifer Woodworth

“The Rings” My husband was a carpenter with hands so big he could wrap them all the way around me. Since I had put off getting my husband’s wedding ring until the day before the wedding, the artist made it for me in one day. He was not a jeweler. He made art with metal and stone. He made my husband a thick, wide, rounded ring.This ring will always feel good on his hand, even when he’s working. I inscribed it in my own hand. I made bronze sculpture, so I understood the crafting of metal. I watched the artist turn the little gold bar into a circle, join it together, and polish it to hide the weld. I wanted to remember the heat that made this ring, so I asked him not to hide the weld on the inside. My inscription began there and ended there. The weld inside is also the joining of lives. The ring was heavy and warm like a ripe peach in my hand. I made the ring with soft gold. When he gets old, it will tell the story of his life. We were married in my husband’s house in the winter. He was an excellent hunter. He was proud of the huge antlers he hung on his walls. They were scarred and sometimes broken—courtship, clashes, close calls. The only heat came from the woodstove my husband had built. It seemed strange to me that he had hidden and polished his welds on his stove—I loved the jagged scars welds made: I sought them out; I created them; I wanted to see the mystery of proud flesh healing in my work. I uncurled my fingers when my husband said, “With this ring, I thee wed.” I was afraid to look at his face, so I watched the two cats sleeping under the woodstove instead. It occurred to me suddenly that my husband wouldn’t have hidden the welds underneath the stove. He made his vows while he nudged a lacy antique ring over my knuckle. The ring was elegant and unusual. I thought it was perfect for me. I stared at my new ring. I was silent. I looked up, searching for my husband’s face, but all I could find were the antlers. They had grown wild and twisted. Turns, forks, splits, scars, broken places. I lost my voice in the thicket. When I could speak again, I said, “With this ring, I thee wed,” and made my vows. I slipped the heavy ring on my husband’s giant hand. Whenever I saw that wide band on his hand, I remembered that we were just...

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