Little Girls

Fiction, Lupercalia

They carried the baby bird wrapped in a yellow, flowered handkerchief. Its eyes bulged behind their closed lids and its prickly down barely covered the stubs of its wings. The wrinkly peach flesh was damp with perspiration and plant juice. It choked and twitched feebly, beak broken open.

“We’re going to operate now,” said the little girl in the red corduroy dress. Her glossy, black shoes were scuffed and muddy and her little white tights had been ripped by the holly bush. There were no lights in the attic but the mother had given them three candles with the stipulation that Make Believe was not allowed to knock the candles over and burn the house down.

The two girls scooted past boxes and trash bags filled with grown up things and tiny baby things from times they could not remember. They were like bright fishes, easily distracted by strange colors and strange noises. They crawled on three child’s paws: two dirty knees apiece, one dirty hand apiece, tipped with chewed nails.

“On the operating table,” said the little girl in the red dress. She snatched the handkerchief from her companion and slammed it down on one of the boxes.

“Scalpel!” she cried.

Her companion picked up the handkerchief and lifted it to her nose. There was something there that reminded her of earthworms and pill bugs, like the juice that dripped from the knife to the kitchen floor, like the scolding she received when she stayed out in the sandbox past lunchtime. She reached into the pocked of her blue shorts and held out a sprig of holly.

Blood Connection

Fiction

Body is a road. Body is a moment on the road. Body is a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road. Body is a molecule of oxygen inside a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road. Body is a molecule of oxygen inside a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road in an autumn too hot for the leaves to turn. Body is a molecule of oxygen inside a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road in an autumn too hot for the leaves to turn so they die green and fall green into the dirt beyond the road. Body is a molecule of oxygen inside a cell without a nucleus and hemolyzed skin in a moment on the road in an autumn too hot for the leaves to turn so they die green and fall green into the dirt beyond the road where beyond the road snarls at the dying season.

This One Pigeon

Fiction, Lupercalia

The pigeon made mistakes.

—Frida Kahlo, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait

 

When I wasn’t working or fucking my boyfriend I was either standing in a queue or walking around the space between Reading Jail and Jackson’s Corner. I never reluctantly stood in a queue. The space between Reading Jail and Jackson’s corner has the mall with the cash point, the chocolate shop where my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend works, a pub that brews really good mead, and a church (Reading is too small for a Cathedral). Reading Jail has a very high wall. A friend of my boyfriend once said the space between Reading Jail and Jackson’s Corner was the best place to go if you felt like climbing the church tower with a sniper rifle and a sack lunch. I have a lot of days where I feel like that, especially when I’m not working, queueing, or fucking. There are a lot of pigeons in that space. A lot of those pigeons don’t have all their toes. I saw this one pigeon that had no feet at all but walked amazingly well on its little ankle bones. There are sharp metal spikes on the ledges of buildings. When a pigeon tries to land it loses its toes. But it’s not inhumane because when the pigeons try to land they can still fly away.

Photo source.

How to Build an Altar

Fiction, Lupercalia

To build an altar you need the familiar territory of a dry riverbed and the shadow of a nuclear power plant. You need the roar of a siren on the air, the highway in the distance, the skull of a kingfisher and the footprints of someone you don’t love anymore. You need a stone from a hand that killed in a war far from home, knucklebones that know the fractals of a willow branch and all the sounds of breaking. You need the smells of honeysuckle, salt, and gunpowder, a piece of iron if you’re superstitious. You need the oil slick iridescence of a cockroach wing and a lock of your mother’s hair. You need the cornerstone of a place that makes you feel safe, even if that place isn’t really a place but a scrap of paper or the empty air. You need a poem written by someone you haven’t met yet.

Eating a Strawberry

Fiction

The strawberry is poison and it pops into your mouth as if by magic.

It is cold and sour. It pricks your tongue like a bee sting. You

chew as if a spider clawed its way across your jaw before stopping to

rest above your lower lip, you chew delicately.

Originally published in 50 to 1 (as Jessica Otto).

Photo source.

Romance: A Sci-Fi Short

Fiction

We stepped outside the greenhouse and the lights went cold. He reached out; his palm froze against Saturn’s gelatinous ring and pulled away from his wrist like wet paper. I felt the romance leak out of our suicide as I saw the black hole. I punched him in the face.

Originally published in 50 to 1 (as Jessica Otto) 13Feb2010.