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The Photo | Ayshe Dengtash

The Photo

She thought back to all the wonderful memories she’d had with him. The photo was where she had left it two hours ago, turned face up on the chipped wooden coffee table they’d bought together when they’d first gotten married. She rummaged through the shoebox in which she’d collected snippets of their relationship over the past seven years. Glancing over poems he’d written to her on the backs of receipts, she recalled how they’d once been happy. She picked out a receipt and turned it over, eager to see what kind of things they’d shopped for all those years ago, if perhaps they would give her a hint on why everything had changed. But the ink had faded and all that remained was the logo of the supermarket they still went to. She contemplated going back to live with her mother, six hours away on the island she’d left all those years ago, back before she’d had a child, back when her skin was not the pale white it was now but instead was sun-kissed and salty with the sea she’d race into with her sister after a long day in the fields picking cucumbers and aubergine.

On this island, women didn’t leave their husbands. They endured, waiting for them to mature, for white to invade their crowns and strands of hair to fall out one by one until empty spaces shone at their drawn-back temples, for pot bellies to protrude from the gonyak they drank while their wives picked fresh leaves of molehiya to dry. She knew that her mother would tell her to wait a few more years, until he mellowed, became a ghost of himself, like she’d told her sister all those years ago.

“You’re too sensitive,” her husband had told her before she’d seen anything, when things were just a feeling. In truth, now looking at the photo, she knew she’d not been entirely right, that she’d pestered him about the wrong things, enraged by the scent of tobacco on his lips when she

knew he didn’t smoke and the tinge of alcohol on his breath when she’d never seen him drink. She dropped the receipt into the box, and slid the latter back into the cabinet over the TV, recalling the hole in the wall in her mother’s room, closed off by a makeshift wooden door which was always bolted with a heavy-duty lock. Behind it was hidden the royal-purple tub of sweets relatives brought back from England—chocolates cradled in shiny wrappers, their centres oozing caramel and sticky strawberry and orange creams, everything too soft in the blistering summer heat, everything too sweet and sickening. She’d risk it sometimes, smothering the lock in olive oil, tugging at it until it gave way, and rummaging for the one she liked the most, encased in a wrapper the same colour as the box, its centre hard with a roasted hazelnut. When her mother found the lock, dripping oil, she immediately knew who it was; her sister didn’t touch sweets, despised the tingle they left in her gums she said, and her mother would come running, scolding her, shouting that she’d not find a husband if she continued the way she did. “I don’t want a husband,” she’d say. Just chocolates and the sun, and the mild winters which were somewhat of a respite after the six months of summer that seared at her skin. But she’d fallen for love like all the girls in her village and nothing was as sweet anymore.

She had cried, wanting her husband to see how saddened she was that he’d come home late, his black trench coat shiny with glitter. He raised his hat at their daughter who’d emerged from behind her, eager to greet her father who brought home things with him, girly things like plastic rings with plastic jewels and multi-coloured plaited threads which could be used as bracelets. He’d ignored her, instead hugging his daughter who ran at him, plunging her tiny hands into his pockets, searching for presents. She’d look down at them, at his black whiskers and her daughter’s sparse hair on the top of her crown which she’d tried to fill out with concoctions of olive oil, vinegar and egg yolk as her mother had instructed. His presence dominated the room, filled out the cold

was his home. He had bought everything within it; the blue velvet sofas, the chequered carpet on the floor which she despised. Yet, she was certain he never felt like it was his at all. He walked around the edges of the rooms, touching the walls with the tips of his fingers as if he might fall. She would hug him from behind, her face catching the glitter from his coat, and when he rose, she followed him, walking at the edges herself, all the way to their bedroom. Closing the door behind her, she’d watch as he pulled open the drawers to pick up a pair of clean socks, a clean t-shirt, shorts—all the things he’d change into when he’d washed the glitter off.

She picked up the photo and plunged it into her cardigan’s pocket, gazing out at the street below her window. The lamps had already been turned on. He’d be home any second now. A cat screeched in the distance, a death-scream, like something was after it. There is always something in trouble, she thought to herself, sitting on the edge of the sofa, opposite the front door, listening to any sounds which might be coming from inside her bedroom where her daughter was sleeping. Her suitcase lay open on the bed, packed to the brim with all she owned. She walked past it every day, aware of its presence under the bed, where it had been tucked seven years ago when she’d moved here after her wedding, to this unknown country, its skies always grey and drizzling, the streets smelling of foul fish and ripe meat, a butcher on every corner. The tips of her toes would touch it on Saturdays every other week when she’d change the bedsheets. And when she finally pulled it out earlier that day after she’d discovered the photo, clumps of dust fell off it onto the carpet, and some adhered to its cloth exterior, which she wiped with a damp cloth. Then, she lifted it and put it on the bed, dumping whatever she owned into it. When she didn’t like the mess she saw, she took everything out and folded them one by one, tucking rolled-together socks into her pairs of winter shoes so they wouldn’t get ruined on the journey, while her daughter softly snored on her side.

She sat on the sofa, trying to ignore the photo in her pocket. Someone passed by the door, footsteps pattering, streaks of shadow seeping into the room, and then she heard the shriek of a door opening and then the same shriek of it closing. It was the girl next door, who coughed frequently throughout the day and night, phlegm rattling in her throat.

There were more footsteps and then the metallic clatter of the lock. Her heart beat in her chest, and she wiped her palms across the sofa’s velvet exterior and waited for him to walk in cautiously as he always did, like he was scared of home.

The door opened and he stood there a million miles away, slouching under his backpack filled with the Tupperware of a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich she’d packed for him that morning. He was gazing down, and his right hand was tucked into his coat’s pocket. She rose, eager to tell him what she knew.

“Hi,” she said to him, taking a step forward, feeling the carpet’s soft bristles tickling the sole of her foot. The photo bounced in her pocket.

“Hello,” he said gruffly, swinging around and putting the backpack down by the door. His forehead was slathered with sweat. She thought how he was the pleasantest man she had ever seen. “My mum rang today,” he said, not looking at her. “She wants help with some things in the house. I think she’s going to spring clean.”

What do you mean spring clean? she thought to herself. After what I know. She followed him into the bedroom, her fingertips gliding along the wall. He opened the drawers one by one, picking up socks from one and pants from another. As she stood at the foot of the bed over her open suitcase, he slithered his feet into his slippers.

“I’ll tell her you’ll do it,” he said. He spread out his fingers and patted the top of their daughter’s head, bending down to kiss her forehead. He walked past her, his bundled clean socks brushing against her right arm. She watched as he walked out the room, and a few seconds later

water splashed into the bathtub and her daughter murmured, turning over. She gazed at her possessions in the suitcase, her frayed, murky-white knickers and the beige bra her husband hated. The blush brush she hadn’t used in months still blemished with powder. She took the photo out of her pocket and dropped it into the suitcase, looking down as it settled between her favourite Nike trainers and the case which contained her sunglasses. She’d show her mother, then she’d have to take her in. Her mother would know there was no time to wait for his maturing, that she was in danger, her soul, her life, everything crumbling before her eyes.

A woman’s voice seeped into the bedroom from the street below, spreading the word of the greatness of Jesus. She knew this woman, heard her silvery voice every day, looked out sometimes to see her wearing one shoe, hobbling along. She always wondered why she didn’t take the other shoe off. She had all the choice. We all make our own choices.

She picked up the photo and unfolded it, tearing it into two. She left the side which contained him on the bed next to her daughter and let the other half fall back into the suitcase. She dropped the case’s lid, zipping it up, listening to him humming a tune in the bathroom, the steam wafting into the hallway. She wore her old Nike trainers, their white swooshes a dirty-beige, their laces ragged, and picked up her suitcase, feeling its contents roll to one side, a dead weight.

Ambling along the hallway, she glided her fingertips along the crinkled wallpaper, the steam enveloping her body. She opened the front door and the smoke drifted out with her. She climbed down to the landing, and continued walking even when she heard her husband asking her to bring him a towel.


English translation of Turkish words

  • Gonyak: A type of brandy
  • Molehiya: The leaves of the Corchorus Olitorius plant. The leaves are picked, dried, then cooked in a tomato sauce with onions, garlic, and either chicken or lamb pieces. It is a part of Cypriot cuisine.

Ayshe Dengtash

Ayshe Dengtash was born in the UK to Cypriot parents. She is a graduate of the University of Birmingham where she completed a PhD in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in Sunspot Literary Journal, Cleaning Up Glitter, Newfound, The Journal, La Piccioletta Barca, Quibble Lit, and Red Noise Collective. Her novel 'The Grieving Mothers of the Departed Children' was published by Alden, Allegory Ridge in 2020. She has previously worked as a prose reader for Black Lawrence Press and the Walled City Journal and currently works as a prose reader for Rowayat. She currently lives in Cyprus with her partner and three cats where she teaches English Literature to students in Hong Kong through online means. She adores the writing of Jhumpa Lahiri, but her favorite book is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. She can watch 'The Graduate' over and over again on a loop.

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The Night the Chickens Died | B. C. Brewer

The Night the Chickens Died

The night the chickens died, Lacie couldn’t hear a thing. She was in the bathtub with her headphones on, blasting the MP3 player’s thirty minutes of Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus for the fourth time. The sight would’ve given her Mama a heart attack, because if toasters in the bath could kill you then you know that racket-maker could, too. But Lacie closed her eyes against that aching memory. In that moment, she was fifteen and in the tub, even though the water was cold and red and speckled with the flakes of foam from her headphones.

Lacie Hughes, her Mama would say. You’re a reckless girl.

In the other room, the sliding door screeched open and shut. Lacie unplugged the drain with her toes, but didn’t get out as the water sunk away. There was a clack-thump of something heavy set on the kitchen table. Booted footsteps towards the bathroom. Rob opened the door without permission. He never asked permission.

Lacie slid off one headphone.

“You close the hatch to the chicken coop?” he asked.

Lacie opened her eyes, but didn’t look at him. She looked at a baby photo on the wall that was supposed to be her. It was ripped on one edge, but Lacie could still see the arm that held the baby. The arm was freckled, thin, and blotchy. It was not her Mama’s arm.

“Think so,” Lacie replied.

He was breathing through his mouth.

“What about Sammy then?” Sammy was their mutt. “You chain him up?”

“No, sir, I did not.”

“Well, ma’am,” he said. “Looks like he’s gone.”

Lacie hummed in a sleepy way. She was glad.

“You gonna get out of that bath?” Rob asked.

Lacie’s eyes rounded. She looked at Rob—a thin man who might have been a crack addict (maybe he was, once), all small and stubbly.

“Maybe,” she said. “What’s going on?”

“Honey. The dog’s lose. We gotta go get him, I mean—” He shrugged, slowly and purposefully, gesturing about the room like there was something obvious she didn’t see. “What if he hurts something else?”

The question was like a small shock that made her wince, like the electric currents she played with in science class—back when she went to school.

“What do you mean? Dad.” She called him Dad when she wanted him to like her.

Rob’s eyes flicked to the ripped baby picture, back to Lacie, then to the ground.

“Chickens are dead.”

Lacie was still for several moments before she realized that she should have reacted more. Rob loved those chickens, and she knew it. So, Lacie moved her eyebrows up carefully.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “But—what does that have to do with Sammy?”

“Dog’s the one that killed them, honey, seein’ how ripped up they are.” Then, hushed, like a child with a secret: “I think Sammy’s gone rabid.”

She didn’t say anything, which made him smile. It was his easygoing one, the kind that erased any memory of what kind of person he was. “Get out of the bath,” he said, then turned and walked down the hall, back to his rifle on the kitchen table.

Ten minutes later, Lacie was wrapped in a coat and following this strange father, neither of which were her own. They exited the cabin and slipped into the forest that blocked any searching eyes.

They were the only human beings for miles.


Lacie met Rob over a month ago. She was sure it was over a month, though she wasn’t certain. In those first few days, she didn’t think to count.

The day she met Rob, Lacie decided to hate her Mama.

Lacie woke up with an aching scalp and no food in the house. An aching scalp because, at church the night before, Mama looked at her and said, “Lacie Hughes, your hair’s a rat’s nest,” and ripped through it with a brush until strands of hair floated through the sanctuary like particles of dust. No food in the house because, right before grocery day, Mama’s little brother asked for rent money. While Lacie went slack-mouth at the empty fridge, Mama said, “Oh, but he promises to pay us back this time; it’s just a few hundred dollars, and he’s been getting really better!” To top it off, when Lacie walked out of her room in a black tank top and choker, Mama said, “Lacie Hughes, you want your classmates to think your mama raised a whore?” And Lacie snapped and screamed and cussed at her until the big hand on the kitchen clock moved by a quarter, which was when Lacie’s throat felt scratched bloody. Mama was silent except for the rattling of her bracelets. She shook and cried like a frightened creature.

As Mama slowed to a stop at the high school, she placed her fingertips on Lacie’s hand, and when Lacie looked, her Mama’s eyes were cluttered with tears. Lacie felt some emotion then that hugging would’ve made worse, but scoffing would deaden. So she scoffed, hauled up her backpack, and left her Mama’s car for the last time. And that was the final image that her Mama burned into Lacie’s eyes: her crying face that said, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Lacie went through her school day with one mantra dancing in her head: I hate her. She marched to her classes, flung herself into some back desk, and listened to the headphones under her hoodie. I hate her. Lunch, more classes, an hour of detention for being tardy, then trudging to the empty street. I hate her.

By the time she met Rob, she wasn’t surprised that she wanted to go with him.

He leaned against the truck, watching her walk like he was waiting for her and her only. He gave her one of those country smiles that she liked on other dads’ faces. He said, “Long time, no see, honey. I’m your dad. You probably don’t recognize me anymore, but that’s alright.”

Lacie inspected his shadowed eyes and ratty sneakers. Photos of her dad existed, crammed into Mama’s nightstand, from before he skipped town. Rob was not her dad.

“Your mom’s got a flat tire,” this not-dad said. “It was out of the blue, but she called me to pick you up. She, uh, knew I was in the area. I was gonna meet you later today.”

Lacie didn’t think he looked like a dangerous man. He was only taller than her by a finger-length, and had not a scrap of muscle on him.

“You gonna hurt me?” she asked.

That easy smile never left. “No, honey. Not gonna hurt you.”

Lacie Hughes was a reckless girl. She got in that truck and watched her hometown drift by like a passing train.

“I know you’re not taking me home,” she said.

“I am,” Rob said. “I am taking you home.”


They found Sammy with his nose buried in a rabbit’s den. He panted happily and trotted right on up to Lacie to be leashed. On the walk back, Sammy would knock against Lacie’s leg, then give her jeans an apologetic lick, short and sincere. With every little kiss, Lacie’s chin trembled. The porch light from between the trees glinted off Rob’s rifle.

Rob stopped at the tree line and grabbed her elbow. “We’ll bury him here,” he said. “Tie him to a tree. Tight.”

“Dad.” Lacie’s voice shook.

“You’re gonna want to do as I say. Tie him.”

She did. Sammy panted in her face; his drool dripped to the grass. It was clear.

Lacie squeezed her eyes tight. Why couldn’t you get away?

“You know—” She swallowed. It was hard to breath. “I don’t think Sammy killed the chickens.”

Rob was quiet. She hated that. It meant he was thinking.

“Well,” he said, hushed. “I don’t know what in the world else it could’ve been.”

“Could’ve been a coyote,” she whispered. “Or a fox.”

“Weren’t neither.”

“Dad, Sammy didn’t kill the chickens.”

“Come hold this gun.”

“You’re a crazy person.” Her voice came out choked. “I am not gonna kill Sammy.”

“Don’t pin a crime on someone if you can’t follow through.”

His voice was even. But when Lacie looked over her shoulder and saw his face, she saw a warning. Sammy was about to have company in his grave.

So, Lacie took the gun. Rob held his hands over hers. There was no skewed aiming, no chance of her turning the rifle to anyone but the dog. Lacie didn’t see where she aimed. She saw nothing through her tears as she pulled the trigger, and hoped Sammy knew.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.


The night the chickens died, Lacie couldn’t hear a thing. She didn’t want to. Those chickens were the rock that held the fluttering kite of her sanity to the ground. The problem was, they meant the same to Rob.

She did it with a kitchen knife. Sliced their windpipes first, then ripped apart their bodies once she couldn’t feel their hearts beating against her fingers anymore. It wasn’t clean. The knife left rough, ragged cuts. Her MP3 player exhausted the thirty-minute loop and was halfway done again by the time the chickens were dead. As she caught her breath outside, the second loop finished.

Lacie unchained Sammy when she could stand again. She kissed him on the head and whispered, “Better you than me.” Inside, as she ran a bath, the music looped for the third time.

Lacie Hughes was a reckless girl. She knew that the music would deafen her to Rob if he came home, but she didn’t care. She repeated her mantra to herself, the one that glued itself to her brain and heart the first time she saw this cabin and the misery of being without her Mama came to her like a punch in the mouth. I hate him. When he locked her in her room and refused her food because she cried and begged to go home. I hate him. When she looked at every half-ripped picture of a baby held by a strange woman with thin arms and a version of Rob that was young and beaming and hopeful. I hate him.


Rob didn’t let her take another bath before he locked her in her room, taking her headphones and MP3 player with him. When the door shut and locked, she heard a strained snap.

There was nothing in that room but a bed with stained sheets, a bucket, and her backpack of notebooks and pencils. Lacie laid in bed, slept, and wrote when she felt like it. Night turned to a clouded morning. A clouded morning to afternoon, then darkness, then the earth took another lazy spin until two days had passed since the chickens died. Lacie stopped writing. Her brain gave her no more words, so she laid in her hunger and dirt and Sammy’s dried blood.

A few times, she woke up enough to hear Rob yelling, though no one else was in the cabin. But she didn’t care—she slept. She slept until something hit her in the face. Her eyes focused—peanut butter crackers.

Rob was in the doorway, holding his rifle like an old man holds a cane. Sweat soaked his shirt, and his fingers wouldn’t stop twitching.

“It’s, uh, moving day. We’re gonna find a new place.” He watched her fumble with the crackers. “I’ll get that for you, honey, I just—” He laughed, unsmiling. “Better get your stuff together.”

Lacie chewed a cracker. It coated her dehydrated mouth like sand in a desert.


She swallowed, and when she spoke, she felt like the desert she swallowed. “Do you even know my name?”


The police arrived in the afternoon to a bloody chicken coop and an empty house. To all reports, Lacie was nothing more than a wrinkled note tucked under the bedframe:

Mama, I forgive you. And I’m sorry, too.

B. C. Brewer

B. C. Brewer lives in the suburbs of Orlando, Florida with her family. In May, she graduated from UCF with a creative writing degree and has been writing short stories ever since. This is her first publication.

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Buttons | Melissa Llanes Brownlee


“Can you see it?” She asks me, her hand caressing the skin around her navel. I can’t see anything except for the soft brown hair leading down below the band of her boy shorts she wears because comfort is more important than fashion or being sexy, her fingers hopping in the air as she said it.

“Feel here,” she grabs my hand, pulling my fingers towards her belly. “There.” And the tips graze buttons, invisible, circling her belly button. I can feel the ridges, the holes, filled with thread. They are not uniform and change size and shape as I continue to circle my fingers. I stare at the places where they should be, wonder about how they got there, how they are attached to her.

“I was having that Coraline nightmare again. You know the one, and they were just there when I woke up.” She doesn’t have that dream of buttons sewn into her face too often and I try very hard not to tell her my thoughts about what that dream means because no one likes to hear that they fear loss of agency, loss of self. I mean it’s obvious, right? But still, it’s not something she wants or needs to hear from me.

“When I pull on one of them, I wasn’t trying to pull them off, although it did cross my mind” she says as she watches my fingers press against the air above her body, “I remember the weirdest things, like that time we sat in the parking lot of the Denny’s arguing about the stupid names they give food or the time you bought that clown doll I hated and put it all over the house.” Moons over My Hammy is a stupid name, and the doll was my way of getting her past her irrational fear of clowns and of dolls. Her unwillingness to see the humor in finding the doll in the shower, next to the cereal, in the backseat of her car made me realize that maybe she needed more work than I was willing to do. You can’t fix everyone, right?

“They change too. Have you noticed?” I want to pull one to see what memory floats to the surface. “They’re never the same button or the same memory.” There’s a diamond-shaped button under my thumb, the edges almost sharp. “You can pull it if you want. I don’t mind.” I look into her soft brown eyes and I do.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in The Rumpus, Fractured Lit, Flash Frog, Gigantic Sequins, Cream City Review, Indiana Review, miCRo, and Craft. She is in Best Small Fictions. Read Hard Skin from Juventud Press and Kahi and Lua from Alien Buddha. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at

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Bologna in the Sun | Suzy Eynon

Bologna in the Sun

Peanut butter on whole wheat, no jelly

When I stay home sick from school as a child, sometimes sick but other times not, I make myself a peanut butter sandwich and eat it on the floor in front of the television next to my dolls. I animate them in erotic fashion. My mom doesn’t let me have Ken dolls so I only have Barbie and Ariel. I make Barbie and Ariel rub against each other as they wear their sexiest dresses. I always spread too much peanut butter on my sandwich, and I imagine a curl of blond doll hair becomes stuck to the peanut butter. I choke on the thick peanut butter as it melts and joins with the imagined hair in my mouth, now too full to open. I breathe through my nose.


Chocolate milkshake

On Saturdays, my sister and I ride our bikes with my dad. I don’t enjoy heading out into the hot sun at 8:00AM on the weekend and I fear running into someone from school but don’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings. As a treat, we stop by the gas station before we head home after riding through the desert. He buys us each a chocolate milkshake from the dispenser by the bathroom. I can hardly keep the thick, creamy concoction down in the 100+ degree heat, but I never think to tell him I don’t want the milkshake after a long bike ride, to bring up my lactose sensitivity.


Bologna sandwich, dry

My first boyfriend who isn’t a cartoon animal lives across the main road so we walk or ride bikes to meet each other after school. This makes us sound younger than we were. He loathes me but I’m too naïve and inexperienced to differentiate loathing from loving. He asks me to pop a pimple on his back. He says his mom used to do that for him. My first brush with non-familial intimacy. I’m repulsed but do it anyway. One day on our walk, he breaks down and sobs, incoherently tells me I used to be like you and that I remind him of this.

He offers to help me lose weight. We don’t have access to a gym so he has me work in his mother’s backyard in the midday southwestern sun, pulling weeds from the dirt. When I come inside from my chore, my back and arms are purple with sunburn, plum skin grotesque against my lemon-lime striped bikini top. For lunch, he prepares me what he considers a diet meal of ingredients pulled from his mother’s fridge: a round slice of bologna between two pieces of white bread, no condiments. He demonstrates how to press a paper towel to the meat to absorb any excess juice. The color palette haunts me: the purple-pink flesh of that bologna slice pinned against bread.


Slice of deli turkey with mustard

After school, instead of the entire bag of Doritos with two Ding Dongs I’d down a year or so prior, at seventeen I eat a single slice of turkey with yellow mustard. I know the mustard has few calories so I treat myself, allow as much as I want, eating it like it’s a main course. Afraid my mom might notice my recent weight loss, I crumble the edge of a cracker onto the placemat left in my spot at the kitchen island for her to find when she gets home from work. I leave little tableaus like this around the house: food scraps as evidence of eating, my backpack and textbooks arranged in the living room as if I’ve been studying and not staying home sick from school. My estimation of a functioning young adult. If anyone notices, they don’t say anything.


Beef Stroganoff

Once I live with my partner, I try to cook dinner. I never learned to cook, only to eat or not eat. I try to make beef stroganoff, a meal I remember my mother making when I was a child, only I’m too impatient to use many ingredients. I don’t sauté onions and we don’t have many spices. I was disgusted by the dead cockroaches I found in the kitchen cabinets when we moved in and refuse to store anything there, so I buy and assemble a small storage hutch for our plates and cups, piling layers on top of unnecessary layers around me instead of tidying up what’s already there. I use the frozen Schwann’s pre-portioned beef my mother gives me when I visit home, and for a sauce I mix an entire container of sour cream and blobs of butter in the single pan we own. It tastes good to me, salty, though it looks limp and one-note on our plates.

When we break up after five years, my ex becomes angry with me and writes whore across the white front of the hutch with a Sharpie. My mother comes to our place to help me clean out the last of my things, and before she arrives, he smashes the hutch to pieces with a hammer and throws the pieces in the dumpster so she won’t see what he’s scrawled there. I move back home. I’m never really hungry, until I’m so hungry that I stop at a drive-through on the way home and eat tacos and burgers in my car while parked in the lot down the street before joining my parents for another dinner, already full but still wanting.


Soma Café, Phoenix

The only time I live alone—no roommate, no partner, no parents—my apartment is a few blocks from a healthy foods café that no longer exists. They list the calories next to each item on the glowing menu. Everything is clean and uncomplicated, no calculations required. The veggie wrap with hummus and the turkey cranberry roll have the least number of calories, so I alternate ordering these for dinner. I can’t afford the apartment which I’ve signed the lease on during a sales promotion, and don’t have a kitchen table, so I eat my wrap or roll while perched in my bed. I know none of this can last since I’ll have to move within the year, and the café will close down too, but for a span of time I feel full.

Suzy Eynon

Suzy Eynon is a writer from Arizona. Her work has appeared in JMWW, Roanoke Review, Passages North, Autofocus, X-R-A-Y, South Dakota Review, and others. She has an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. She lives in Seattle with her cats. Connect on Twitter @suzyeynon or at

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A Body of Water | Rachel Paris Wimer

A Body of Water

For a long time, I thought about Ruth every time I saw a body of water. She was wearing pink shorts and a lavender t-shirt. It was the first time I noticed that she even existed, and there she was. Face-down at the bottom of the deep end of my backyard kidney-shaped pool. I thought she was a doll; her body was so small under eight feet of water. I turned back to the large party of other high-schoolers and their parents on the deck, not realizing that I had seen the body of a friend’s four-year-old sister. How long did I look away? How many crucial minutes passed before another of our friends saw her body too, only this time seeing the truth? What would have happened if my brain had made the connection, and I had been the one to leap off the deck, diving into the pool? Could I have saved her?

My mother doesn’t remember this, but as a teenager, I used to go swimming late at night in our pool. It was heated, and the moonlight, the lights in and around the pool made it glow. When the night air got chilly, steam would rise from the water. Even after Ruth drowned, I swam with her ghost. I found out later that my father would sit out on the screened-in back porch, watching me from the shadows. This is how I know he loves me, in his own way—hidden in the dark of night so that I couldn’t see his emotions.

When I went off to college, my dad warned me about gaining weight. As a result, I went on a diet my freshman year, eating salads from the salad bar, apples, and drinking Slim-Fast shakes. When I told him I’d lost eight pounds, my dad said, “Well, you could stand to lose five more.” And when I did, he came to see me at school and as soon as he saw me, he said, “Well look, it’s Kate Moss! You look like a little waif that’s going to blow away.” The message that I got was that nothing was good enough, I would never win. I would never measure up.

That first year of college, I read Louise Glück’s poem, “The Drowned Children.” Memorizing the dark words, I let their ghostly rhythm spill off of my tongue, out of my lips, and into the air to release their spirits with my breath. I tried to come to terms with my long-held guilt. I imagined Ruth in the water’s “manifold dark arms.” When I read the words,

What are you waiting for

come home, come home, lost

in the waters, blue and permanent.

I felt a sense of deep peace, like a shadow passing over my face on a sweltering day. A respite. Relief. Maybe she just needed to go home.

Then, the summer after my junior year, I worked in the Admissions Office on my college campus, and I would go swim laps in the indoor pool after work. Trying to wash away my heartbreak after the end of my first relationship, I did the breaststroke, counting each lap until I reached twenty-five. My body was tired, so very tired, but the swimming refreshed my dry soul, even if just for those moments. It was the healthiest thing I did for myself that summer.

I remember the day towards the end of the summer when they emptied the pool to clean it, and without those cleansing breaths, I sunk deeper into my undiagnosed depression. Then, in mid-August, my dad called with the news that my Aunt Carol had died of a heart attack while swimming in a pool in L.A. She was fifty-two. I imagined her heavy body feeling weightless, peaceful at last. I felt a part of myself die with her, even though I’d only met her once. I’d always related to her, when my father looked at my body and told me that if I wasn’t careful, I would become fat like his sister. As I would soon discover, I already had her bipolar genes, so it seemed inevitable that I would have other physical traits. The weight struggles, the health problems, the lifetime of being misunderstood, the emotional rollercoasters, were mine and hers, and they died that night.

It’s been nearly thirty years since Ruth drowned, over twenty since Aunt Carol died, and now I’m at the point where I don’t like to swim. While I used to love feeling submerged, I don’t even dip my toes in. I can’t remember the last time I was in a pool, or even in the ocean at the beach. I stay on land. It’s been a gradual slipping away into fear over the years, as I’ve moved into motherhood. There’s more than just fear—there’s deep shame. As my father predicted, my body has spread over time. My thick pale thighs hardly see the light of day. I loathe bathing suits. I cover up—I hide. And maybe if I don’t swim, I’ll never drown.

At the lake every Labor Day weekend, I sit on the dock, wearing a billowy caftan, floppy hat, and large sunglasses. I watch my young son swimming, splashing in the water, and I hold my breath. If he were to go under, I wonder how fast I could move to retrieve his body from the lake. I imagine my own screams, locked in my throat. I picture the smallest of caskets, a funeral, feeling the rest of myself dying, my body drowning in the watery depths of depression, and how I would blame and blame and blame.

Rachel Paris Wimer

Rachel Paris Wimer is a web content editor by day and a writer by night. She has a BA in English from Washington College and an MA in English from George Mason University. She is an alum of the Pioneer Valley Writers' Workshop and the Tin House Summer 2022 Workshop. Rachel's work has been published in Southeast Review, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Under the Gum Tree, and Scary Mommy. You can find more of her writing at She lives with her husband and their son in Fairfax, Virginia. She is currently working on a hybrid memoir.

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Designated Rememberer | Camille U. Adams

Designated Rememberer

I am fourteen. In Grenada. Up in St. Patrick County. Visiting from my home of Trinidad for a week. Visiting my mother who, for a year, I have not seen.

I am fourteen, visiting my mother’s birth country. Where she has planned a festive reunion. A week’s holiday together for all her left-behind children.

I am fourteen, permitted this trip. After my father pounded the centre-table he then flipped. Permitted after my father slammed down the phone on my mother’s long-distance call. Permitted, after my father yanked the cord out the wall. Permitted after my father threatened his daughters with his fists. And warned we not going nowhere at all.

I am permitted this trip after my over six foot tall, construction foreman, girlfriend-spending-all-his-salary father relent. Permitted to see my mother after my father curse his children and yuh-fucking-modda vent.

I am permitted, finally, to see my mother again after my foaming-mouth father examines my two younger sisters and my tickets for the plane. Examines the stapled papers for terrorising hours and days. Upside, downside, in every single way. To make sure they contain no secret keys. No discrete visas allowing us to exit the Caribbean bowl. Making sure we stay under his empty-cupboard roof’s control.

My father making sure we cannot board an international Liat or BWIA flight. My father making sure we cannot go to Brooklyn where Smiley, my mother, now resides.

My father making sure that we cannot go to New York City, unbeheld. To that cold country my mother lives in now after she secretly fled.

After my mother secretly told a thirteen-year-old girl she’d be alone in this world. To lovingly make me prepared. So she said. After my mother left her three daughters in Trinidad with the man who she feared would take her life. After my mother left me at 13 to mother an 11-year-old and an eight-year-old near catatonic child.

Now, I am here in Grenada. Here in the isle where my mother left her first child. Here in the country where my mother abandoned her first baby. Here, visiting the village in which this first child still lives. The parish where she, with an aunt, resides. Here, meeting an unknown older sister for the first time.

Here we are, all five. Each pregnancy with which my mother was fertilised. Including the baby aborted just in time. Another daughter conceived in this isle. All five. Together in the place that sprouted such a mother we have to survive.

And I – while the first priorly-unknown daughter is being maligned, while my new older sister is being deemed evil, bitter, and full of spite – drift over to the hill to take in one of Grenada’s most famous sights.

From this distance, I cannot hear the last daughter’s whine. The last daughter regressing to babyhood with the mother for whom she pines.

With my back turned to the rest of the excursion, I cannot see the third daughter’s anxious, flitting smiles. Wanting to be mummy’s favourite, while Smiley ignores her first unloved, silenced child.

While Smiley cuddles the last. And gossips with the third who is eager to agree with everything her mother asks. Lest they, too, be forced into the iron mask. Of unfavoured daughter.

All while the unborn foetus, dealt the earliest desertion from our mother, is tasked with having no face, no name, no claim to a future. Bound only to her mother’s past.

And I – dressed in all denim my mother shipped to her barrel children, bounding care in a cask – step away from the jovial family group. The family troupe who boarded Cousin Ashley’s bus early this morning for his escorting of all of us. Up, round, and through Grenada’s must-see destinations. Sites of familiarity, nostalgia, newness, and recognition for my mother and all her visiting cousins. Play cousins from their shared childhood my mother returned home to see.

The real reason for my mother’s trip from Brooklyn happening to be not wanting to miss out on the gathering of her England, Canada, U.S. scattered family. Bringing her children together an added amendment after a cousin inquired, and what bout yuh pickney, Smiley. As this cousin laughingly tells me in our holiday verandah filled with family. Generations renting vacation houses on a hill whose name issues this collective’s command, Happy.

And the noise and the rum punch jokes and the cigarette smoke of my mother’s cousins is getting to me. So, I step away. To examine the hill my textbooks say is called Carib’s Leap. The hill my soul remembers in agitation, anger, and sorrow deep. The hill over which my remembering spirit shudders, dreams, and weeps.

Finally in Grenada for myself to see. I stand on the hill that witnessed jumpers leap into the open-armed sea. The hill that saw jumpers fly over its steep 340 years before I appear at its ledge. In this town of Sauteurs. Named by the plundering French who made them flee. Named jumpers for these indigenous people who came before me.

I stand on this inherited shelf, peering into the wealth of blue who received undeafeated troops. And families. My Kalinago ancestry. On Carib’s Leap. The hill that keeps hold of their screams, their flails, their dives, their lives. Their dignity.

I am fourteen, here to stand on the cliffside hill from whence Carib Kalinago arms flailed. Here in the town of Sauteurs to see where my mother was born and raised. And all the mothers who before her came. And the first mother, who before me comes. Today.

The first mother watching eyes pressed right up in my space. In my taken aback face. In my who-is-this-looking-directly-into-and-at-me line of sight. In my field of vision where she is so close to me I can see the whites surrounding her jet-black pupils intently, silently focused.

And the locus of any control I wield slips. And in my swift horizontal tilt, I realise it is bogus to believe it is only me who longed to see. Only my desire that drew me. To Carib’s Leap. From whose rocky, beach-washed feet, she rise.

This mother mother mother mother. The first. And extends her hand to right my gravitational confusion. Extends her come-with-me head inclination. To invite, to guide, to walk astride. To provide me with sight. And answers to my questions. Into what my spirit feels. But my witnessing must now for itself see.

As I turn now to walk, and follow upon the first daughter-deserting mother heels.

Camille U. Adams

Camille U. Adams is a multi-Best of the Net nominated writer from Trinidad and Tobago. And she’s, quite proudly, a current finalist in the Restless Books Prize For New Immigrant Writing 2023. Camille earned her MFA in Poetry from CUNY and is a current Ph.D. Candidate in Creative Nonfiction at FSU where she has been awarded a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship and nominated for a teaching award. Camille is a 2022 Tin House alum, a 2023 Tin House summer workshop reader, and an inaugural 2023-24 Tin House Reading Fellow. Camille was also awarded an inaugural fellowship from Granta Magazine for the 2023 Nature Workshop. Additionally, Camille is a Kenyon Writers Workshop alum and has received scholarships for attendance from Roots Wounds Words, Community of Writers, Kweli Literary Festival, Grubstreet, VONA, etc. Her writing has been longlisted in the Graywolf Creative Nonfiction Prize 2022 and selected as a finalist for The 2021 Orison Anthology Award in Nonfiction. Camille’s memoir writing is featured in Passages North, Citron Review, Hippocampus Magazine, XRAY Literary Magazine, Variant Literature, The Forge Literary Magazine, Kweli Magazine, The Caribbean Writer, and elsewhere. Camille is also an associate managing nonfiction editor at Variant Literature, the assistant nonfiction editor at The Account Magazine, a prose reader at Abode Press, and a memoir reader for Split Lip Magazine. When she isn’t writing and teaching, Camille can be found on Twitter at @Camille_U_Adams where she spends way too much time.

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Role Model & Can I Take Your Order? | Avitus B. Carle

Role Model

After she signs the divorce papers, and after he moves out and I move out and she decides to downsize by throwing out his things and my childish, unwanted things, my mother becomes a chalk outline model. She’s breaking news on CBS. A woman who jumped from a burning building. A bank robbery gone wrong.

When I call her, she tells me about her new lives. Shasta with the broken arm. Letitia with the steak knife. Rowen with three bullets. But mom, I say and hear her stop breathing. Mom, she says, toying with each letter, before the call dies.

Can I Take Your Order?

Order extra fries drizzled with chocolate. You shouldn't have to say "melted chocolate" because you say "drizzled" so it's clearly implied. Ten ketchup packets, just in case. You never know what might happen on the drive home. A burger would be nice. Treat yourself. Three patties, tomatoes, no pickles, light mustard, ketchup, all wrapped in lettuce.

You are, after all, watching your figure.

Not really, but tell the teenager on the other end of the voice box this. Say, I'm watching my figure. Don't let the sound of static embarrass you.

Instead, talk about your mother. The measuring tape she wrapped around your waist before every ballet class. How she compared you to other little girls sinking deep into their pliés.

Your ass gon' be trouble, she'd say, while the other little girls covered their ears.

Don't let the sound of static embarrass you.

Remember your father with a rib bone hanging from his mouth. Your uncles drooling grease, smacking on ox tails, chitlins, pig feet, chicken wings, feet, breasts, thighs, and gizzards. You tried that once, not the gizzards, but parading around with a bone in your mouth. Somethin' wrong with that girl, your uncles said.

Your daddy wouldn't face you.

That's when you ate the gizzards. Held them in your hand above your grandma's favorite cooking pot in a closet all your own.

Ask how much for a slice of apple pie. Laugh when the teenager in the voice box says, they nasty, after you miss hearing the cost.

Talk about pie. Apple, pecan, sweet potato, that one cherry pie you threw up when you were 16. Leave the memory there. Or don't. If you want, talk about how the women in your family take any bit of you they consider swollen and pinch and pull while sucking their teeth.

When you were a baby, it was cute.

Five, and they start to worry. What they feeding you, girl? They say while struggling to raise you over their heads.

You are a big legged girl at 12. Just as big as you wanna be.

16 and you're grown assed'ed, just like your mama said.

Baby having a baby, she said.

Except, you decided not to.

Again, you don't have to talk about that.

The teenager in the voice box will ask if you want extra napkins. Ask if you want a cupholder for a drink you don't remember ordering. He'll tell you to pull around to the second window.

I thought I paid at the first? You say.

Listen to the sound of static.

Change your mind. You ordered a burger and deserve a bun. Clutch a twenty in your palm. Practice saying, actually, I'd like a bun please.

Practice saying, keep the change.

Stare at your reflection in the sliding window. Your swollen cheeks. Arms beneath a sweatshirt that once belonged to a college linemen version of your father. How your stomach plumes over a belt strapped too tight. You can't see it, but you know it's happening.

The teenager behind the voice box appears, smiles, and offers you a brown bag with a greasy bottom.

Your order, he says, and you hear him. You swear you hear him.

And you ask, how much do I owe?

Avitus B. Carle

Avitus B. Carle (she/her) lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Formerly known as K.B. Carle, her flash has been published in a variety of places including Five South, F(r)iction, Okay Donkey Magazine, Lost Balloon, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere. Avitus's flash, "Black Bottom Swamp Bottle Woman," was recently selected as one of Wigleaf's 2023 Top 50, and her experimental flash, “Abernathy_Resume.docx,” was included in the 2022 Best of the Net anthology. Her story, “A Lethal Woman,” will be included in the 2022 Best Small Fictions anthology. She can be found online at or online everywhere @avitusbcarle.

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Echo | Anna Vangala Jones

Before she was a girl, she’d been an elephant. She wasn’t supposed to remember that, but somewhere in the reincarnation system, there’d been a glitch. Her memory had come with her. Now nothing in this life could satisfy, as she had a whole other one to forever measure it against. When she was an elephant, she remembered longing to be a girl, as they seemed to have things better overall. Now after an excruciating stretch in this human body, she wasn’t so sure. The past held a promise of a better future, but this present seemed eternal and fixed.

It had been a hunter and his hunger for ivory that ended her life as an elephant. Now it was a man and his greed for her body that made her life as a girl just as precarious and intolerable. What she’d done to deserve male lust stalking her as prey across two lifetimes, she was sure she didn’t know. She was determined now that the ending would not remain the same.

She wouldn’t be conquered, she wouldn’t be owned, and sold in parts—not when given a second chance. Her soul had stayed intact for a purpose. Freedom lingered just beyond the barred windows of her current cage, a shed in the man’s backyard, so like the one her elephant body had inhabited after it shuddered its last breaths and collapsed with seeming finality upon the dusty earth.

Her skin, a cracked and rough grey, was now a smooth and soft brown. Yielding yet resilient like tightly coiled springs.

The hunter had not allowed for a fair fight. He’d followed her first in his jeep, built for the terrain, and then on foot. He stalked her for some time from a distance before positioning his rifle just so and aiming for her wide, unprotected back as she bathed herself. She remembered the quiet. She remembered the peace. She wondered how long he watched her before firing the shot that brought a life full of beautiful possibilities to an abrupt end. If he’d contemplated what all came before that moment for her and what all could have come after had he changed his mind; if he spared even a sliver of thought for how she deserved to live and flourish for herself rather than die and be used for his pleasure. The feeling of the bullet penetrating her, the burning and tearing sensations, the slow agony, the merciless pressure, the shock building into horror, the pain, the fear—it had come coursing back through her every nerve ending the first night in the man’s shed. His ugly face looming in the darkness, the weight of his knees, his hot breath so close, the terror of today’s brutal reality and the fear of tomorrows with no hope.

She’d been on a bus with her high school debate team when the man began following them, first in his car and then on foot at the gas station rest stop. She’d never forget the music that played that day now, echoing for eternity—the explicit lyrics, the pounding bass, the cacophony of her classmates’ voices singing along—imprinted upon her soul as the last moments of her freedom and innocence. Just like the man’s fingerprints were tattooed into her flesh now as the enduring bruises of her imprisonment and all he’d taken from her since.

But today, as he stumbled into her shed, he was intoxicated and she could smell weakness on him. Vulnerability emanated from his pores intermingled with bourbon. His foot caught on a crooked plank that he usually knew to sidestep, and he tripped. It was now or never.

She reared back and charged at his fallen figure with terrifying speed, the hardest part of her skull focused on the point between his eyes and her nails outstretched and curled, ready to pierce his flesh. She’d been attacked from behind last time, so her curved sharp tusks had been useless as weapons and were preserved instead as the hunter's prize. This time, the man would know defeat. She felt a drunken rush of power surge through her when his face contorted in fear at her fast approach. There was nothing very intimidating about her slight frame. She was slender with a doughy tummy, all pointy knees and elbows, where her skin was the darkest brown and dry like puckered raisins. But there was no time to concern herself with how he could be afraid of a girl like her. She rammed her head into his and his eyes rolled back. She reversed and stampeded him again. Her strength swelled as he lay crumpled flat on the ground. She could feel ribs and bones cracking beneath her tremendous feet as she trampled and stomped with a delight she hadn’t felt in years.

It was only then that she caught her reflection in the small, dirt splattered mirror above him. She was enormous and grey, her ears billowing around her head like sails in a warm breeze.

She coiled him up in her trunk, lifting and slamming his near lifeless body to the ground. Over and over she did it, to be certain. She released him more out of curiosity than anything and waited. As he staggered up to meet her, the look in his eyes as wild and frenzied as it was afraid and hopeless, she allowed her tusks the victory they’d been denied before. Dark red, almost purple, flecks of him freckled her grey shell, but she plowed on. She watched the man shudder his last breaths as his body collapsed to the earth below him. A translucent, dark puddle of his blood formed around him, sparkling with his sweat like diamonds.

She trotted out into the sunlight, letting it bathe and bake her tired armor. As she settled herself in a position comfortable enough for rest, she raised her majestic head and looked all around her for any potential predators. Reborn, she closed her eyes and slept.


This story was originally published in Jellyfish Review and is an excerpt from TURMERIC & SUGAR: STORIES © 2021 by Anna Vangala Jones. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Thirty West. All rights reserved.

Anna Vangala Jones

Anna Vangala Jones is the author of the short story collection TURMERIC & SUGAR (Thirty West Publishing, 2021). Her stories have been selected for Longform Fiction’s Best of 2018 list and appeared in Wigleaf, Necessary Fiction, and Berkeley Fiction Review, among others. Find her online at

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