When my best friend Shannon declared her crush, it was the end of speaking. Why,—I wanted to ask—just couldn't fathom. Short and so, so very, short, Brent never cried. Never, not even when his dad died last spring. Why him, I wanted to ask and just couldn't. Maybe his Dad was not dead. Who could tell? Either way, Brent, to seem the man of the house, would never be caught baby-girly crying for a man we'd never met. Oh, man. Brent, why, I wanted to ask. Why? Why was he so much shorter than he should be? I couldn't say. Brent? I wanted to say. You did say Brent, didn't you? One word and we were in a fight, even if Shannon didn't know it yet. Brent? But most of all, his unassuming reticence bothered me, possibly because it forced me to fill in his character myself, and, based on his appearance, I couldn't help thinking of him as a boy. Worse, my brother. Even at age seven—my already no-good, dead-beat, leech-of-a-younger-brother. OK, yes, I finally managed to whisper. Just say our name again.
The Potable Woman
I. Glass Ceiling Slippers
"New shoes." The first thing on her list, Mary thought, running ahead of the policemen. At home, she dumped the bills on her bedspread, hiked up her skirts, and stomped bare-footed, like at an old-world vineyard. Feeling the soft paper crumple between her calloused, gnarled toes, she sighed. "Never enough."
II. My Little Mermaid's All Grown Up
Mary wanted to fit in, but unlike most girls she kept her knees tight. Then, like magic, she lost her voice—didn't say no. The boys took her, without a kiss, and left her broken in two. Her mind half, and her body—separate again, nothing but a sexless fish.
III. The Emperor's Nude Clothes
She was the only one in baggy shorts, an ill-fitting Harvard tee. The rest of spin class was clad in form-fitting spandex—a bathwater's mask, she smirked. But as the svelte group flocked from the room, she stayed on bike, looked at her fat lap of wrinkled cotton, and blushed.
IV. The Frog Prince of Peace
It repulsed her. The bedspread rippled beneath like pond water. "Kiss me! Kiss me!" he begged. Then, his ugly manhood approached and Mary crumpled in its wake. It was horrid. Slimy, panting, unthinkable. Saying nothing, she looked up, as to Jesus, and saw His face. The face of her child.
V. A Large Rump(lestiltstkin), Always Following
"One of the Newport Blanchflowers?" everyone would ask. Her mother insisted part of her would never be her own anyway, but Eve hated the name. In time she lost her mother's golden hair, but the name stuck. Every article, every book on the shelf, was a legacy to someone else.
VI. Hansel and Gretel in Wyoming
Where one wandered, the other followed. Meth-addled and tossing money like birdseed, they found themselves outside a shack. "Ecstasy?" they enquired of a toothless, ragged hag within. "Of course," she laughed. Then she shot the mother, robbing her corpse bare. Eve ran fast, thankful she knew her own way south.
VII. Ms. Midas
Mary had had a way with applying makeup, of finger-combing split ends to gold. But every time she pissed, she imagined she was still ugly, down there. Her fingers fiddled, rearranged. For a second all turned radiant, but ever after her husband complained that she was so hard and cold.
VIII. Lying Beauty
Eve was obsessed with selfies—took pictures at every meal, of herself in every shirt on the rack—until one day she became prom queen. Frozen smile, perfect updo spread halo-thick. Then, no matter how much her wrinkles widened or gut sagged unrecognizable, she never changed her profile pic again.
IX. Bremen Town University
"You're useless" her grandmother said eyeing the pan of burnt brownies. But after dropping out, Eve had no choice but to cook for herself. She layered flavors—onion, garlic, fresh ginger like a donkey's kick. She never did cook for anyone save her children, but they grew strong and healthy.
X. Beauty and the Breast
The blind date was a disaster, nothing like the paperbacks she'd been sneaking from her mother's bookshelf. Why had she driven all the way to Nampa? Why was she even trying? Afterward, at his place, he sucked and sucked as wild as an animal, but of course no milk came.
XI. The Ice Queen Cometh
The dress had seemed like a good choice for a beach wedding, but Eve hadn't anticipated the icy fingers of wind reaching, as if from the ocean's locker. "Something's in my eye," she lied, tears streaming. Even after he left, she kept the routine of dressing for ever colder weather.
XII. The Shoemaker and Her Elves
"Do your chores!" was the mantra of their house. One night the girls stayed up late cleaning, even shining Eve's shoes new. The woman was so grateful she rewarded them with fancy dresses, but with their new looks they stayed out even later, and she never had help cleaning again.
XIII. A Let Down, Your Hair
When they met, Mary's long, golden tresses captivated him, calling again and again as a Siren, until one day he woke to a fat, fist-full of grey. "You've become your mother," he laughed. She pushed him from their bed. There, he quickly closed his eyes blind and scrambled back up.
XIV. Snow White Lies
"When is the second coming of Christ?" her daughters kept asking. "Don't believe everything your heart desires," Eve replied yet again, hoping the medicine would take. But her daughters left for church anyway. The rejected mother grew old and fell into a depression. Of course, as an atheist, her death went wholly unnoticed.
XV. Beneath a Hunter (Orange Jacket While Riding On Mt. Hood)
They told her riding bareback would hurt. Bust her open, raw as a wedding night. Blood trailed from Mary's thighs and coyotes nipped her heels until she stopped at Mirror Lake to pull her rifle. "Who've you become? What saggy boobs you have! Grandma, you will die a virgin yet..."
lives in a small town in North Idaho. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist for Nimrod's Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and winner of the Jovanovich Award. Recent work is published or forthcoming in Gravel, Gulf Stream, Harpur Palate, Juked, Kestrel, Moon City Review, Nimrod, Sleet Magazine, Tinderbox
and Zone 3
, among other journals. She is the author of the chapbook Gallery Withheld (Glass Poetry Press, 2017).