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Girl Talk: Short Fiction

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She offered a weak smile, but nobody wanted it. She looked down after that, had her thumbs fight each other. Their heads knocked around. She looked around the train and cast another weak smile. It did not take. The fish were not biting; they were already sitting, hook in mouth, at the mercy of little screens and big screens and plastic plugs for your ears. Nobody read on the train anymore. Why was that? She remembered when people read on the train. All of the hunched backs over paper, their minds making fabulous stories to tell themselves. What a lovely thing, books were. She handed out a weak smile. A man looked up at her warily, but was uninterested by the offer. She looked down again, thumbs wrestling. One of them gained traction over the other and the oily residue of her fingerprint smeared the polished nail. Her fingerprint was a swirling void, a meaningless collection of lines she kept with her to smear over other things. Marking territory, perhaps. She held the weak smile this time in her hands and pushed them outwards, begging for someone to carry it for her. But the little screens and the big screens did nothing to alert the creatures behind them, and she was surrounded by automatons.


Fish Food

She was standing in the empty kitchen. It was empty but glistening in the early sun, like it had been drained of water. A fish tank. She swam through the tired haze of morning over to the counter, made breakfast. Yogurt and fruit and water. She changed the yogurt flavor frequently; you are what you eat, and lately she had been getting too plain. She wanted freckles scattered over her face like granola. She wanted blueberry eyes that looked beady and purple in the summer. She wanted to be nice, cute enough to eat. Sometimes she felt like a wretch. She sighed and let the coffee trickle down into her cup. It looked like p---, tasted like it. She didn’t want to look like that, so she set it down. She only had it on alternate days anyway; she wasn’t planning to rely on anything, caffeine or otherwise. Someday she might end up alone with no resources, and addiction would complicate things. A waste of money, of mind. She floated over to the table and sat while she ate. She spooned the peach into her mouth. Peach was fun. Warm. Summery. When she was bored, she would often think about what would happen if everybody started trying to kill each other. If she were at work, most likely, she would take her most crucial possessions (phone, sharp objects for protection, entertainment) and slide under her desk. She’d crawl around on the ground, playing dead every few minutes or so. Then she’d lock herself in the basement with food and water, check all the windows. She came up with ideas for other places when she was waiting inside them. She tried to scoop up more yogurt but only hit the bottom of the plastic cup. She just kept hitting it, over and over, trying to make a dent. There had to be more. More. More. More to this. The sun tapped on the glass and the fish blinked.


Potato Head

She chose the one that was ugly. It was the one nobody else wanted, because the world was a pageant and we all had the misfortune to be registered in it. Competition, competition. Jesus. It was a potato. It was a potato that looked utterly potato-like: softly haired and mottled like a human is, freckled and a warm-off yellow. It was inviting in all but shape: it had two matching lumps attached to its upper trunk, like the cross of Jesus Christ. Do potatoes have trunks? A torso, maybe. Either way, it looked strangely holy to her. To everyone else, it was a solid 3.5/10. And then there was another growth in the middle, a muppet nose that seemed to be hiding a grin underneath. Vegetables are children to some, fruit like poetry. She always found them to be sustenance, food for the body instead of the soul. Words and pictures were for the soul; food provided the energy to sustain this soul-eating. She looked around, made sure no one was watching her. Others browsed nearby, picking up clean, round potatoes that had meant to be eggs. She picked up the ugly one. It fit well in her grasp, fit for raising. She was tempted to lift it, like lifting up the cross, but she quickly remembered herself and set it down. She had touched it. The ugly one. She had touched it. Did that mean it had to be hers? She pushed her cart idly back and forth, wheels screeching, as she stared. This was ridiculous; there was no legal obligation, no human need. There were better-looking things in the world. But, looking at the potato again, she was struck with wonder: how incredible it was that this humble, distorted creature had found its way out of the ground, picked up by its creator and hastily thrown with the others, for once not seen with the eyes but the soul, and had lay down next to its brothers and sisters patiently so that she could hold it like the word of God for that one single moment. It had worked harder than any of the others to be recognized, and yet nobody cared. The world was a pageant and the potato was registered, and she was registered, and soon her children would be and her husband would be and h---, even her dog would be. The potato, the one that was a solid 2.5/10, 1.5/10, 1.345365/10. And now here she was, rating it all the same. She stopped. She looked at the humble potato, breathing soft like it was made of her skin. She picked it up and put it into her cart, resolving to make soul-eating energy out of it. She let the wheels screech beneath her as the world said its prayer.

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