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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Michelle Auerbach’s “The Third Kind of Horse”

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Selection from The Third Kind of Horse

CHAPTER ONE, OR INTRODUCING LYSSA (PAGES 2-5)

I wanted to tell a romantic story, but this isn’t it. This was and is a dirty story. It’s pornography – or real life – or if I’m lucky, both. Romance might have happened to nice Jewish girls who lived in Brooklyn, but I wasn’t that kind of girl, not that kind of lucky, and I didn’t want that kind of romance. I wanted to find a girl walking around the corner when I was carrying my groceries home in the rain, the pink plastic Korean store bag winding around my fingers, banging against my leg. I’d have to stop every ten steps to unwind it. All that was in there was a package of tortellini, a head of broccoli, two carrots, a zucchini, a container of heavy whipping cream for my coffee, a cauliflower, and a jar of tomato sauce. I wanted so badly to encounter someone in the rain in Brooklyn who would come home with me and make some noise on my futon.

I’ve got nothing to do on that particular night; no AIDS Hotline staff meeting, no Thursday Nite Girls Nite at Boy Bar, no yoga, no coffee with a friend. Just Tuesday night on Eighth Avenue in Dyke Slope, Brooklyn. The wind was blowing rain in my face. My hair was the right length for every piece to whip into my eyeballs or my teeth.

The whole day was dingy. Twelfth Street was skanky dingy and every time I turned that corner, every time, I’m not kidding, I wondered if I’d make it to my door without getting gangbanged, robbed, murdered, or at least hassled by the guys who work in the auto repair shop under my place. What happened was that I got depressed wanting to live in the East Village. I’d been told too many times, “I don’t date girls from Brooklyn.”

Is this porn? Nah, not unless you count the fact that I used one carrot for steamed vegetables to go with my torts and sauce, and I used the other to masturbate. Those big fat carrots are cheap as hell and taste like nothing, but if the end didn’t taper so much they’d be perfect. Once, a woman took one of those out of the fridge and used it on me, still at thirty-eight degrees. That was a first date and a last date at the same time, but everything’s a turn-on for someone; you just have to find the right person to appreciate it. That was not my lucky night.

On the other hand, I was born with three trines in my chart and supposedly even one makes you lucky, extremely lucky. I have three, and Pluto passes my mid-haven in this lifetime, which means I will be important, or famous, or at least really lucky. This is all according to Sistah Double Happiness, who cares about things like fame and luck. And taught me everything I know, not much I admit, about being lucky.

I decamped to New York when I was eighteen, tender and smooth. I have a picture of my childhood friend, Artemis, and me standing at the top of the subway stairs at 116th and Broadway the day we moved to New York to go to college. We share a look of sly triumph; we’ve escaped from the suburbs and become importantly urban. We’re wearing matching sweaters, mine mauve and hers forest green – those were our anthem colors. We’re round, breasts and arms, young and succulent as cactuses after a rain; strange and lush. We shared a vision of ourselves as inherently urban, sophisticated beyond what Connecticut was ready for. Experience has allowed that vision to dissipate, leaving me an insider, and Artemis too, but maybe not insiders in the same New York as each other or the same New York we thought we were moving to when we left. At twenty-three I felt the need for another rain to plump the cactus, but I was a lucky New Yorker. I was making it.

I wanted to encounter this woman around the corner on Twelfth Street, take her home, and tell her my story. I imagine the perfect girlfriend: she would listen to me with Mother Teresa’s patience and then fuck like a high school field hockey player. She would smooth my hair back and tell me I was brave, not stupid, and she would kiss me. But I would know better.

Instead, I got home soaked and cold to make the tortellini, steam the veggies, heat up the sauce, and put it all in my grandmother’s big Blue Willow bowl. The bowl embodied the beautiful objects of my childhood in a drafty loft above a car repair shop. My grandmother told me there was a story on the bottom of the bowl; that if I finished my food she would show it to me. On the bottom was a willow tree with a stream running past. In the tree, two birds perch on a branch. My grandmother said they were sweethearts, turned into birds so they could stay together forever. “Somewhere out there,” she would say, “is your bashert, your intended, just like the birds in the tree, and you will be together always.” Easy thing to say when you had a marriage arranged for you by an old meddling matchmaker who found you a good boy who would take you to America and open a furniture store so that you could raise your children on the Lower East Side and eventually move to Long Island when they started building mass produced suburbs where you two could live together until he died and your now assimilated son moved you into the maid’s room in his house in the goyische suburbs.

As a kid, I lived in a house full of nice things I was not supposed to touch: vases and rugs and even rooms where my mother never opened the shades during the day because it would damage the fabric on the couches or the art on the walls. My grandma let me use her old Blue Willow bowl. After she died, it moved with me to college and to Brooklyn where we have no TV and no money for one, and not much heat either. This was all a source of pride. I was surviving in New York, after all, without asking my father for a stick of furniture. Then, wet from the rain in my cold apartment with its tar-covered patio – really the roof of the car repair shop, it was all okay because on a July afternoon when that roof has a few dykes sunbathing topless, it could be San Tropez. The bowl and the patio made up for the fact that we only had one window. We did have skylights, because it’s an artist’s loft, and I lived with an artist.

My roommate was cranky and she had issues. She worked my last available nerve, but she was not home, so I could eat alone and be cold and lonely with my bowl and my hair in a towel, relishing the fact that I saved a carrot for later.

Here’s the point – I knew my luck would eventually change. I knew because my chart said so, and Sistah Double Happiness said I have that kind of luck. I chose to believe Sistah D, because I always have. Even my grandmother, who could only imagine monogamous heterosexual partnership for life, who filled me with romantic notions, would say it couldn’t stay like this forever. Sistah D said I was lucky and my disasters would work out for the best. D did my chart over and over ever since high school and he always said the same thing: “You one lucky little dyke.” I didn’t see it that way. What I saw was me in Brooklyn, where I’d rather not be, in cold, wet New York’s late winter twilight, when the sun set at four and the exhaust from the cars covered my lone windowsill in soot.

At least I had the carrot to look forward to.

This excerpt appeared in Michelle Auerbach’s book, The Third Kind of Horse, available from Beatdom Books. Purchase yours today!

Michelle Auerbach is the author of The Third Kind of Horse (2013 Beatdom Books). Her writing has appeared in (among other places) The New York Times, The London Guardian, The Denver Quarterly,Chelsea Magazine, Bombay Gin, and the literary anthologies The Veil (UC Berkley Press), Uncontained (Baksun Books), and You. An Anthology of Essays in the Second Person (Welcome Table Press). She is the winner of the 2011 Northern Colorado Fiction Prize. Michelle is an organizational storytelling and communications consultant and lives in Colorado with her partner and her three kids.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirty anthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Maureen Foley’s “Women Float”

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Selection from “Women Float”

Watching the waves in the dark draw and pull, rise and fall, I imagine my journey as I finally leave Carpinteria. I’ve left before but this time I don’t know if I’ll come back. I’ll miss the ocean the most and that’s why I walked here after Mia and Cedric took off. As the day extinguishes, I imagine my journey, which is still only an airplane ticket to Rome and a Eurail pass and a savings account.

I walk through my adventure to an imaginary paradise, Agua Sante, in my head. As always, it’s a beautiful, exotic woman I make my main character, but this time instead of Janie in the female lead, it’s me. As the mental cinema plays out, the ocean pulls me in and I stand up and walk into the sea. The water doesn’t even feel that cold on my bare legs. I wade into the whitewater of little teeny waves at the shoreline. Ankles, shins, nearly to my knees. I’ve never walked this far out by myself and definitely not at night. I trip on the smaller waves, get to my knees, don’t fight the waves I can’t see until their white foam sneaks up onto its toes. Phosphorescent plankton squeezes together into rings, and holds candle lit vigils with clear, green flames whenever the water splashes, collapses onto itself.

I look up into the vast black sky diving head first into dark sea, where the only horizon markers are the sparkling oil platforms. The sea murmurs tricky gossip, deep within thewaves, almost whispered. The ocean at night is pure movement, sensation.

I want the water to cover me. I want to be immersed in the ocean. As a wave approaches with its gentle pull, I slip my shoulders, chin, mouth, ears, nose, eyes, eyebrows, hairline, all of me underwater carefully until the wave’s crest sucks the hair over the top of my head. I’m totally underwater. Wave passes, I push up on my feet and I break the surface and breathe deep. My heart beats normally and I feel like I’m home.

Instantly, I have to try it again. This time, I burst from the bottom like a rocket. I fold down to the bottom, and my pale red hair floats up like seaweed. After a moment, I explode through the water screaming, “AAAAaaaaaah!”

The surface of the water rocks when I shoot out but I duck under again, this time giggling for no reason. Laughing underwater is just blobs of air, no sound, and Sandra’s right about sinking. I can’t do it. I have to work to keep from floating up. I can only stay under for a few seconds before I boil up, in the bubbles, to the surface.

I keep dunking and jumping, and I push all my weight to my feet to stay under longer. Fear dissolved like a sugar cube in coffee. Gone. Under the water, there is no loud sound, and I become super aware of my skin, the water streaming over me, and how everything looks black. After a while, the waves fall flat to catch their breath, and I suck in a hundred year gulp of air, and really try to make myself dive under, my body sopped over by the ocean.

Without blinking, I rise to the surface, drift on the water, and feel the air turn cold on my face. Floating in the dark, I hear a voice inside my head, maybe a memory of one of Janie’s stories, ask, “What happened to the tale told by a mermaid whose words turned into water when she spoke?”

Then an answer in my mind, “She bottled her story, and sent it adrift. Now, it washes up on exotic shores, and people read it, add changes, before they cast it back into the sea. The story recycles forever, repeats like the waves. Sometimes, young women who read it disappear. Their final footprints lead to the sea, stop short at the shoreline.”

Imagine that you’re floating on an ocean, and you’re the last person on earth. That’s what it’s like for me tonight.

 

This excerpt appeared in Maureen Foley’s book, Women Float, available from CCLaPPurchase yours today!

Maureen Foley is a writer and artist who lives on an avocado ranch by the sea in Southern California with her daughter, stepson and husband, writer James Claffey. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Epileptic. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Caesura, The New York Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Skanky Possum and elsewhere. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Prose from Naropa University and now teaches creativity, English, writing and more in Santa Barbara County. She is currently working on a new novel and developing a series of illustrations and text for a children’s book.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirty anthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Maureen Foley’s “Women Float”

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Selection from “Women Float”

The tide begins to pull out and before she can say any other stupid nothing, I pull her into a hug, and a huge wave crashes, spits water around our ankles, recedes, and we hold the embrace. I collect her body in mine. I roll outside myself, trying to heal the confusion I hear in her voice with touch. We crack, envelop each other, and there is a pain in my chest, a sore ache. Mia shakes, from her roots, as we let the waves pass over our toes, and I wait for her to let go of me.

“Win, I’m so scared,” she says.

“Talk to me,” I say.

“Can I talk to you about meconium? And fetal heartbeats?

And my grandma’s recipe for kick-ass chicken dumplings I’m craving?” she asks.

“Yep,” I say. “I can make them for you.”

She squeezes a smile from under her nose, and then it falls. The image of Mia’s stomach pushing out like a seal belly flashes and I want to flee again.

“Honestly, I wanted to be sure. I think I knew if I told you it would be real. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. We were so dumb. After I told Cedric, he actually cried. Turns out he always wanted kids. We’ve been sort of secretly dating all summer. Just getting to know each other as lovers, sans sangria,”she says.

My heart beats fast because, finally, all I can do is hold her hand, say the words, and hope that she knows how strong she is. My loneliness falls flat at the feet of her crowded space, one baby growing into her life, and an unknown man hovering in the wings, like a rusting anchor. I am lucky to be able to run away. We keep talking and more details leak out, more than I want to know, but she needs to tell me these things. So we walk, arm in arm, back away from the beach, across the railroad tracks and to our houses next door to each other. She walks me to my door, and inside to my living room. I hold it together and play nice. But the charade is hurting my face and I can’t wait to close the door on this day. Forget tea, I need a tall boy of Island Brew Blond and then escape into bed.

Right before she walks out my house and across the driveway, I pull her into a final hug, which she ends by moving her face to mine. I wait for drifts of air on my ear, for a secret whispering. There, instead, she places the softest kiss, her lips lingering on my flushed face. Her lips flatten me, as she steps away.

A casual “See you later, my friend,” ends the moment. Too stunned to speak, I smile and watch her widening hips and thickening arms grow away from me, smaller, towards her home and inside the black door.

How many times have I wished for this? This kiss, which just fell, empty of passion, onto my cheek. I couldn’t have predicted that kiss, this moment, or the absolute satisfaction that I’m left with as Mia walks back to her house without me.

Back inside my house, alone in the dark of my space, I cry deep oceans. For Mia, for Janie wandering, for Aunt Selima, for me stranded, for years spent alone, for too much time lost on the wrong person. As the tears dry up, I fall asleep on my couch, and don’t wake until the end of a very long, dreamless sleep. I wake up disoriented in my living room, walk to the window and look out across my front yard.

Nighttime, the moon rises over the peak of the Chismahoo. The glowing lightbulb peeks over that hill that tacks Carpinteria onto California’s elbow. I stare at the moon for a second and think of my mother again. Where is the postcard? I left it at Mia’s, in her house. Oh, well. There are no secrets anymore. She’ll know

I was there but she won’t care. I toss off my clothes and sleep in my underwear, needing the softness of sheets directly on my skin, even though there is no warmth in my solitary bed. But I sleep best a little cold.

 

This excerpt appeared in Maureen Foley’s book, Women Float, available from CCLaPPurchase yours today!

Maureen Foley is a writer and artist who lives on an avocado ranch by the sea in Southern California with her daughter, stepson and husband, writer James Claffey. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Epileptic. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Caesura, The New York Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Skanky Possum and elsewhere. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Prose from Naropa University and now teaches creativity, English, writing and more in Santa Barbara County. She is currently working on a new novel and developing a series of illustrations and text for a children’s book.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirty anthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Maureen Foley’s “Women Float”

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Selection from “Women Float”

“Win, okay, ready for the big test?” Sandra asks.

“No,” I say.

“It’ll be fun. Like deep sea divers.”

“Can’t we just be shallow sea divers?”

“Not today. Remember? Just trust the water.” Sandra scoops a handful of water and pours it over her shoulder, like an old woman in a bath. “Have we talked about buoyancy yet?”

“Nope.”

“It’s like this.” She lays her hand on the surface of the water like a person floating. “Where we’re standing. Here. What do you feel? Light or heavy?”

“Neither, really. Light, I guess.”

“That’s because you are. Now watch. I’m gonna dunk down, and I bob right up.”

“How?”

This question makes Sandra pause. “I don’t know. I just float up naturally. It’s actually hard to stay underwater. You have to force yourself to. Because our body, it wants to float, especially when our lungs, they are filled with air. And as women, it’s easier. Women float easier than men. More body fat. Some people, they have a harder time floating, but everyone can. Watch.” She takes a big breath and bobs under in a tight ball, and then her body rises up to the surface and floats like a jellyfish. In a second she flips her head up.

“See? Now this time, I’ll try really hard to sink.” She blows out all her air and flings herself down to the murky bottom of our pool. No air bubbles rise up this time. She sinks for a second, and then rises to the surface.

“Okay, now we’ll try together. First, take a big breath of air, then we go under. Uno, dos…” and on tres she dunks under.

My heart pumps fast, but I stay above the surface. I keep remembering film footage of those whales trapped under ice in the Arctic, with no air. I can tell I’m one of those people who can’t really float. When Sandra pops up again, she coaxes me, “I’m right here. Okay, Win? You’ll be fine. Ready? Hold my hands this time.”

“I’ll sink to the bottom like a lead weight. I’ll settle on the bottom.”

“No. Your body wants to float. Your legs, your arms, everything is light. You’re light. Think light. Enough talk. Let’s try. One, two…” and on three she sucks under in a big breath. I feel Sandra’s arms pull me under, but I resist and the water caves

in over her head. I look down at her from above the surface of the water and smile at the bubbles streaming from her nose and mouth. Her black hair wavers around her face, and she holds her body below her, and fans her hands back and forth exactly like a mermaid. I’m sure she lived underwater in a past life.

Underwater, she holds her hand up, makes a one, two, three with her fingers, then opens her mouth. Muffled, through the water I hear a sort of screaming noise that must be Sandra’s voice. I open my mouth and say “mermaid” out loud. A mermaid, but a failed mermaid because she keeps floating up to the surface. Where have I heard that before? My mom, Janie, told me a story once, one of her drunken bedtime ramblings. Before I can quite remember the whole thing, Sandra comes to the surface. She asks, “What happened?”

“I got scared at the last minute. You look exactly like a real mermaid. Mermaid Woman. Not like me…”

“People have said that before. But you’re wearing the green sirena suit, superwoman. You can do it!” She pulls herself out of the water, and stretches out onto a rock, her toes pointed out. She straightens her arms and arches her back. Water drips off her back into the pool. “I’m a mermaid now, too, see?” She laughs. “We gotta go. Lesson’s over. Good work today, Win. Time to get out.”

“Today wasn’t good. I’m a failure, a failed mermaid.” I lug myself up, over the rocks, careful not to skin my knees, and Sandra hands me a towel.

“Failed? No. Why?”

“’Cause I couldn’t dunk.”

“Don’t worry. Next time! Not a failure, no. We’ll try again.” We walk back down the trail towards her car, and as she starts the ignition and pulls away I say, “My mom once told me a bedtime story about mermaids. It was around this time of year. I remember my sheets were sweaty, and I couldn’t sleep. So my mom got out the rotary fan from the closet and set it next to my bed, turning, you know, like a sprinkler, so it hit the whole room.”

“Costa Rica is hot like that, too. Sticky hot,” says Sandra.

“So, my mom wet a washcloth for my forehead and told me a cool story so I could sleep. It was all about her being a mermaid. Actually, a mermaid who can’t…how did it go? Once there was a mermaid who keeps floating to the top of the ocean. She’s a failed mermaid. So, her family tries to hold her down, so she won’t float away. I can’t believe I still remember that.”

As I explain to Sandra that story, the memory rises inside my head. I see Janie sitting at the edge of my bed, a red headband tied around her head, my bedside light hitting half her face. Scent of alcohol and sweat, perfume and the sea. My mom’s voice, or how I imagine it was, telling the whole story using her name in third person, like a fairytale, and I can almost remember it.

Janie was a failed mermaid. She couldn’t stay under the water. As a baby, they tied her to rocks, and dead creatures fallen to the sea floor, and once the bloated corpse of an ex-­Navy man who had been singing show tunes to cure insomnia, until someone pushed him over. But still she’d get loose. As her body would rise higher, she wouldn’t even fight, couldn’t fight buoyancy. She’d flip her tail, and when the surface became clear she’d watch her face reflect, grow closer, ripple, like the sifting of sand on the ocean floor.

One time she finally broke the water’s surface and felt a cold, cold, cold around her. Nose, ears, lips, chin, emerged, and she inhaled. She smiled, and her mouth filled with bright air, not the harsh salty water. She stretched her neck, laid her head back, and unfolded her arms, a lone body on top of the swells.

In one jerk, her body was seized from below. A lasso of seaweed tugged at her ankles. Janie heard her fiancé’s voice gurgle up in bellows. Fish ducked and darted as she sank and sank, until her body bumped against the spring-­cushion floor, covered with sea urchins, starfish, holdfasts. Janie’s family had built her a giant rock necklace, laced with the rib bones of lazy fish, and lashed it to her with sponge thread and cement. Nothing more was said about the incident.

“So, why did your mom consider herself a failed mermaid?” Sandra asks. She’s been quiet for a while. As she parks the Camry, she folds her sunglasses and tucks them onto the top of her bathing suit.

“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it that way. It’s just a story.”

We sit quiet for a second, staring at her doorway, and Sandra unties her scarf from around her head. As I get out, I notice we’ve dripped water onto the seat, and left wet butt marks on the vinyl. I pick up my bike from where it has tipped over on her front lawn.

“A sad story. What about the end?”

“That’s it. The mermaid just gets weights tied to her so she doesn’t float away.”

 

This excerpt appeared in Maureen Foley’s book, Women Float, available from CCLaPPurchase yours today!

Maureen Foley is a writer and artist who lives on an avocado ranch by the sea in Southern California with her daughter, stepson and husband, writer James Claffey. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Epileptic. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Caesura, The New York Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Skanky Possum and elsewhere. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Prose from Naropa University and now teaches creativity, English, writing and more in Santa Barbara County. She is currently working on a new novel and developing a series of illustrations and text for a children’s book.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirtyanthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Maureen Foley’s “Women Float”

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Selection from “Women Float”

My old house is tucked near the freeway in what’s now the part of Serena where the houses have big enough backyards for little girls to have pony pens. There it is, now painted a civilized off-white with green trim. I park the car and consider the possibility of going inside. Probably another wholesome family with kids having perfect childhoods. When I was little, the roads here were all gravel and we had these amazing battles with lemons and little rocks.

After a few minutes I realize I probably look suspicious sitting in my car so I walk up the front path and knock on the door. A young woman answers. She doesn’t look like a mother and she smiles without knowing who I am. She wears a short skirt, showing sunny, strong legs, and her hair’s pulled into a ponytail. A pair of glasses sits on the top of her head and the smell of bleach slips past me. The woman crosses her arms, still smiling, and I see her fingernails, each painted a different color. Blues, reds, yellow, orange. I realize I’m staring.


Hello,” I say with a start. “I, uh…I used to live here. As a little girl.”

The woman holds herself precisely balanced, like a valuable object. I feel like I know her, but can’t think of how. She wears a thin tank top, one strap falling off her shoulder, bridging where her skin pulls tightly over her collarbone, the shoulder angular and square. Her shirt falls slack across her breasts which hang loosely under the tank top. There is no bra crushing her chest, and the openness of her body invites me to imagine touching those shoulders, to see if they’re velvet.


Come in,” she says with a smile. “Sorry about the bleach. My girlfriend wanted a dramatic change.” Girlfriend or girlfriend?

I follow her to the kitchen, where a woman sits on a bar stool reading a magazine, a towel draped across her shoulders. Her wet hair is yellowish brown and stringy, falling almost to her waist. “Hi,” she says, the word slipping quietly from her lips. She swivels away from her magazine to face me, her legs scissoring out from, and parting her green, flannel bathrobe. Her face threatens to eat me alive, and her eyes stare wide flicker bright like a neon sign reading, “We’re Open Come In.” “Hi,” I respond. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to intrude here. I should probably go. I just…” What? Why did I come? I don’t think these women would understand if I said I feel like I’m a fire, and that I’ll find water here. They won’t get it, or any sort of obscure dowsing references. As I think, I hear myself say, “I used to live here with my mom, and her house just burnt down today, and I guess…I just wanted to see our old house.”


Immediately the two women open their eyes a little more. “I’m sorry. Wow,” the one in the chair says.

And I believe myself suddenly as I spill out the lie, just like slipping on a pair of roller skates and seeing where gravity takes you. “Yeah. You know that fire up on the hills? Well, my mom lives in the Painted Cave area, and, her house, it’s pretty bad. Gone.” I can’t make tears, not on the spot, so I just make my face look dull. “I guess I just didn’t know where to go. So I came here, to our old house. It…She…My mom started the fire. That huge fire back there. My mom, Janie, came home and found out that her second husband, Stan…” I watch the women. The girlfriend stares over my head out the window, while the woman who opened the door for me props her arm against her friend’s hip.


Too late—I can’t stop now, even if I wanted to. “Stan had been sleeping around and so they had this huge blowout, this major argument, and my mom found some gasoline in the garage and decided to torch his suits because that’s where he met this woman. Buying suits. And then the fire got out of hand, that Santa Ana breeze and everything. I guess the conditions were perfect for it and fire just spreads. My mom’s in the hospital, now, with second-degree burns, smoke inhalation, no house, and no husband. Stan took their car, just hit the road. He left before it got out of hand, just left my mom stranded. What a bastard. Everything’s a total mess, now. So, I’m pretty shaken up. Pretty upset. But it’s not the first time Stan’s started a fire…”


That last sentence finally takes it too far. The tank top woman stares at me then shifts her look to her girlfriend. They fall into each other’s stare, ignoring me completely. I hear, almost feel, my lie flop around the dead air without landing. The bath- robed woman pats, and then rubs, the other woman’s shoulders.


Not only do they know I’m lying, but they don’t care, have hardly even heard me. I stepped in on two lives, where I didn’t belong, and now it’s awkward. For the first time I can remember my lie fails completely, crashes, and burns. It’s time for me to walk away from the crime scene before they look at me wrong, and I give myself up.


As I stand in my old kitchen I think about switching places with one of these women. Their intimacy brightens my old house, like the walls are covered in tin foil because they’ve built a world here. No, not a world, a shrine, to worship each other in, and the house is no longer mine. What I knew here is buried beneath linoleum and naked bodies.

 

This excerpt appeared in Maureen Foley’s book, Women Float, available from CCLaPPurchase yours today!

Maureen Foley is a writer and artist who lives on an avocado ranch by the sea in Southern California with her daughter, stepson and husband, writer James Claffey. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Epileptic. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Caesura, The New York Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Skanky Possum and elsewhere. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Prose from Naropa University and now teaches creativity, English, writing and more in Santa Barbara County. She is currently working on a new novel and developing a series of illustrations and text for a children’s book.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirtyanthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Maureen Foley’s “Women Float”

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Selection from “Women Float”

We all create a wake when we leave a place. Not something we can always predict but an invisible trail. If I wanted to find Janie I could follow her perfume clouds and lipstick-rimmed shot glasses across the world. I could search everywhere for her clipped toenails, dead skin, straw wrappers and unsent postcards addressed to me. Mermaids don’t have clear paths, though. They drift, float on the tides, move with the currents. If they get tossed on shore that’s where they stay, until their skin dries out and they have to return to the water. Janie, like other pregnant sea fish, beached herself by Rincon to have me, then returned to the Pacific. After she took off, I left the water, but I’m beginning to feel a pull again.

I go back in the kitchen and stare through the lit oven, to check on my soufflé without opening the door. The cake’s not quite ready so I leave it in, set the timer for another minute and pull Sandra’s napkin sketch out of my pocket. Scribbled onto the back where I didn’t see it before is the message, “Words are too small for love.” Found poetry. Words are too small for love and the ocean too small for mermaids but water just keeps moving, leaving the shore and returning, pulling creatures withit, children, sand, sailors. It doesn’t care.


I bet the soufflé is done. Light on, I look through the door, and yep, it has puffed out like the breast of a mating California quail. I open the door and slide it out just as the timer goes off again, hot air blasting my face. With my oven mitt I set the cake down onto the counter and watch it sink into a chocolate crater, cracked and brown. After a cleaning frenzy but before I leave, I set Sandra’s sketch of me into my cookbook, replacing the now burnt painting of the swimmer by the pool, to mark the page for next time. I turn off the timer and pause.


Janie left for the last time exactly twenty years ago this month. She was 29, the same age I am now. Words and love. Mothers who disappear. Birthdays and giant waves. Soufflés and swim instructors. How I changed from someone drawn to the water but not allowed in, to a woman afraid of drowning. Why?


Enough. My brain is full. I grab my bag, unwind my apron and walk out of the kitchen towards the seal fountain, the thick smell of chocolate coating me like frosting.

 

This excerpt appeared in Maureen Foley’s book, Women Float, available from CCLaPPurchase yours today!

Maureen Foley is a writer and artist who lives on an avocado ranch by the sea in Southern California with her daughter, stepson and husband, writer James Claffey. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Epileptic. Her writing has appeared in Wired, Caesura, The New York Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Skanky Possum and elsewhere. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Prose from Naropa University and now teaches creativity, English, writing and more in Santa Barbara County. She is currently working on a new novel and developing a series of illustrations and text for a children’s book.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirtyanthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Meg Tuite’s “The Healer”

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FROM “THE HEALER”

I’d been shaking since I was a kid. It felt like thousands of butterflies battling inside my internal organs. I would stop breathing and pretend that I was invisible. My siblings had other ways of coping with a raging father and a mother as afraid of him as we were, but mine was like a strange purple birthmark that a girl I once knew had plastered over half of her face. People would stare at her, furrow their eyebrows and then turn quickly away, but I knew that girl had noticed every one of them study her in horror before they moved on. She didn’t notice me smiling at her all the time like some kind of loon, but I was sure we were kindred souls. My birthmark was rupturing from the inside so that I was compelled to stay in motion or the tics and shaking would come to the surface. I ran track races and played basketball, baseball and raced on a swim team, but I never could outrun it.

(pg. 162-163)

 

When I arrived at the dirt path that led to the waterfall with a wooden sign welcoming everyone and listing the rules—silence and single file only, in three languages—I got in line behind a group of elderly women. They had a few kids with them, but no one that I knew, which made me calmer. It would be my solitary goodbye to Brazil. Some of the women wore their skirts and shirts into the waterfall. The kids were already stripped of clothes and in their bathing suits. I had gotten down to the rocks and was waiting for my turn. What a bizarre ordeal this had been. I felt worse than I had ever felt in my life. I was looking forward to getting home to my house. I came closest to what they called peace when I was alone. I hoped I could make it through the hell of the airport security and long flights without breaking down. I could see the birthmark getting brighter and brighter everyday.

I heard voices and looked around. I remembered that this was supposed to be a quiet sanctuary. One kid was pointing at me and a few of them were yelling out in Portuguese. All the old women were looking in my direction, putting their hands up, and a few dropped to their knees. There was a golden light beaming through the trees. I noticed blurs of blue around me. I stood on two rocks while a swarm of the most exotic, magnificent blue-purple butterflies whirled and beat their wings around me. They landed on my head, my arms, and fluttered everywhere. I smiled through tears trying to keep the butterflies inside me as still as possible.

I closed my eyes. He had seen me. I was inside a miracle. When I recovered I would make sure that Melanie wrote this one up in the books.

(pg. 170-171)

 

“The Healer” appeared in Meg Tuite’s book, Bound By Blue, available from Sententia Books.Purchase yours today!

Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared in numerous journals. She is author of two short story collections, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books and Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, and three chapbooks. The latest: Her Skin is a Costume (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging (2014) written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale and is currently working on a mixed genre collection to be published in late 2014.  She has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize and is the fiction editor of the Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press. She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College and lives in Santa Fe with her husband and menagerie of pets.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirtyanthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Meg Tuite’s “What Was That I Was Searching For”

 

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FROM “WHAT WAS THAT I WAS SEARCHING FOR?”

7.

Christopher was yelling at me in the street. “Come on, let’s celebrate.” He had a group of males with him and I had just left a known man of gluttonous descent. I thought to myself, nothing but moments, and went out to a bar with this hammered group. I said yes and our lips straddled each other in the frozen air.

His apartment was full of books. They were dormant. They lived only by their covers. No one had cracked them. I was dubious when he announced that Moby Dick was a long-winded staunch novel of men during the war. His best friend, whom he wanted me to meet, thought women were whiny and long- winded, as well.

He cried one night. “I never read these goddamn books. I just buy them to unnerve women.” I was fucking unnerved.

 

12.

I met the psychiatrist at a small bar downtown. I was doing my usual drunken rendition of some lounge singer with the micro- phone and he came to watch my act. He was older, shrunken and teaching at the University of Chicago. Yes, I was impressed and thought, what the hell. He lived in the rich part of the area. He’d just divorced and wanted to take me on.

He invited me to the ballet. He got a box for us and brought champagne. This was a whole new world for me. During intermission he ran into a couple he knew. They looked at me, wondering if I was one of his sleazy students. He said, “Have you met Martinique?” My eyebrows rose. My name was Elizabeth. “She was a prima ballerina for the Aspen Ballet, but she had a terrible accident one night and could never dance again.” My mouth dropped open. “Tell them about it, Martinique,” he prodded and the couple was intrigued now, nodded their heads. He was challenging me.

It was horrible,” I said closing my eyes and looking pained. “I don’t speak of it much, but it was during a performance of Giselle. I played Giselle, of course,” my voice got shaky and I shook my head. “Bastion Hedrick, you know him don’t you?” I eyed the couple as they both nodded. “Well, he had me up in the air and we were doing the final lift and as I was coming down, I realized he was off” my voice quivered. “He was two steps off and I buckled under my toe shoes and ripped my Achille’s tendon.” The couple put their hands to their mouths. “No,” they said. I nodded my head again and then the lights were flashing and intermission was over. The woman rammed me against her chest and said, “I’m so sorry. You poor, poor dear.” She had tears in her eyes.

And that was how the psychiatrist got off. He would get down on his knees in crowded restaurants and propose. He’d start raging arguments with me in public. I never knew when I was on stage. It was exhilarating and heightened our lust.

And just like the curtain goes down, one day it was over. He said he’d meet me somewhere and never showed. It happened a few times before I stopped calling. He was still acting and I had become the unsuspecting spectator.

 

 

“Bound By Blue” appeared in Meg Tuite’s book, Bound By Blue, available from Sententia Books.Purchase yours today!

Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared in numerous journals. She is author of two short story collections, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books and Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, and three chapbooks. The latest: Her Skin is a Costume (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging (2014) written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale and is currently working on a mixed genre collection to be published in late 2014.  She has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize and is the fiction editor of the Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press. She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College and lives in Santa Fe with her husband and menagerie of pets.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirtyanthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

 

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Meg Tuite’s “Bound By Blue”

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An Excerpt From “Bound By Blue”

He stood in front of the mirror in a place where no one could find him. His mother had finally died in some old people’s home his sister had stuck her in. His sister liked to stash people away. She’d had Edward taken to the hospital twice for what the police called, “Potentially harmful to self or others.” His sister lived in another city but kept one eye on Edward at all times. She called him every weekend. He had been diagnosed and the mask of relief had imprinted itself on the faces of everyone he knew. There was a name for what he was. They all nodded their heads and spoke over him in quiet tones. He wasn’t violent. Never had been. But Schizoaffective was filed away to rectify any action he took that challenged the normal day-to-day repression that commemorated the lives of everyone around him.

And now Edward stood there naked, with a spoon. There was no gun or pills or rope to hang himself with. Just a spoon that conjured up the daily regularity of soup, cereal, ice cream or Pepto-Bismol. It was a utensil that graced the tables of conventionality. It was sublime in its household, prosaic banality. No one looked twice at a spoon.

 

“Bound By Blue” appeared in Meg Tuite’s book, Bound By Blue, available from Sententia Books.Purchase yours today!

Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared in numerous journals. She is author of two short story collections, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books and Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, and three chapbooks. The latest: Her Skin is a Costume (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging (2014) written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale and is currently working on a mixed genre collection to be published in late 2014.  She has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize and is the fiction editor of the Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press. She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College and lives in Santa Fe with her husband and menagerie of pets.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirtyanthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

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The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Meg Tuite’s “Family Extravaganza”

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An Excerpt From “Family Extravaganza”

“You’re every woman’s fantasy of a volcano. Look at you, baby.” Mom would snuggle up to me and try to drag me up on her lap like I was a Chihuahua in a St. Bernard’s body. “You’ve got the makings of a science project.” She’d rub my corpulent belly that was giving my knockers a run for the money. “Every day you could blow your fuse or blow a tire, you never know, but I say, keep on singing, baby, keep on singing and it’ll never catch up to you.”

I really wanted to slip some of my Zyprexa in her mimosa to see if she could see what I saw in her, but I never did. She was so full of some kind of life that neither of us had ever experienced. She was hopped up on a drug she’d never known. Mom’s psyche had become mutilated when she was a child. Some rank neighbor’s father had molested her for years, annihilated her kid-dom. She told me once that she didn’t speak for a year after that. “My mom never prepared me for bankruptcy,” she said. “What was there to say?” she’d ask and wander into an abyss that felt like trying to dig that hole to China. I knew what it felt like to dig for something that I’d never find.

“Rein them in baby, rein them in,” she’d say. I told her the bras she bought me were a structural engineer’s fantasy, capable of shooting boulders at any enemy who crossed us. She’d laugh and pull up my shirt, saying, “By god, you’ve got a goddamn gorgeous mountain range erupting on your chest.”

Mom was a true fan no matter what I did. And I barely did much. I attempted to date sometimes. Manager Pete, or some guy who ordered a 9-piece original, or another one who went for a 24-piece bucket without looking beyond my breasts—didn’t matter if they were single or had an entire family at home— would wait for me outside when we closed up. I let a few of them suck on me in their cars in the parking lot after hours and I could understand what the marrow felt like in those bones after they’d ripped away all the meat. What is it about the weight of a breast that makes a man lose his faculties and become a slurping, corpulent baby? I guess those weren’t really dates.

So, the psychiatrist took me off the Zyprexa before I launched into the girth of the state of Texas. He told me I would lose the weight on this new drug and that I was the psychic equivalent of a teeter-totter. I never met anyone that didn’t peer over the precipice of something.

 

“Family Extravaganza” appeared in Meg Tuite’s book, Bound By Blue, available from Sententia Books.Purchase yours today!

Meg Tuite’s writing has appeared in numerous journals. She is author of two short story collections, Bound By Blue (2013) Sententia Books and Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, and three chapbooks. The latest: Her Skin is a Costume (2013) Red Bird Chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Collaborative Poetry award from Artistically Declined Press for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging (2014) written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale and is currently working on a mixed genre collection to be published in late 2014.  She has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize and is the fiction editor of the Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press. She teaches at the Santa Fe Community College and lives in Santa Fe with her husband and menagerie of pets.

Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirtyanthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.

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