The Disfigured Monster
I went down to the old mill building and stood between the river and the massive brick walls. I thought about the hundreds of girls who had once gotten sick there, turning cotton into pieces of the American Dream. I seemed to remember the whole building on fire, the girls leaping to their deaths, like sunny angels, choosing one horror over another.
The memories weren’t why I came. They never are, and yet I always seem to find them. I had come to sip wine and view the art hung along the renovated hallways. Van Gogh and Kandinsky. Chagall. Picasso. I wandered through the halls for miles until the art felt like memories, too.
For a breather I snuck into a broom closet. I took a seat between a ladder and a mop, reveled in the cool, dark quiet. Then, a little girl revealed herself from a tall shelf she had been hiding behind. The girl had one normal, girl-sized arm and another as short and thin as a pine needle. She looked very ragged. She stayed very quiet.
“Do you know where you live?” I asked the girl, leading her out of the closet, into the hall. “Maybe we can find your mother.” But she did not know where she lived, and she had no mother to remember. I carried the small girl home.
My husband arrived and I showed him our new child. The girl and I, eating peanut butter sandwiches at the kitchen table. I prepared a bed for her on the couch in the living room, but all night she sat on my lap until we rocked to sleep together.
When I woke the child had gone. Another woman, full-grown with two full-grown arms, sat on the couch across the room. Ragged clothes and grey, soft teeth. She said she only wandered in to find a little warmth.
“You can stay,” I told her, and my husband, too, because I knew it was going to be like this. Strangers coming in for me to love them, strangers going away.
The Giant Monster
My father says consciousness is the opposite of entropy. But entropy is so strong that I let the morning’s extra coffee sit in the pot all day. I drank so much coffee that all I could do was run. I ran every day for fifty-seven years. I passed a dead raccoon decomposing by the side of the road.
The raccoon was my friend. My heart rate rose every day as I approached the spot where his body slowly changed. Anticipation makes my stomach explode like waking up from a dream. It’s almost too much.
But I compensate. I balance. Yesterday I told myself that I don’t have to do anything. I lay in bed and stared at a blank wall for two hours, the safest thing I did all week. I felt my soul rise out of my body, like a hot-air balloon captained by a pirate.
When my soul returned the pirate told me that the world outside had changed. A beautiful giantess walked the streets, touching her soft hands to the tops of buildings like a saint. Nobody slept as she walked. They lay in bed, barely breathing, waiting for the giantess to disappear. Nobody knows what do to with such a massive beauty.
My husband says the more you know, the stupider you become. The less capable of making any decision at all. We were driving to the ocean and I wanted to kiss him, or anybody so long as the kiss was shared. I wanted to feel as I did when I was staring at a wall.
When we got home a homeless man was laying on our porch, waiting for my inability to say no. I had made a habit of giving him rations of cigarette, tea bags. I couldn’t, so my husband asked him the man to leave for me. Please don’t come back, he said. You are taking advantage of her kindness.
The Shrinking Monster
A group of elderly people sat around a table in a chain coffee shop. They didn’t mind just sitting and talking. They probably came there every day. They did not want to speak overtly about their own failing bodies, but an old woman told the others about someone who was hit by a subway train and lost both her legs.
The story of the legless woman made the news. The elderly lady was talking and wondering how it all had happened. Did the woman jump or did she fall? Was she pushed? One elderly man said, “It’s okay, they make good prosthetics these days.” Another said “I would rather be dead than have no legs.” “What’s saddest of all,” said the elderly women, “is this is the last we will hear about her in the news. The reporters will have all moved on.”
I had been experiencing rapid shrinking all week. I was shrinking from the inside out — bones, organs, nerves, then muscle. My insides shrank first and then my skin imploded around a tiny new version of myself. For a minute or two, before my hair shrunk down, I felt, almost, like air.
I was embarrassed about the whole occurrence, so I temporarily moved out of the house. I told my husband I needed to buy some milk, checked into a cheap hotel. I did not pick up my phone when my husband called. I would make up some story when I returned home. I was kidnapped. I was lost. I was flying.
In the hotel room, I started making white paper cranes to keep my mind off the shrinking. I sat Indian-style on the bed, worked until the paper cranes, the size of flies, covered the comforter, then the floor, then the television and set of matching chairs. It was nice to increase the volume of something for once, for once, for once. A fire alarm went off, but I thought I must be dreaming. Those cranes on the radiator are not ablaze. I was never any larger than I am.
Rebecca Fishow’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, Necessary Fiction, The Believer Logger, Matrix, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Syracuse University, where she received the Joyce Carol Oates Award in Nonfiction and a Cornelia Carhart Ward Fellowship. Rebecca teaches creative writing in Maryland.
(Next LADY MONSTER story: A Compendium of Chinese Ghosts, Part I and II by Elaine Chiew)
(Previous LADY MONSTER story: Accomplice or Hostage by Michelle Ross)
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Art by Marc Chagall