She had a story in her, she thought. At least one story, maybe two. Probably she had at least two stories in her. Other people had stories — she must have them. She would bring one out into the world, she thought. She could think very hard. Like graphite is hard, like grammar.
Every time she thought story, she meant fetus, or tumor. Just kidding. She meant story. When she thought about her story hard enough, like a brick wall or an oral defense, she felt it dividing. In no time at all, it was the size of an eraser — and oh the potential of that! Some nights, she could even sense differentiation. Her story would have a beginning, a middle, an end. She just hoped they would come. that. order. in.
She was very young. It’s true it might be hard, as hard as calculus or to forgive, to have a story so young. Potentially, she could have another soon after the first. Maybe there were three or even four stories — she might have a brood, chewing her open from within, their milk teeth brutal as stale Chiclets. As irresistible.
She could put them all out there, her stories. If she stood them short to tall against the wallpaper in paper-lace dresses, she would have a book. And her book, it could win an award. People won those awards, they didn’t just exist; she would win one. It couldn’t be that hard — not like rocket science was, or finding a good man. Hers would be kind, lucrative stories. One might be optioned, she could imagine that, what with the kinds of stories she just knew she had deep down in her very authentic core.
She was a hungry girl, and smart enough to know publication wasn’t sustenance. Her mother, after all, was a poet. Her mother’s poems were stories, kind-of. But not relatable stories — not stories flush with recompense. No. That they were not. Her mother’s poems were filled with hard things like luck and knocks and fucking.
Her mother would disapprove of this idea altogether. She would cluck her tongue, then drink. Her mother might not even believe she had a story in her, that what she was mistaking for a story was the mere desire to have stories. She’d suggest chemotherapy, or a man. What kind of life is out there for a woman with stories? her mother would ask. A hard life, that’s what. Then her mother would proceed to discuss with her the future, rolling it around on the linoleum counter like a boiled egg, until she couldn’t help but pick it up. She knew exactly how the future would feel in her hand — with its dry riverbed pattern of cracked-and-sharp clinging to its own underskin with the misplaced modesty of the ruined.
She stared at the pink of her palm for a long minute. Then, she turned the hand over — what would be her writing hand, if she wrote. She checked her nails, also pink, for chips. They were fine. She smoothed the front of her lambswool sweater over the soft, pleasant-to-others swell of her stomach. Finally, with hands on either seam and the barest hint of hatred, she yanked down her backslit pencil skirt. There was, she knew, a fault-line between confidence and ease. And nothing worthwhile, she’d been told and she believed, was easy. Not even a girl.
Kirsten Kaschock here. I am the author of three poetry books: Unfathoms (Slope Editions 2004), A Beautiful Name for a Girl (Ahsahta Press 2011), and The Dottery (University of Pittsburgh Press 2014). A fourth poetry book, Confessional Science-fiction: A Primer was selected by Eric Baus as winner of the Subito Poetry Prize and is forthcoming super soon.
I also write fiction. Coffee House Press released my novel Sleight in 2011. A second book of speculative fiction, The Rate at Which She Travels Backwards, is currently in submission. Recent work can be read at The Collagist and in Dead Letters, an anthology edited by Conrad Williams and published by Titan Books this April.
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