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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Stubby Teeth: a new short story

My story Stubby Teeth was just published in Barzakh Magazine. I'm honored to be in its pages.

So the story is a response to something my

professor Josh Henkin told our class when I was a cocky first-semester grad student at Brooklyn College. He said (and I'm paraphrasing, and he said it better) that it's impossible to write a story from the point of view of an inanimate object, a pet, or a small child, because stories are based on characters being able to act on their own, and a good story is all about your characters taking agency.

Well, I was young and eager and full of chutzpah. I was also a young father, underslept and full of conviction that not only did babies have agency, they were running my whole damn life. I went home and, right away, started writing this story.

I hope you like it.

Stubby Teeth

His mother was gone, and she had never been gone before. And now he was in a very big room with a very big woman who was not his mother, and several toys, and a smattering of other kids, and no mother. The walls were white. There were no windows, and no mother. He screamed.

The scream lasted several minutes, until he had run completely out of breath. He rubbed his stubby teeth together while he gathered the oxygen for more.

A pair of woman’s hands—long fingers, chubby knuckles—sandwiched him, his back and his stomach. They rubbed and rubbed, and though he tried to squirm out of their tractor-beam pull and fight the rhythmic alternation of palms and fingertips, those large hands with their pod-like palms, steady and insistent, and their confident beat lulled him into complacency. Just why was he agitated, again? He no longer remembered.

The woman spoke to him, slow and warm. Gradually, he realized that she wasn’t trying to communicate a specific meaning or directive, as his mother did when she spoke, but rather to give a sort of human background noise, like music during his mother’s yoga or television when he was supposed to not talk to her, a meaningless string of syllables as she guided him to an area of the room with one thick oceanic carpet, on top of which sat a gaggle, a small herd, of other humans, small humans.

(Barzakh's cover by Mali Fischer.)

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