Crooked fingers of thick grey fog moan over the birch forest. The sky looks heavy. My nose is pressed up against the window, breath hot on the frosty pane.
“Come away from there,” Mama says to me in Russian, “you’ll freeze.”
“Mama,” I turn to her. She’s dark and bundled in the cold light. “Can me and Kolya go out and play?”
She draws in a sharp breath, and eyes the edge of the forest. “Why do you want to play? It will rain later, look. Better to stay inside. Talk to your family you haven’t seen.”
She looks down her long, thin nose at me. Hands on hips, heart beating. I’ve been trapped inside the dacha, summer cottage, for days as Karelia pours bucket after bucket of rain down on us. We don’t usually come in the autumn, but my grandmother wanted to spirit us away from the city before my mother and I go back to New Jersey. My heart is pounding against my chest, itching to breathe the open air.
“Maybe,” Mama acquiesces. “After you eat your lunch.” Continue reading
Photos by Erin Popelka
It was subtle at first. When Carpolina was 14, she noticed some scales forming around the base of her neck. Her mother always told her that puberty was a bitch, and to expect strange bodily changes around this age. Sure, the scales were kind of itchy, but in the lighting of the bathroom, they glistened. In high school, where everyone experiments with spoken word poetry and dramatic fashion statements, no one suspected anything when Carpolina showed up wearing turtlenecks. Continue reading
It was October and my friend, Lance, had invited me to a costume party in the ritzy part of Boston that a friend of his friend was hosting. Of course I was excited, but politely declined when I saw the entry fee of one hundred fifty dollars. However, Lance was determined to go and begged me to join him. He used every form of bribery there was beginning with stating there was a cash prize of 10,000 dollars for the most authentic and realistic costume and ending with his offer to pay for me to go. He should have started by waving my fee because the moment he did I was in.
Knowing that there were large cash prizes at stake I quickly began planning my costume. I scoured Pinterest for “original costume ideas” which actually really defeats the purpose so I switched to “semi-original costume ideas” and eventually found a winner. After scrolling through images of trolls, aliens, and girls dressed as nerds I finally found a costume that spoke to my true identity. I wanted to be a giant green pickle. I could already imagine being called to center stage, the lights glistening of my slightly sweating green form as I accepted a giant check made out to Pickle Girl. Continue reading
Happy Halloween! Thanks so much to everyone who entered our 2016 Halloween writing contest! We received hundreds of submissions, but after careful consideration we’re thrilled to announce this year’s winner:
Congratulations, Thaïs! She will be receiving $50 and a book in the genre of her choosing.
Thanks again to everyone who participated! Next year’s Halloween contest will be open to submissions starting in August, 2017. You can also submit all year round to our general submissions
. If you missed it, please go back and read our excellent Halloween finalists:
PART I: ERASMUS
The autumn breeze quivers my tiny, cotton collar. I survey the pumpkins lying haphazardly on Stuart’s Farm. Then I call out in the high-pitched voice of a three-year-old: “Pun’kin! Pun’kin!”
Susan’s red hair cascades into my stroller, shrouding my view. “Which pumpkin do you want, sweetie?”
I have never felt a propensity toward gourd shopping, especially not in Granite Springs, though now that she insists that I voice my opinion, I have no choice but to share it. I pull her hair aside.
“That one!” I point to the farthest and largest pumpkin in the patch, which takes us five minutes to approach.
Upon closer inspection of the plant, I reject it by stomping my feet against the stroller. I never tire of this performance, not in all my twenty-eight years of experience. Truly, the acting is unnecessary. This performance is something I add for pleasure. I am the epitome of toddlerhood. I have a small, button nose, large eyes, and peach-colored cheeks. Besides, with the right words and a little peas-blossom, I take on the exact appearance of the child I replace. When looking at me, you would never guess that I am middle- aged. Hardly! My skin has the sour and sweet perfume of diapers and baby powder. The fact that Susan has dressed me up for this inane holiday seems superfluous, and frankly, ridiculous. I do not want to be dressed as a stegosaurus. I am already pretending, why should I put on another mask?
“Hairy, airy, Sophie- four eyes, four eyes!”
Every word is punctuated by a sharp slap, a swift kick, and a trickle of warm spit.
Then Mrs Maleigh appears on the porch, ringing the brass bell.
The flushed tormentors scurry into the schoolroom, leaving Sophie Turner to sit up.
Snow powders her tattered coat. She’s lost one of her precious winter gloves, but there’s no time to look for it. She hurries after her classmates, knowing full-well why she is singled out.
The other children can smell it on her, the oddness. She isn’t a townie. She wears patchy old clothes and too-big boots. Her frizzy black hair won’t sit in a sleek, fat plait like the other little girls’, and she has a pair of thick glasses like two telescopic lenses.
As Miss Maleigh begins her lessons, mean fingers pinch one of Sophie’s old bruises. She bites her lower lip. Another pinch… and another, punctuated by giggles. Then the fingers start on her hair. One, two- three frizzy threads are yanked out by the roots.