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All Your Fragile History

Story by Jasmine Sawers (Read author interview) June 22, 2020

Art by Yuki Izumi

I got this DNA test for my dog because he looks like a cloud and he looks like a luckdragon and he looks like something your lint roller picked up when you banged it around under the couch for the first time in three years and I was sick of people asking sick of having no answer when they did so I followed all the directions on the packet I got him first thing in the morning before he could take a sip of water before he could go lick the other dog’s eyeball before he could root around the other dog’s asshole with his tender pink snoot snoot I got him and I swabbed his gums while he jerked to and fro like a malfunctioning Furby and I stuck the Q-tip in the test tube and sent it back to New Jersey postage paid no problem and I sat back to wait the appropriate amount of time for some labcoats to put his elementals in a centrifuge and spin it around until they could draw out all the threads of him and look at his heritage as if it were a map as if they could build him his own family tree as if they could slot him into some ongoing canine narrative and say, “his people left France in 1647 and roved across the English countryside before boarding a ship to Mexico it all makes sense now how he makes that weirdo monkey sound how he howls and shakes when he’s excited how he shrieks when you approach the door to leave him,” and anyway it took two weeks exactly and I woke up to an email telling me he was not half cumulous half cryptid but half rat terrier a quarter miniature poodle a quarter Chihuahua and I looked at him and I said, “Huckleberry Finn you have never caught a rat in your life,” and he looked at me and didn’t say anything I assume because he was ashamed of his failures as a vermin exterminator and I assume because he wanted to make a point about my hypocrisy walking around with this face and not getting a DNA test myself but let me tell you white people love to take DNA tests white people love to parcel out what kind of white they are white people love discovering “<1% Sub-Saharan African” or “3% Native American” on their rainbow pie graph summaries white people love to tell other white people that they come in all different shades and they can portion out their blood in riveting fractions but when they ask me what I am and it’s a day I happen to answer it’s always, “Thailand? I hope you get liberated from China soon,” or, “No, you’re Indian, don’t lie,” or, “ugh I’m so jealous you never have to go tanning,” and wouldn’t you know it it’s worse when I tell them I too am cobbled together of fractions I too am white enough to want to spit into a beaker to find out if I’m one quarter Irish or two-fifths French wouldn’t you know it’s worse when they say, “oh you do look white you’re actually really pretty,” or “you’re so dark for only being half” or “are you sure you’re not Indian,” wouldn’t you know it’s worse to fear you will be unmoored should you spit into that beaker only for a stranger to be spat back out shouting, “Italian!” “Indonesian!” “Greek!” “Vietnamese!” “Swedish!” waving a flag you don’t recognize singing a language your tongue can’t curve around loosing the tether to all your fragile history as if a single PDF has the power to cleave you from the memory of the burst of mangosteen across your tongue the touch of your grandma’s hand as she helped you whisk the German chocolate cake batter the way Thai and English merge in your mouth to crack out interlingual puns the way your mother decorated the Christmas tree with garlands of jasmine blossoms and a slender Buddha up top the way your eyes glint green in a certain light the way your grandma said “davenport” and saved used Ziploc bags the way your grandpa said “I just want to help someone” and let you hammer nails into blocks in his woodshop the way you slipped between buildings and under scaffolding to find a bustling halal restaurant cooking khao mok in a wok the size of a bathtub the way the street vendor in Bangkok asked your mother “is that child half white” only to jack up the price when the answer was yes the way your brother hid his birth name from the kids at school because if they’d known it they would have run around chanting “ching chong ching chong” the way you’ve been called a “nigger” and a “chink” and a “gook” and a “slant” and a “spic” the way you’ve been called “the perfect Asian student” the way you’ve been told to go home the way you used to scrub your skin until you were one big livid pink abrasion hoping the color would rub off with the blood the way you look for evidence of belonging the way you look in the mirror the way you look.

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“All Your Fragile History” placed second in the 2020 SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction Competition. 

About the Author

Jasmine Sawers is a Kundiman fellow and graduate of the MFA program at Indiana University. Sawers serves as Associate Fiction Editor for Fairy Tale Review and has work in such publications as Ploughshares, SmokeLong Quarterly, and The Offing. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Sawers now lives and pets dogs outside St. Louis.

About the Artist

Yuki Izumi is a painter and videographer resident based in Tokyo. His work is decidedly interdisciplinary, frequently involving close collaboration with musicians. From 2008, he has been a member of the art group Exportion, where he projects and organizes multimedia works featuring a close interplay of images and sound.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Eight — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction 2020 of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Eight — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction 2020
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Important

The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021!

This competition is no longer accepting entries. Watch for the long list coming soon! The four winners of the competition will be featured in Issue 74 of SmokeLong Quarterly coming out near the end of December.