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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Amateur Trailmaking for $1600

Story by Jennifer A. Howard (Read author interview) March 26, 2013

art by Ashley Inguanta

The woman he dated when we broke up for a bit told him if you stick a needle in a turtle’s head, it will walk north, but she’d never try it because she’s kind of vegan, as in she hasn’t aten, she said, steak in years. Which is probably true: she’s little, so skinny. Yesterday, she taped a birthday card to his apartment door while we were inside, probably on the couch watching Jeopardy!, guessing the $200 question based just on the category. Human biology: What is the left ventricle? TV places: Where is Cardiff? She likes things on Facebook like God’s last name isn’t dammit, and I don’t understand how he was with her last winter. Maybe he had dranken too much beer with her after work, and I had already left. Left him days, minutes, whatever, before he put his hands on her, me stomping away in my size 10 boots, my XL coat, and I suppose she was sweet to him. She probably stuck around, smiling, till the end of every night and played cards with him without keeping score and didn’t make him do all the cooking. When he kissed her, he must have leaned way down, or she was on tippy-toe. Now we’re back to us, but she won’t disappear. I latch onto how she can’t spell you’re or love in her notes to him, even though I can’t even get the easy history questions right on Jeopardy!—what is the Renaissance? who were the Tories?—because the trouble of the past eludes me, even our own, until it comes stepping lightly up his stairs to leave banana bread and pictures of when they hiked out to the iced-over falls I took him to long before they met. When we pause the game show to mess around, I try not to focus on my angles, my double chin when I’m on top, because he touches me just where I think my body is all wrong and he whispers, “This is the life,” and I think, “What is exactly the right thing to say?” After he’s asleep, knocked out, I look up how to make a turtle compass, because even though he’s told her he’s with me, that their fling is over, she’s still trapping him in elevators, rising up on her tiny toes toward him, still telling him they should hook up anyway. But she doesn’t seem to have remembered that the needle needs to be magnetized first, and that it’s better to make a fake turtle out of clay, instead of poking at something alive and walking around and just, goddammit, trying to get somewhere good this time, whatever the direction.

About the Author

Jennifer A. Howard teaches and edits Passages North in Michigan’s snowy Upper Peninsula. Her collection of flash sci-fi, You on Mars, was published by The Cupboard Pamphlet.

About the Artist

Ashley Inguanta is a writer, art photographer, installation artist, and holistic educator. Her work has most recently appeared in Atticus Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and the anthology The Familiar Wild: On Dogs & Poetry. Her newest chapbook of poems, The Island, The Mountain, & The Nightblooming Field honors a human connection with the natural world.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Nine
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