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Story by Lindsey Gates Markel (Read author interview) September 25, 2012

art by Genevieve Anna Tyrrell

Off work first and alone, I smoke cigarettes and read in the neighbor’s yard in the afternoons, sitting on a railroad tie next to the garden. In spring, it was just a rectangle of dry dirt but now it’s August and the whole thing is green and wet, full of fruit and spiders. Nobody knows I’m there and there are no fences keeping me out. I read a few pages and then I stare into the tangles of plants. I ash my cigarette into the grass and wonder if anyone will notice it there, if squirrels taste it and stain their teeth, if ants lift it over their black heads and heave it home to the anthill. It took me weeks to notice the ants but when I look at the railroad tie I see them everywhere, lines spreading around me like a spilled drink. I roll my eyes at them, like Lighten up, you guys, their old-fashioned dedication to labor. I work at a desk in an office where no one speaks because silence is better for concentration. When I go into my house I will turn the bottle of Febreze on myself and pull the blue trigger, feel the cold chemical spray, smell sweet and clean. More and more, I have fantasies of stomping people’s heads beneath my feet. I’ll drink a cold glass of water, wash my mouth out, stand in front of an open window, and halfway through dinner I’ll be listening to a story about my husband’s office where people share lunch together in the break room, realize I’ve lifted my knuckles to my face to smell the tobacco and tar of the skin there. If I get cancer, he will weep and say I told you so and not understand that I had no choice, that there wasn’t even a fence. An ant will cling to me ’til bed, rummage beneath my fingernail for scraps.

About the Author

Lindsey Gates Markel earned an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and has done graduate fiction work at the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her thesis featured recurring themes of cats and nipples (but not cat nipples). She is the author of You Are Among Friends, a book of advice for young gals, and her short fiction has previously appeared in Storychord, Bluestem, and Necessary Fiction.

About the Artist

Genevieve Anna Tyrrell is a creative writing MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida. She holds a bachelor’s degree in film and a graphic design certificate. Currently, she is working on a memoir that reflects on the struggles between building a career identity while denying the chronically ill self. Her investigation into this dichotomy was the driving force behind her lecture on “Dexter” at the 2011 PCAS/ ACAS conference in New Orleans. She is always on the hunt for inventive ways to include visual art into her writing, and plans on incorporating graphic narrative in her memoir.

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

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