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Story by Patrick Allen Carberry (Read author interview) September 30, 2010

art by Carrie Guggenmos

She is a woman, was once a girl. She had a pink room, a light bulb in a box for baking cupcakes, a father who called her aftervarious fruits—peach, pear, pineapple, sometimes his little kiwi. She is a woman. She does not cook or clean, does not make New England style crab cakes. She does not live in a house with a family and a dog, self-referential aprons and a kept lawn. She does not hush her tones while speaking to other women about other—other women, does not talk about money or clothes or shoes or motherhood, does not exchange tips for removing grass and blood stains. She does not have a husband, so cannot provide advice on how to keep one romantically enticed.

She lives in a tent and on a train. She lives in small towns, towns where people pay money to see the strange visitors—to visit the strangers. In these towns, the people say dance elephants, get up on that ball. They say whip that lion, use that chair, let the lion come close, make it roar. But in her tent, behind her thick-set red and white stripes,they say nothing. What could they say? Look mom! or She isn’t really a woman, is she? or What man would touch her furry face and sweep her off to Paraguay?

She performs five nights a week, twists the hair on her chin to a point. She is always careful to appear happy. Sometimes, if it’s slow, she’ll play checkers with a patron. In every town, there is at least one man who lingers. He smiles at her, kicks at dust. She is a woman and needs these things too. He leaves her tent and returns to his house—his house in his stationary town. He never thinks of Paraguay, the thousands and thousands of miles of train tracks it would take to get there.

She dreams of one man, Husband. In her dreams, Husband has tentacles for arms—tentacles with suction cups. His legs are the knotty and mapped legs of a giraffe. He calls her Plum; she wakes up. She dreams of Husband often, wakes up just as often. Husband tells her how to save her money, which investment firm to use, where the bottom of the market is. Husband tells her that Paraguay is a landlocked country, and even if a flesh and blood boyfriend were to ask her, she should say No, I do not want to go to Paraguay. Take me to Portugal. Husband tells her that Portugal uses the Euro and he is right. She tells Husband that there is no boyfriend and that she likes the way Portugal sounds too.

She is a woman who has worked her whole life, supported herself since nineteen. Her hair has grayed, and she will not dye it. Her boss, a man with wax in his mustache, a man who lives in a red train car, gives her some options. She says she wants to retire with Husband to a beach on the Atlantic. She says she wants to slip her hand into Husband’s suction cup and wade out. She will be what she is meant to be, and if that means old, if that means not in this tent or on this train— Her boss says, My little Kiwi, I didn’t know you were married. We could have changed your sign to Mrs.

About the Author

Patrick Allen Carberry lives in Chicago and teaches English at Harper College. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in decomP, PANK, Word Riot and others. He does not grow facial hair.

About the Artist

Carrie Guggenmos is a freelance photographer living is southern Kentucky. She can be reached at www.wix.com/CarrieGphotography/Guggenmos-Photography.

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

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