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Story by Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau (Read author interview) March 15, 2008

The child is resilient. At night, I wrap my hands around its clay skin, squeeze tight until the flesh swells like sausage. The child just squirms and feigns sleep. In the morning it is there again, clasped to my ankle, tracking dust as I pace the floor, calling me Mama.


Sometimes I manage to lock the doors, but the child slips in through the window, crawls through the pipes, a pffft of air batting the cracks in my walls. It smiles in seeing me, opens its grimy, nicked arms for a hug.


I leave the child in a cardboard box in the middle of the market, right there between slabs of pork and veined cheese. A second too quick and it’s in my footsteps, a shrunken shadow, a noiseless hound nipping at my heels. I growl and bare my teeth.


The child is there again, mewling.


A day, a moment. Certainty crumbles like faith under fire. My hoisted shoulders crack from lifting. I succumb to the bitter, to the ache in my blank womb gutting me open. The child is there. The child is always there, watching me, eyes sharp like mirrors. I sob and blow it a kiss. I let it climb on my lap. I trace its cheek. I surrender.

“Blank” was first published in elimae. It appears here by permission of the author.

About the Author

Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau grew up in Manila, greased elbows in Los Angeles and currently lives in Bretagne, with the best husband in the world and a spoiled cat. She dedicates this piece to her mom, who first taught her how to love a pen.

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

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