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Breathing Oysters

Story by Stefanie Freele (Read author interview) September 15, 2008

Art by Robinson Accola

She names her new dog Molecule after the neighbor, a biotech engineer, names his dog Molecule. She is always doing things like that, replicating someone else’s brainy idea. Her boyfriend brings this up, “Just like when you lined the drive with tiki torches, identical to your dad’s.”

She says she thought of it first.

He mentions the camping trip, why he wasn’t shocked when they ended up at Hendy Woods, just like her sister. “This is getting creepy. I can’t even buy clothes anymore.” He reminds her of their matching toothbrushes, ski pants, deer-skin slippers, silk long underwear, Gortex rain jackets. He says he is leaving, Molecule is the last straw, but not until after the oysters. “I’m not wasting good barbequed oysters.”

They are in bed when he announces his departure and she clings on his arm like a pasted barnacle. “I’m leaving too.” She wails.

“You can’t leave. I’m leaving.” He shrugs her off. “Quit copying me.”

She runs her tongue along his forearm. “Maybe the oysters will change your mind.”

“We have to eat them before they die.”

She presses her nose on his. “They’re alive?”

He presses back. “When they’re cooked and officially dead they crack open.”

Molecule gets between them licking each face back and forth.

“Your dog has nasty breath.”

“Please don’t go.”

“If you name him something else, if you dye your hair a different color than Double Espresso # 47—my mother’s color—if you sell your Jeep—the identical Jeep my brother drives—if you swear to never ever buy one thing that I already own, I will consider staying.”

There is a lot of silence. She thinks she can hear the dozen oysters moving in the refrigerator. She is used to just the two of them, now the two of them plus dog, breathing in her house. “I can hear them breathe.”


“The oysters.”

“Name him Oyster.” He rolls on top of her and pins down her shoulders. “Name him Oyster or I will be gone tomorrow.”

“But that is your idea.” She maneuvers a leg across him and pushes him away with a foot to a chin.

“So what.” He bashes her with a pillow. “I gave you permission.”

She throws a pillow back and then a lamp. “I don’t like the name Oyster.”

“You don’t know what you like.” He pulls the belt out of his pants and holds it in front of her face. “Oyster.”

She pinches both his nipples. “Molecule.”

He snaps the belt and then puts it behind her and draws her in to him, tight. They are naked except for matching blue Fruit-Of-The-Loom men’s briefs.

“Molecule,” she whispers.

He pulls her in tighter and fastens the belt around both their necks. He holds her hands behind her back. “Oyster.”


He grips her wrists with one fist and blows into her ear. “Oy?”

She bites a mouthful of his hair. “Ster.”

There is no more discussion about it, but he doesn’t let go. She listens closely and hears twelve gasps from the refrigerator and uncountable breaths elsewhere.

About the Author

Stefanie Freele is the 2008 Kathy Fish Fellowship Writer-In-Residence for SmokeLong Quarterly. She has an MFA from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts: Whidbey Writers Workshop. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, American Literary Review, Talking River, Literary Mama, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, FRiGG, wigleaf, Cafe Irreal, Permafrost, Hobart, Cezanne’s Carrot, and Contrary.

About the Artist

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.

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

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