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Story by Mia Heavener (Read author interview) December 9, 2019

Art by Olen Gandy

I still owe you a cartwheel. I told you that if I got the novel published, then I would do a cartwheel. You could’ve at least waited or only pretended to be dead. I should’ve done it a few years ago when I heard from Red Hen Press, but I couldn’t get past the worry of my shirt flipping up and then you would have seen that I don’t wear a bra. Then there would have been the chance you saw my nipples going in different directions, and well, I didn’t want to traumatize you. I figured we had years to continue working together and I didn’t feel flashing you was good for our working relationship. 

I was telling one of the newer engineers how you didn’t like my writing style, how for  the longest time you would review my work and put double spaces after every sentence. And then I would erase the spaces, how we did this dance for years. At one point, we even discussed it, our differences in the length of space, but neither of us was willing to change or admit that we were wrong. Until you did years later. I think it was when you were dating the tech writer, the one who left a pair of black high heels in your truck. I felt a little glee that someone else confirmed my stance. But to make you feel like I was compromising on something, I started placing a zero before the decimal point if a number was less than one. 

It’s been about eight months since you got yourself eaten by the bear (Fish and Game never found her. Yes. It was a sow and she probably had cubs). And there are still times when I expect you to stand in my office doorway, smiling while your leg twitches impatiently as you tell me you went snow machining in Petersburg or hiking up Baldy over the weekend. And it would be normal that after several months, you and I would pick up where we left off. Between our work travel and vacation schedules, sometimes we didn’t see each other for weeks. And I expect that at some point, after laughing with me and my cat problems, you would have told me about your growing family. It would have been snuck in a story, like a trip to Hawaii with your fiancé. And you would have said we many times until I asked, who’s we or you got a mouse in your pocket? And I would have been surprised while being simultaneously aware of the gap between my outward congratulations and the thud in my gut. And the gap would grow rapidly, culminating in a burning throat and migraine. And I would worry that I would be too obvious, too overly happy and you would see the disappointment in my expression. But you would thank me until I would ask, Why aren’t you showing more excitement? And you would nod with a smile, that yes, you are very happy. But then I would have told you that I needed to pee, because I would have wanted you away from me. I understand. I wouldn’t want to tell me shit either. 

Play dead. That’s what you are supposed to do when you run into a grizzly. And protect your neck with your arms. I want to believe this would have made a difference. I want to, but I know otherwise. When we drove out to look for you, I imagined we would find you ok, even surprised that anyone was concerned. You would emerge from the alder brushes with a few scratches from the devil clubs and thirsty, because it was a rare hot sunny day in Anchorage. And I would give you hell for making me worry. And I imagined you would shrug and say there was nothing to worry about. And I hoped for this, even looked forward to being fake angry. But the longer we looked and scoured the mountainside, I decided I wouldn’t give you hell. So relieved to see you, I would have rolled into that cartwheel and let gravity take my hair, thighs and nipples wherever they must go.


Notes from Guest Reader Amsterdam University College

Some pieces of art are just inexplicably good; you look at them and read them and feel something at the pit of your stomach full of emotion and inspiration. Cartwheel is one of those pieces.

About the Author

Mia Heavener’s work has appeared in Cortland Review, Willow Springs, and Fjords Review. Her novel, Under Nushagak Bluff, is forthcoming by Red Hen Press (November 2019).

About the Artist

Olen Gandy is a photographer in Houston.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Six

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