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Story by Stephanie Frazee (Read author interview) June 20, 2022

Art by Elinora Westfall

I hadn’t understood how it would feel when I nursed my baby and the oxytocin caused my uterus to contract in an effort to reshape itself, and my friends who’d nursed babies said oh yeah, it feels like the baby is still inside still kicking, and it felt like a memory, but not of kicking, of when I carried so much possibility in my body, and then I carried the possibility in my arms, and now he is older and brings his Picturepedia, open to the Cats page, to the dinner table and announces we need a conversation topic, but my husband says, I don’t think we should have the book at the table, we might get sauce on it and I have no place for my plate, and when our son protests, my husband says, you know, back in the day—and our son finishes, they didn’t have books, that’s right, they didn’t have books they had to tell each other stories, and I say, even further back in the day they didn’t have tables to put books on during dinner and even further back in the day there was no such thing as dinner and even further back in the day—and our son finishes, there weren’t people and even further back in the day there wasn’t an Earth, and I say, what do you think we did to entertain ourselves then, when we were floating around as stardust, and our son asks, what if a black hole ate another black hole, would that one just suck up the other one and would they keep sucking each other up forever, and my husband says, I read about how some people think there was a before the Big Bang and I say, how so, and he says the idea is that before, everything was getting smaller and entropy was decreasing until everything concentrated into a single point and I wanted to tell you about it because I know you have a hard time with these things, and I say, how so, and he says, you have a hard time picturing the infinite, and I close my eyes and try to imagine how the universe goes on forever or else doesn’t go on forever but then, what is on the other side, all I can ever picture is the black, star-specked universe, shaped like a bowl, sitting in a solid gray mist, and I open my eyes and am dizzy and outside the cherry blossoms are blooming but inside the felted mistletoe is still hanging from the wooden beam covered in chipped paint, 100 years’ worth of paint layered on the walls of a house we call ancient, and our son wipes sauce on his pants and pulls his book from the chair where my husband has placed it and says, I don’t need a table, and sets it on his lap but it’s bigger than his lap and starts to slide so I reach to catch it and, under the table, a shiny black ant, the kind that will crunch if I step on it, carries a crumb of stardust across the unswept floor.

About the Author

Stephanie Frazee’s work is forthcoming from Juked and has appeared in No Contact, Passages North, and elsewhere. She is an Assistant Editor at American Short Fiction and a reader for No Contact, and she lives in Seattle.

About the Artist

Influenced by David Bowie, Virginia Woolf and Sally Wainwright, Elinora Westfall is an Australian/British lesbian actress and writer of stage, screen, fiction, poetry and radio from the UK. Her novel, Everland has been selected for the Penguin and Random House WriteNow 2021 Editorial Programme, and her short films have been selected by Pinewood Studios & Lift-Off Sessions, Cannes Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, Camden Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival, while her theatre shows have been performed in London’s West End and on Broadway, where she won the award for Best Monologue. Elinora is also working on The Art of Almost, a lesbian comedy-drama radio series as well as writing a television drama series and the sequel to her novel, Everland.

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