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Daddy’s Boy

Story by Denne Michele Norris (Read author interview) January 25, 2016

Art by Katelin Kinney


Open your mouth. Sing, boy. Rise up from your pew and praise Him. Take your hands off your hips. Don’t dance, don’t smile, just clap. Firm up those wrists and sing. Your mouth is His.

Those lips? That voice?

Speaking of voice: make yours deep. No one likes a boy who sounds like a girl. Don’t linger on the S’s when you speak. The air whistles through the space between your teeth. It angers Him when you whistle like that, and when you place your hand against your chest and curl your fingers at the collarbone as if you are wearing a pearl necklace. You exist to do his bidding.

Boy, I see the way you prance around the house with that old baby’s blanket hanging from your head, all the way down your back. I see the way you toss it with your neck, wishing your hair was long and blonde and pretty. I see how you swish around the house when you’re feeling good, feeling proud, hips swaying side-to-side, prancing on your tip-toes. The other day, after you came home from school, I watched you pick pebbles from the garden beside the driveway along the edge of the house. You searched methodically, examining each one you chose, bringing them close. Selecting some, returning others. You took your time. When you had collected enough, you brought them inside and asked for the crazy glue and a pair of dress socks. I would’ve stopped it then, but it never occurred to me what you were up to until I heard you clomping around the basement.

You reveled in the rhythm of your homemade heels—that clicking across a hardwood floor that boys don’t get to make.

Open your mouth. Rise up from your pew and praise Him. Sing for Jesus as His flock watches me drag you by the wrist to the front of the sanctuary. It’s all right. I’m doing His work. Sing with us as I pull your pants down in front of everyone. Your cheeks are drums, my hands the beat. Cry as loud as you want. Your voice is His. We are making music, son, you and I, as I train you up in the way you should go!

I do this because I love you.

Because He tells me to.

Open your mouth. Sing, boy!


At night—when we’re on our knees in bed, his large hand between my legs—his ambitious thumb searches for a way in. His other arm wraps around my waist, pressing his chest to mine. My lips brush his neck. My teeth graze his ear. When he lays me down, his heart entering mine, the words climb from inside me, a whispered sacrament: cover me in you.

I love him in a different way. He is better than those who came before him.

You always said my life depended on Him. I think you were mistaken on the him in question.

It’s important you know this: I let him do all kinds of things to me. He likes to hold me down flat on my stomach. He takes one of my wrists in each of his hands, spreads my arms wide, and presses them to the bed so my body forms a cross. With his tongue, he moves downward. He wakens my blood, wets every hair on my body so they stick to my skin. When he flips me over, he works his way back up to my ear, marking me with his teeth, his hands.

When he enters me he says, “Who’s your daddy?”

He says you’re the one who made me this way.


Notes from Guest Reader Rion Amilcar Scott

It’s an uncomfortable story, but it’s written with a crisp spareness that’s continued to haunt me from the first time I read it.

About the Author

Denne Michele Norris is the editor-in-chief of Electric Literature. A 2021 Out100 Honoree, her writing has been supported by MacDowell, Tin House, VCCA, and the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction, and appears in McSweeney’s, American Short Fiction, and ZORA. She co-hosts the critically acclaimed podcast Food 4 Thot, and is hard at work on her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter and IG @thedennemichele.

About the Artist

Katelin Kinney is from the hills and fields of Southern Indiana. She attained two BFAs from the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, IN. Her portfolio consists of fine art and commercial freelance work.

This story appeared in Issue Fifty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-One

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