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Flat Stanley trusts

Story by Jennifer A. Howard (Read author interview) June 17, 2019

Art by Maureen Mcdonagh

his new girlfriend – his first girlfriend, at 47 years old – not to murder him, but imagine all the damage she can still do: love somebody else more, get bored of him, be disgusted by his flabby arms. She could hurt herself, or be hurt—lose a parent, have to put down one of her dogs, a woman she works with could have a stroke, she could lose her job or sew through her finger or be in a car accident in the mountains or get a scary diagnosis or get stung by a bee, or somebody in the wrong bar could see them kissing and yell at them or beat them for being dykes or she could read an article about dogs drowning in post-hurricane flood and cry. Flat Stanley—who is clearly not a little paper boy here, but the narrator, the author even maybe—could fail to make her come, or happy, or her adult children could want too much or they could get sick or not be able to afford what should not cost money or her dad’s Seahawks could have a bad season. She is not Flat Stanley’s first crush on a woman, on a friend, not his first make-out. Once he had a two-week fling with a wild German woman who drank and threw darts hard, but this is the first woman he’s introduced to his mom. His mom was cool enough, invited them over for breakfast, even tried her best to cook vegan (is the margarine already in her fridge vegan?). Sure, she called her “your friend,” like she did with Cousin Chris’ decades-long partner, but his nieces were entranced by her short haircut. “Your hair,” they said, aswoon, “matches your face.” His sister was readier than most of the family. Years ago, when he had called with bad news and stumbled on the phone, and said “I just need you to know…” about some dumb choice, his sister was like: Jesus Christ, come out to me already. The danger is not everybody else. The danger is with loving in general. Flat Stanley is not afraid for his own fragile paper body, which he may have been, he was, with men, but for the moment, which will come, and soon: when she stops looking at him like she looks at him now, eyes all big and surprised at the find, at this new laugh.

About the Author

Jennifer A. Howard teaches and edits Passages North in Michigan’s snowy Upper Peninsula. Her collection of flash sci-fi, You on Mars, was published by The Cupboard Pamphlet.

About the Artist

Maureen Mcdonagh is a self-taught painter; living in the UK, she works mainly on canvas and paper, working exclusively with gouache and water color these days. She mainly allows the creative process to happen without any deliberation, not focusing on the outcome or end product just the physical experience and movement of painting. Change is important in her work so she shifts when she sees a particular style or technique taking hold, the art of painting does not then become premeditated, as a consequence, it seems to have a silent, powerful quality of its own.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Four
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021!

This competition is no longer accepting entries. The long- and shortlists have been published on the blog. The four winners of the competition will be featured in Issue 74 of SmokeLong Quarterly coming out near the end of December.