SmokeLong Quarterly

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Hair On My Chest

Story by Caroline Bock (Read author interview) June 17, 2024

Art by Bhautik Andhariya

Lover, I slept with; Lover, I should have slept with; Lover it was a good thing I didn’t sleep with, none of you know me except in fractions, fragments, scraps. Lover, reach for the breasts, and that’s when it starts. I’m thinking of those matching plaid chairs, burnt orange couch, laundry trailing every room, clean laundry, we were always running the washing machine but never folding, the onions—Pop loved onions, made hair grow on your chest, even though at nine or ten, I pointed out I didn’t want hair. I wanted breasts. Spanish onions towered on pan-fried steaks because it was Friday. If it was a good week for Pop, the salesman, it was well-done steaks for the five of us. Lover, I’ve never left that house, part of me is doing laundry, tearing at a head of iceberg lettuce, slicing a beefsteak tomato, all the time my eyes watering from the onions or Pop’s stories about the last sale or the best sale—he had no one to tell but me. The onions topple; the steaks pop grease. I’d have a job cleaning it all. Lover, you say focus on this, on us, as if I can divide past cells from present ones. Lover, take these lonely breasts already; make me stop saying how I want the cheapest cut of steak, a Friday night with Pop at the stove, storytelling, and calling out to all, supper’s ready. Lover, make me stop thinking I want hair on my chest.

About the Author

Caroline Bock writes stories—from micros to novels. She is the author of the forthcoming novel THE OTHER BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE from Regal House Publishing in the summer of 2026. Her flash fiction “Government-issued Bunnies,” was published by SmokeLong in 2018. A graduate of Syracuse University, she studied creative writing with Raymond Carver. In 2011, after a twenty-year career as a cable television executive, she earned an MFA in Fiction from The City College of New York. She is the co-president and prose editor at the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. She lives in Rockville, Maryland with her family.

About the Artist

Bhautik Andhariya is a photographer and storyteller from India.

This story appeared in Issue Eighty-Four — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-Four — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

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