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Story by Kate Finegan (Read author interview) September 16, 2019

Art by Mei Sa Gou

The only place to start is here, to uproot your misplaced hope. It’s easier than killing kudzu. See, the girl’s head is never found. You’ll sit or stand and read the headlines; her face is front page news across the country. Don’t mourn, my dear; troubadours will sing this all to life, just another murdered lady. Take a Sunday drive to where it happened, take your token of this crime, the crime of this old century. The father says, better a murdered daughter than a vile, villainous son. Another murdered daughter, another vile, villain, son. Just another sad old song, just another stubborn vine that keeps on growing, grows a full foot every day. Just another thing that can’t stay buried, another root to keep in this place this soil, to hold down this good dirt. Good dirt for good seed. The men took her to a restaurant. Her mother says she’s glad they “took her to one decent place” before the kill. The doctor assures you “it would be very easy for a man to cut a woman’s head off with a knife, even if he had no knowledge of anatomy.” Breathe deeply of tobacco as barns smolder long into the night, hear strings of fiddles and of throats, and watch the kudzu grow. You don’t even have to sit too still. Don’t believe it when they say hair doesn’t keep on growing. The doctor, the good doctor, says, “I could cut off a woman’s head with a small penknife and it wouldn’t take long to do it.” Just keep on singing, keep on standing; the vines will twine around your feet. Don’t let this be your fate. Keep on singing, keep on standing; this song will put down roots between your toes, and from those roots will sprout another vine and, yes, another and another. And another and another. Listen, believe me when I say this music is only a little more than wind. Keep standing and keep singing; this vine will drag you down to dirt.

About the Author

Kate Finegan recently published the chapbook The Size of Texas with Penrose Press. Her work has won contests with Thresholds, Phoebe Journal, Midwestern Gothic, and The Fiddlehead, and been runner-up for The Puritan’s Thomas Morton Memorial Prize, shortlisted for the Cambridge Short Story Prize and Synaesthesia Flash Fiction Prize, and longlisted by Room. She is Assistant Fiction Editor at Longleaf Review. You can find her at twitter.com/@kehfinegan.

About the Artist

Mei Sa Gou (美撒郭) is a photographer living and working in Hangzhou, China. His work explores the way in which deception and illusion have become dominant phenomena in the contemporary world, from the nature of the food we eat to the pollutants we’re exposed to in the air we breathe. In a world characterized by surveillance and unknown intentions, his work nevertheless expresses a message of love.

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

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