SmokeLong Quarterly

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Lion’s Tooth

Story by Kate Finegan (Read author interview) March 25, 2019

Art by Paul Bilger

First date after swiping right, you say you’re eager for a family and I think yes.

Third date after thinking yes, I say it as you slide the ring onto my finger. Awful fast, but everyone loves you.

No rice at the wedding, I say, because of birds, but your family throws it anyway, laughs when I cringe.

JUST MARRIED, tin cans tug loose as we flee the kudzu quarter of this country—home, mine—and head back to roots, yours. Farm boy, big sky. I know so little of Iowa, and so little of you.

First night—some honeymoon, you say—in a motel, charcoal grill at every door, single-speed bikes chained to posts.


Red hat in the mudroom of your family’s farmhouse, the house that’s now half-mine. Four little words. One acronym, two syllables. You wear it, rage against invasives—buckthorn, garlic mustard, dandelions. I don’t quibble over what’s a weed. You spray poison, don’t listen when I say animals lick their paws and die. Finally, you listen, say hope that goddamn mole’s the first to go. Old mowers in the pole shed. I’d like to fix them. You tell me not to waste my time, squint beneath the hat’s bill as you spray and spray. I knit and knit, join a circle, knit tiny blankets as you watch the news. You don’t ask me who they’re for, the blankets.

Another knitter tells me what happened in Postville. I don’t mention it. I’m sure you know. I pick dandelions, snip the stalks at angles, arrange them in a jar on the kitchen window, try not to think about what happened—all those people sentenced behind closed doors, in a foreign language, to five months in prison, then deported. Illegals, she called them, so I don’t go back to circle. You don’t notice.


You notice when I make a wish, scatter seeds across the yard.

Poison ivy travels down your legs and makes its way to me, but I don’t scratch in front of you.

I knit and knit, eat quickly, walk outside while the news is on. I listen to the wind, for the roar of little lions, think how they’re sharp, can thrive in cracks in sidewalks, strong against the beating of your state’s relentless wind.


On our drive across the country, me still in my veil at your insistence, I rolled down the window to release your smoke, smelled the corn, and thought how big this country is, how easy it is to forget how big this country is.

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

Paul Bilger’s photography has appeared at Qarrtsiluni, Brevity, and Kompresja. His work has also been featured on music releases by Dead Voices on Air and Autistici. When not taking pictures, he is a lecturer in philosophy and film theory at Chatham University. He is the art director at SmokeLong Quarterly. 

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

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