SmokeLong Quarterly

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Little Girls

Story by Tara Laskowski (Read author interview) September 29, 2009

Art by Robinson Accola

Jane’s dad calls while she is out hanging clothes, his voice staccato over the cell. He had heard a story about a woman, a professional violinist. She slipped and fell on the open dishwasher. She sliced her arm open on a knife. She would probably never play again.

Jane props the skinny phone between her ear and shoulder and lets her dad’s words flutter, the clothespins pinching her fingertips. One of the pins falls from her mouth and tumbles down the incline to her neighbors’ fence, where it will stay until someone else rescues it. It is sticky for early June, and the grass feels like straw on her bare toes.

“I want you to be careful, Janie,” her father says, and she pictures him in his car, windows down, speeding with a cigarette in his mouth. He tells her that life is full of danger, everywhere, anywhere. “Watch out for knives and power tools.”

She laughs, imagining her body vibrating above a jackhammer, her arms wielding a heavy chainsaw through the wall of the nursery-in-progress upstairs, the nursery her husband is painting light green. A wave of nausea, common now these past few days, makes her nearly drop the phone. “I have to go,” she tells her father. She takes a break and kneels down, pressing fingers on her belly.

A girl, she thinks. Perhaps she will be famous—a doctor, a writer. A musician, like the violinist. But the violinist thought she was safe in her kitchen—one second booking concerts over a tasty chicken dinner, then a cat, a skid, then blood, lots of it—hadn’t her parents ever told her never to load the knives blade-up? Someone had to have told her that sometime. People were always eager to dispense advice like gumballs—push, pop, chew.

Her husband calls to her from their back porch. She shades her eyes from the sun, and he mistakes it for a wave. She sees the hill before her as if for the first time now, so steep, a quandary they had pondered when they bought the place many years ago, when her husband had promised he would build a swimming pool into the side of it, put some steps in to make it easier to navigate. She takes a step towards him, her legs a pair of trembling horsehair strings. She can feel her fall as if it has already happened—the blades of grass pressing into her side, not bending to her weight but stabbing. And her husband just far enough away, his hand still bent in a wave, smiling, likely thinking of pale green and quiet lullabies.

About the Author

Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as “a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills.” She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

About the Artist

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Six

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