SmokeLong Quarterly

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Model #3

Story by Annam Manthiram (Read author interview) September 30, 2010

art by Robinson Accola

Things that titillate her:


  • The looks on the faces of those behind her when the cashier asks her if she wants to donate an extra dollar to the local children’s hospital and she says no
  • The look of a man right before he’s about to cry
  • The look of a woman right after she’s just cried
  • Dirty laundry
  • Comic books
  • Porn
  • Elephants with long tusks
  • Loin cloths
  • Perverted arguments that are circular and never end
  • Jobs with no room to grow
  • Movies that are under an hour

She came into the biz because of a cactus she’d named Joe. Joe sat on her nightstand. She’d bought him at a garage sale. The people were moving, and where they were going the climate was not conducive to this particular variety of plant. They didn’t even know what the thing was called, and as ugly as it was, they practically gave it to her for free. She spent some time online and found its name, “Hamatocactus setispinus.” Joe seemed like a better name for him. He was round with needles about two inches long and feathery yellow outshoots she’d dubbed his privates. He had yet to flower, but he’d grown several large pink berries. They were pretty, and Joe matched her bedroom’s wall paint of yellow.

One night, she had brought home a man from a work/happy hour thingy. She was not really drunk, but he was pretty drunk. She had run out of people to fuck at her office, so she became acquainted with the office next door and went to their parties instead. This was Gordon, an accountant who looked like Batman except he had a mustache. Gordon was a little inexperienced and highly agitated, so while they tangled together in her bed, her elbow landed square into Joe’s midsection. A crop of needles stabbed her in the arm, and her throat immediately began to close up. When she woke up, she was in the hospital. She had suffered a severe allergic reaction to Joe, Gordon told her.

The person in the bed next to hers was a photographer. He took pictures of models, and even with the rash on her face and arms, he said she was a beauty. He gave her his card. When she found Joe in the trash the next day (damn Gordon), she called the photographer. He told her he could make her forget all about Joe, and he did.

About the Author

Annam Manthiram is the author of two novels, The Goju Story and After the Tsunami, and a short story collection (Dysfunction), which received Honorable Mention in Leapfrog Press‘ 2010 fiction contest. Her work has recently appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, the Cream City Review, the Concho River Review, Straylight, Blink | Ink, the Grey Sparrow Journal, and the anthology, Daily Flash: 365 Days of Flash Fiction (Pill Hill Press December 2010), and has been nominated for the PEN/OHenry Prize and inclusion in the Best American Short Stories anthology. A graduate of the M.A. Writing program at the University of Southern California, Manthiram resides in New Mexico with her husband, Alex, and son, Sathya.

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

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