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Swan Lake

Story by Erin Vachon (Read author interview) September 12, 2022

Art by Jessica Perner

My jumpsuit straps are tangled up before our date & I can’t unknot them on the hanger, white feather print, time running short, sweat cresting my chest, feeding fabric through openings, no straightening it out, like a misshapen swan, they call the females a pen, boys a cob, you’ll be here any minute & could I keep my pen name & fly like a cob, new gender, new relationships, hands trembling, crisscross connecting this to that, should I cut each strap & resew it, this body cannot be left behind, I must construct new couplings, pressing the fabric body flat on the floor, why can’t I go on a date without adjustments, saunter down a riverside terrace in Providence, admire the gondolas gliding, swans kissing on the grass, cob & pen, cob & cob, pen & pen & when you arrive & say I’m pretty, will you see a straight line from pen to woman, so the swans stop kissing, so I wince at old voices rising up, cords snipped & discarded, people like that make it about their pronouns, some queer people are too broken to fix, no, this jumpsuit is just adjusting to this fleshy body, gentle apertures unclenching and releasing, feathered fabric, I won’t tear you apart or discard you, only realign my body inside, refasten to make a new pattern & who wants to wear a straight jumpsuit anyway, how lovely that when you do arrive in shaggy hair & ripped t-shirt & say I look beautiful, pluck my straps like a banjo, it’s not my sex, but this crooked outfit you admire, your palm an anchor on my back, & we’ll jump into the river like two clumsy swans, off balance, this jumpsuit allows for forward movement, so when we go out, we’ll paddle, then swim, then fly.

About the Author

Erin Vachon lives in Rhode Island and their work appears in SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Brevity, CHEAP POP, Cream City Review, and more. They are Hybrid Editor for Longleaf Review and an alum of the Tin House Summer workshop. Erin earned their MA in English Literature and Comparative Literature from the University of Rhode Island, and you can find them on Twitter @erinjvachon.

About the Artist

Formerly known as Jessica Ward, Jessica Perner is an American artist who works primarily in graphite to create powerful drawings that possess a strong sociological voice. She attended Kendall College of Art & Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan and received a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art – Drawing with a minor in Illustration. She continued to study at Kendall for a Master’s in Fine Art – Drawing until moving to Los Angeles, California instead to break into the art world. There she had her first gallery show in 2008, and has been exhibiting her work in galleries internationally since. Jessica currently resides in Marz, Austria with her husband where she co-hosts the Paintingloft Podcast and promotes art via Red Siren Art News.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Seven
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

Deadline November 15!

The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction (The Smokey) is a biennial competition that celebrates and compensates excellence in flash. The grand prize winner of The Smokey is automatically nominated for The Best Small Fictions, The Pushcart, Best of the Net, and any other prize we deem appropriate. In addition to all this love, we will also pay the grand prize winner $2500. Second place: $1000. Third place $500. Finalists: $100. All finalists and placers will be published in the special competition issue in December 2022.