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SmokeLong Quarterly

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The Great Butter Baby Championship

Story by Emily Rinkema (Read author interview) December 18, 2023

Art by Lucas van Oort

She sits in a room full of women turning blocks of butter into babies. She works carefully, molding, dipping, kneading, wrapping until there is a baby-ish shape; cutting, squeezing, pinching, pressing until there is one fat little thigh, and then another; scraping, cupping, pushing, adding until the soft shoulders dip just right and the chin rests, barely, on the chest; brushing, smoothing, tweezing, etching until the tiny nose tips up at the end and the eyelashes separate into impossibly pale hairs.

And then she loses, just like they said she would. Like they had told her from the start, like she had so many times before.

They say stop crying, it’s okay, there’s always next year. They say, it just isn’t your time.

She says, yeah, no, it’s fine, don’t worry, I’m fine, really, I’m fine, and she leaves her butter baby on the table like they tell her to. She climbs the stairs of the cold basement, so tired, counting each step, each one a foot taller than the one before until she’s crawling over the last step, pulling herself over the edge into the heat, way too hot for a butter baby, and I’m fine, fine, she says, leave me alone, she says to someone, maybe them, as she crawls across the parking lot, butter on her palms, under her fingernails, on her breasts where she had wiped her hands.

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“The Great Butter Baby Championship” won second place in the 2023 SmokeLong Grand Micro Competition.

About the Author

Emily Rinkema lives and writes in northern Vermont. She hates the cold, but loves all things maple, so it’s worth it for a few months. Her writing has appeared in SmokeLong, The Sun Magazine, Phoebe, Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, Oxford Flash Fiction Anthology, Sixfold, and in the Best American Nonrequired Reading Anthology. She is still not working on a novel.

About the Artist

Lucas van Oort is a photographer from The Netherlands.

This story appeared in Issue Eighty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty-Two
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