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Viva Forever

Story by L.W. Nicholson (Read author interview) March 25, 2019

Art by Paul Bilger

Bee had a careful way of adjusting her glasses, and a belly swollen from cola and sour candy. My mom told me I couldn’t sleep at Bee’s house anymore because her parents were always drunk and her house smelled like potato salad that had just turned. Bee slept in an attic with one side missing, torn away by a storm back in the fall. We had stayed up too late in that dusty cave, eating beef jerky and watching a movie about sex workers, all of which made my stomach feel so weird that I had to focus on my breathing until the morning came again. Mom said my friend could come to my house anytime if she wanted, which she often did, and that spring day we were heroines and saviors and everything was quiet and felt okay.

The sky dried up, and the pond reduced to shallow layer of murky brown. Bee and I raced each other down the hill just in time to find the sacs of frog eggs sticking like bubblegum to the drying grass. Carefully, we lifted the gelatinous masses and placed them among the blades still covered by water.

We became mothers then.

One after another, we lifted the balls of speckled eggs to our faces, screamed with disgust and laughed at our fear, carried each one to safety.  It seemed to our eleven-year-old minds that there were hundreds of them suspended, glistening in the cattails and brush. Soon the strands of my bangs were stuck to my forehead, and my arms looked like I had dipped them in petroleum jelly.

It was like capturing and releasing stars.

Bee quit coming to my house soon after that day. I didn’t think much about it because that was the summer Spice World came out on DVD. The next year, Bee grew boobs and told everyone at school she was pregnant with Marilyn Manson’s baby, and then she disappeared completely. I imagined Bee in that attic, cradling her baby and wishing she could rest it safely in the wet grass.

I asked Mom later what she remembered, and she complained that the frogs that summer were deafening but that she did not remember Bee. She said I spent my time dancing to catchy pop in a halter top I made from one of Dad’s old bandanas, turning the music up and up until I drowned out the clamorous notes of the amphibians outside.

About the Author

L.W. Nicholson is a writer, librarian, and homesteader in Southeast Missouri. Her work has appeared in Sundog Lit, Moon City Review, Passages North, among others.

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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