Nearing forty and not once ever an orgasm with a man inside me and I read the magazines and know what this means: there is nothing wrong with me; I’m no less woman than Marge next door who in the summer my husband Steve and I hear through our open windows on the second floor; I’m somewhere in that five to ten percent (but how can that be all?) of women who have never experienced orgasm from intercourse but got pregnant anyway. And I mean but hell if I just didn’t want to be normal anymore, so please, I said last winter to Bill at the Westerby’s annual Christmas party, just think of me as Marge, and she never learned what Bill and I did that Monday morning after she left for the bank. She’s a teller, has been for twenty years. And anyway it only happened once and nothing happened that hadn’t already not happened for years with Steve, who like Marge has no reason to doubt or distrust us so what’s done is done and Marge and Bill still come over every Saturday for Bridge and as the news or a golf game drones on in the background the men take their Makers neat just as they always have while we girls drink white wine on ice with two spritzes of soda and a Maraschino speared through on a pink plastic sword, for decoration.
I love “decoration” as the story’s ending. It has me thinking about sexuality, and also language, as potentially decorative. Those wonderful colloquialisms–not once, no less woman, but hell, we girls–in a way seem to decorate our narrator’s voice. I wonder, how did you find these phrasings? What inspired you to look for them? This little piece took so long to write. I had that opening sentence for a long time–we’re talking months–before finding the next sentence, which begins, “And I mean but hell . . . ” I’m sure that “I mean” and “hell” came out of some frustration or desperation to just get a few new words down. During those months of not being able to progress, I kept asking myself: Who is this narrator? Who is Marge? Who are their husbands? And my answer, at long last, was: Cheever. So when I went back to that opening sentence with the intention to write the second sentence, all I had was Cheever (which is where “the Westerby’s annual Christmas party” came from). Honestly, I wasn’t really too conscious of writing the narrator’s voice this way; instead, I was worried about writing a full-blown, 8-page story after Cheever. When I got to “decoration,” I let this paragraph sit for many more months. I truly thought it was an unfinished story, was just the opening paragraph. But when the opportunity came along to submit something to Matter, and when I saw the prompt “compression,” I knew that this opening paragraph of mine could feel like a whole story, and that this suited the theme of “compression.” More importantly, I felt that this was a complete piece, that I had been trying to force it into being something it wasn’t, and so I am grateful to Matter for allowing me to see it in this “whole” way.
Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.
Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.
Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now OPEN. The submission period closes June 15, 2020; submit here.
09/07 • Paige Welsh
09/09 • Avital Gad-Cykman
09/10 • Amy Bobeda (6 of 6)
09/14 • Julianne Di Nenna
09/16 • Joey Kim
09/17 • Erika Kanda
09/21 • Brittany Oppenheimer
09/23 • Pamela Painter