Woo

by Kim Chinquee

She sits at the counter, sipping the broth from her soup, lifting her long arm. Her elbow drags to the floor. It takes a lot of effort.

The broth is clear and the soup is filled with shells. She pulls out the mussels.

She’s the only one at the bar. Behind her, around a grill, sit families, and in the middle stands a man wearing an apron and a chef’s hat—she saw them when she entered. Now she hears metal clanging in patterns, people laughing, a projected voice saying, “Look.” She hears a sizzle. Smells.

She senses a big wide flame. Heat. She hears people saying, “Woo.”

At the bar, she faces a TV screen that shows tall black men in matching outfits, scrambling for a ball. A lay-up, then a rebound.

She used to play basketball, long ago, when her arms were still even.

She orders a martini. She looks at the arms of the wait staff: none of them with limbs neither short nor long. The wait staff seem alike: in their black shirts and long black hair, their olive skin, and she notices the shapes of their faces are different from the one of her twenty-five-year-old son.

She looks at the time on the wall. When the drink comes, she lifts it. It takes a lot of effort.

Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections PRETTY, PISTOL, and OH BABY. Her work has appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies including NOON, DENVER QUARTERLY, CONJUNCTIONS, THE NATION, PLOUGHSHARES, INDIANA REVIEW, STORYQUARTERLY, THE PUSHCART PRIZE ANTHOLOGY, and others. She is an associate editor of NEW WORLD WRITING, editor-in-chief of ELJ (ELM LEAVES JOURNAL), and associate professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo State. Her website is www.kimchinquee.com.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Woo”?

    “Woo” was drafted using prompt words (I don’t remember the words.), and I’d been writing pieces including a character with one long arm. On revision, I moved lines and sentences around, cut a few, and took some lines from another story and inserted them. The repetition of “It took a lot of effort,” signifies, to me, the labor of being off-balance.
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