No Knees

by Michelle Ross

Worse things can happen than spotting your ex strolling through the park with a robot. Not a sleek automaton, mind you, but a creature so primitive it squeaks with every step.

“Can a robot be primitive?” the current says. “Isn’t synthetic sort of the opposite of primitive?”

We’re walking hand in hand and so is my ex and that robot that looks like a kitchen-sink salad of random parts. The robot’s head is, I’m pretty certain, the pot my ex and I used to make soup in. Its shoulders the fat, coily metal piping that connects the back of the washer and dryer to the wall. I don’t know the terms for these things. My ex used to tease me about my ignorance of all things mechanical. My current and I just call up her cousin Ned when water oversteps its boundaries or when the screw that holds everything together comes loose.

A few years ago I would have said, did say, that my ex can take everything, do what she wants with it. I didn’t care, I said. In fact, I said I’d be happier with nothing. That’s how much she drove me crazy. Didn’t get me at all.

My ex’s reply: she would, in fact, take everything and with it she’d make something better than she ever had with me.

Now the fiery pink of sunset is fading, and the gloom is settling in its place—squashing the fiery pink really, like the current’s cat does my hands when I’m trying to type.

“You mean the gloaming,” the current says.

The current knows what I’m thinking before I say it. There was a time when the newness of this was sparkly and exciting. Like my ex’s robot, I guess, before you see it try to take a step from the hip.


Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Fanzine, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, and other venues. She’s fiction editor of Atticus Review. www.michellenross.com

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “No Knees”?

I drafted this story during my first flashathon with Meg Pokrass and several other writers scattered around the world. For those who don’t know, a flashathon works like this: writers take turns providing prompts to the group, and individuals draft a new flash fiction story every hour for some number of hours. We wrote for fifteen hours that first time around. “No Knees” was the first story I drafted. It was to a photo prompt Meg provided—a black-and-white image, from the 50s I assume, of a woman holding the hand of a very clunky, primitive looking robot. They were outside in what appeared to be some kind of public park maybe. This is one of those rare stories that mostly came together immediately. I put it aside for some weeks, then made a few little tweaks, added the one line it was missing, and made what had been the story’s last two words the title.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

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 closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again March 15, 2023. Submit here.


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