Show Her It's a Man's World

Show Her It's a Man's World

Eight Hour Orphans

The mothers start their days at 6:45am. They swing their legs over the side of the bed, they stand and sway into the bathroom and look at themselves in tile-reflected fluorescent light. “Am I turning into my mother?” they ask their reflections. “Yup,” their reflections reply.

The mothers swipe on lipstick, button their blouses from the bottom up. Their heels click as they walk downstairs to shoo their children onto schoolbuses. The mothers grab the keys to the minivan, the mothers put their hands on the door handles and then the mothers drop dead. Their eyes roll back, no color in their cheeks aside from powder blush. The dead women lie stiff in rigor.

When the children come home, they close the mothers’ eyes. They drape them in sheets and call funeral homes to make arrangements. There is a discount because the mothers are already dressed to be buried. The children sit at the table and grieve.

The fathers arrive home fifteen minutes early and sit in front of the TVs. They don’t look at the children. Fifteen minutes later, the mother rises from the entranceway, sheet falling off and pooling around her. She folds it neatly and places it on the hall table so that her children can find it more easily. The mothers go into the kitchen and tie aprons around their waists, they preheat the ovens and bring their husbands beer, they make dinner and set it in front of their little orphans. They wait to die again tomorrow.

Bluebirds Keep a Clean House

The first time a woman turned into a bird, nobody noticed. She lived alone above a mechanic who wolf-whistled at her and always turned in time to see him lowering his thumb and
finger from his mouth. She had just walked past him when she found the feather. At first, she thought it had fallen from some misplaced bird family who tried to make a home inside a smog-filled car repair shop. But when she tried to kick it off, it hurt. She went to lie down and woke up inside her shirt, a magpie flitting around her jewelry holder.

The second time a woman turned into a bird, two people noticed, two tiny people watching their mother as she stared out the window watching her husband’s car pull away, its glossy black stark against the faded blue curtains in the kitchen. For a moment she was back in their first apartment. “You don’t feel that strongly about having a career, do you? You want kids, right?” She had blinked. “Right.”

The father returned to joyous children, elbow-deep in the cookie jar, laughing at the parakeet over their heads.

The third time a woman turned into a bird, everyone noticed. The nation was watching the presidential candidates debate infrastructure. The man had interrupted the woman for the third time and in one instant every woman everywhere closed her eyes and opened them a bird, shock-horror on family-member faces, squawking and chirping and crowing filling the spaces that had been complacent a minute before.

Writing has been central to my identity since I was a little girl. I stapled together pieces of paper and produced books that I shared with family and friends. As I grew up, writing fiction became a way for me to express myself fully and proudly, a way for me to take control in a world that limited women and girls. I discovered flash fiction in high school, and loved the idea of being as creative as possible in very little space. The form and the subject align in these two short stories, both about how women experience the world in a limited way and both restricted to only a few hundred words, serving as an apt metaphor for the female experience of society.