Alice, you’re the one I love. You have your art, but I have a heart. Stop rinsing that paint brush and look at me. When I pinch you, I want you to pay attention to me. And all you do is study your watercolor of the nightingale perched on a rosebush, pressing its breast against the thorn. You rub your arm and turn away from me. I would like to be a smooth, handsome basketball player instead of this horrible stray dog. I would give you my heart, but then I couldn’t love you anymore. I’ll bring you someone else’s heart. I’ll bring you the teacher’s heart. Mrs. Smith’s voice is tall and furry, but I don’t like her. I told her that I left my artwork at home, that the computer ate it. She folded her arms across her chest. This is for your own good, she said. Deadlines are deadlines. Before my old man died, he said the same thing. Everybody wants to change me. The cops, the teachers, my boss, the tiny wolf in my head. They’re all howling, and the moon is rising. I yearn for the moon. Don’t tell me that’s not possible. Outside it’s a soft night. The silver light is falling on all of us. For a second, I glow. I can be what Pa wanted. Instead of this stumbling, mumbling beast. My stomach gurgles, my teeth are yellow, my breath is sour. I will disappoint Pa again. The fur grows inside, the inner wolf gnaws at my intestines. I don’t like the fur. I don’t like the flesh. That is not what I wanted. Let me drive you home after class. It’s safer that way. You won’t have to take the bus. Look at me.
Cezarija Abartis’ Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Per Contra, Pure Slush, Waccamaw, and New York Tyrant, among others. Her flash, “The Writer,” was selected by Dan Chaon for Wigleaf’s Top 50 online Fictions of 2012. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University. Her website can be found here.