Three Short Fictions
by Deborah Steinberg
Women conceal wings lest they be stolen. Some submit to the knife for ready cash, see their feathers grafted onto men so they can go faster to battle, wing-beats matching drum beats. She denies the lack until it solidifies, becomes calcified between her shoulder blades, and on television the carnage of her sons proceeds spectacularly, commented upon with barely-concealed hunger by people she has a sneaking suspicion are actually robots.
Last night I dreamed you whole. You had just flown in from New York and your wings were dyed electric pink, the latest fad there, you said. I asked you to tell me about the foods you had eaten and the nightclubs you had gone to. Then the dream shifted, and a beige sadness muted the light coming from your eyes. You told me, gently, as if for the first time, Those times are over now. I started crying but I didn't understand why. Then I looked up and saw that your splendid pink wings were gone. You stood impossibly small in their vanished shadow, unflinching. Your dignity cut into me far more than your deformity. You held me closer and then I woke up in your arms, my palms pressed to your scars, my cheeks wet. "It's OK," you were murmuring, "It's OK."
If she is an angel I will amputate my own wings, hack them off myself with a rusty hatchet and wear bare-backed tops to let the scarred stumps show. I will dye my hair as far from blond as it can go and smoke cigarette upon cigarette to blacken my lungs. Eradicate white from my wardrobe; paint my walls and doors black; throw out boxes of bleached cancer-giving tampons; shit all over the white porcelain toilet; soil the dish towels with animal grease; dip the cat in coffee; slap dark lenses over my blue eyes; wear blood lipstick; cover every inch of my white skin with self-tanner then tattoo over it; summon the sun to turn my flesh to leather.
Clinging to my small dark light, I become the unknown side of an eclipse.
She plucks a snow-white feather from behind her shoulder and tucks it into your hair. You begin to glow with its whiteness, your conviction that this is grace. You shine so brightly you blind yourself; you do not see her giving away pieces of her body to every man in the room.
Deborah Steinberg grew up in the Bay Area and studied creative writing and literature at Bard College. She spent seven years teaching English, singing in bands, and editing a 'zine in Bordeaux, France, where she cultivated and refined her sense of joie de vivre. She currently lives the good life in San Francisco, where, in addition to writing, she sings in the women's alt-choir Conspiracy of Venus. Her website is at http://deborahsteinberg.wordpress.com.