For the month of March, I’m posting a piece of flash fiction—500 words or less—every Wednesday. This story is from the point of view of an autocratic farmer.
At the Contra Dance
I’m really not in the mood, the Cheshire Cow tells me, as our arms link up and we spin. I’ll be free of you soon, I reply, which for the most part is true, except for the indelicate teeth, which in a ruminant like this, can only hover so long before they clatter one by one to the floor. As we part, I can’t fully bask in my joy. The unfortunate thing about progressions is that bitches like this come back around.
What a refreshing sight, however, is the Strawberry Lass. The Strawberry Lass, so adorably, reminds me she’s on her own—this despite the fact that we’re arm in arm. The Strawberry Lass breathes in, and the seeds sewn into her corset grow tenuous as they strain, and I love to imagine what might bloom as soon as—and if—those buttons finally launch, and how the noise that they make as they hit the floor, just like rain, would be soothing and perhaps prevent my teeth from wearing each other down.
That’s just how hateful the presence is of this Cheshire goddamn Cow.
Do not judge. My goal in life, from the outset, was to make a nice little profit off my tidy farm. And cows are fine, whatever, and personified strawberries—it’s only a problem, really, when they try to transcend their tertiary roles.
Tertiary? the Cheshire Cow once retorted. Not even going to offer us seconds, huh?
What’s secondary, I told her, is the whole goddamn farm. You animals and you vegetables, too—although the strawberries then, for me, were newer and stranger as animi, thus, somewhat harder to buttonhole—you animals amount to but a fraction of a greater good.
Only farmers count as whole numbers, I tell her now, now that I’ve grown to the point where even my second nature has the rhetoric down. I tell her this in the midst of what feels like an endlessly tense do-si-do.
Across the barn, I spot the Strawberry Lass, who appears to have danced her way into a swoon, and as she melts into the arms of that motherfucker Handy Apples, she pinkens, then whitens, becomes ice-like, and devoid of every last pigmentary drop.
I’m ashamed to say this disloyalty comes as no small surprise.
Stop, I tell the room—and because I’m the farmer, everyone halts mid-turn. Stop trying to individuate, I say, when you know you’re all ending up in the same goddamn trough of swill.
The band begins again, hesitantly, and I tongue what remains of my teeth.