This excerpt is from the story “The Silence Here Owns Everything”, from Kirsten Clodfelter’s fiction chapbook, Casualties.
I sit on Kendra’s bed while she French-braids my hair. She does
it over and over, gets to the bottom and then unthreads the strands
to begin again. She always needs to be doing something—she has
a nervous energy; this is what her mom sometimes says to me.
Kendra’s fingernails against my scalp are a comfort, and I close my
eyes and let that touch be the only thing.
I hate that I cannot French-braid hair. I hate the moments
that I have to admit this at sleepover birthday parties or during
homeroom when Mr. Jackson isn’t paying attention to the girls
sitting in the back row. I hate that there are so many things my dad
has taught me—not to wear black shoes with a navy-blue dress,
how to stop a run in tights with clear nail polish, how cold water
best removes a bloodstain from underwear—but that he is unable
to teach me this one thing.
Kendra is my oldest friend, my only friend who met my mother
before she got sick, who ever even knew my mom at all. I don’t
like to talk about this with anyone, but Kendra somehow knows
without me ever telling her, and she says the words about it that
I cannot. “You must miss her,” or “Tell me something else about
her,” or “My mom is basically in love with you, so we can share,”
but today she does not say any of these things; today she just braids
and unbraids, braids and unbraids.
Kirsten Clodfelter’s writing has been previously published in The Iowa Review, Brevity, Narrative Magazine, Green Mountains Review, and The Good Men Project, among others, and is forthcoming in storySouth. Her chapbook of war-impact stories, Casualties, was published last October by RopeWalk Press. A regular contributor to As It Ought to Be and Series Editor of the small-press review series, At the Margins, Clodfelter lives in Southern Indiana with her partner and young daughter.
Meagan Cass is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, independent publishing, and composition, curates the Shelterbelt reading series, and advises the campus literary journal, the Alchemist Review. Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Hobart Web, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other journals. Magic Helicopter Press will publish her first fiction chapbook, Range of Motion, in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.