The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “Twenty-Something” by Tatiana Ryckman


“E.T. + Richard Burton = 4EVER”
Richard Burton calls Elizabeth Taylor “E.” in his diaries.

Part I : E.T. Meets Richard Burton At Last

It’s awkward, negotiating her feelings for Richard and her relationship status, but something about him is familiar, as if they should already be close friends, should be able to drive to the grocery store for a six-pack on their way to a mutual friend’s party without it being “a thing,” without it coming up that her husband would not be joining them, did not need to supervise their easy, platonic repartee.

But she wants just as much to sit on his couch for the first time watching a movie, something classic, something a little funny, while he sits just a foot or two away. And maybe one of them would get up to refill a glass of wine and sit down a few inches nearer, and the other would stretch or adjust to get more comfortable and a hand would be closer to a thigh.

E. wants the pain of wondering if anything will happen, the feeling of wet palms and wet between her legs and a lingering nausea with each micro-adjustment toward his gladiator body. She wants the dry mouth and numb fuzz of hearing nothing except the jaw-rattling beat of her heart, and Oh—if he turns toward her. If he just turns, if he blinks, if he slides his hand along the sofa to her hip, if he lifts a hand to brush her cheek, to draw her near as she struggles with the discomfort of overwhelming desire and nervous gas. Her breath catches.

E. wants the confused fumbling of new hands on her generous flesh but this is as far as her imagination can go, because E. has only just met Richard, has only just shaken his hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you,” and Eddie is sliding a possessive hand over her rump and around her waist. He is wearing the carnivorous smile of a champion.


Part II: E.T. and Richard Play a Game Called Let’s Get Wasted Again

Coming to behind the locked door of the hotel bathroom,
Richard realizes he has nothing to do but pick up the pieces—the
pieces of the wall that have been splintered in some great show of

On the other side of the door E. has fallen into a light,
graceful snore; her body slumps across the bed short-ways and a
foot and an arm dangle off opposing edges. E. is dreaming that
Richard will break down the door, that he will emerge a glowing
man-beast, a creature of sex delivered to her, by the toilet perhaps,
but with the iridescent baby skin of a god, and the enormous cock
of a horse.

“How cliché!” her dream-self scolds her, “The cock of a

“But wasn’t that, like, Cleopatra’s thing?” she asks herself in a
snotty voice, and that seems to settle it.

Richard feels like an artist as the wall gradually reforms by the
delicate work of his hands.

He dreams: Sistine Chapel.

He dreams: paparazzi piecing together the story.

He dreams: all the empty bottles are full again.

This selection comes from Tatiana Ryckman’s short fiction collection Twenty-Something, available now from ELJ Publications. Purchase your copy here.

Tatiana Ryckman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of two prose chapbooks, Twenty-Something, and VHS and Why it’s Hard to Live, and is Assistant Editor at sunnyoutside press. More at

Beth Couture currently serves as both a Board Member and an Assistant Editor at Sundress Publications. Her work can be found in a number of journals and anthologies, including Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, The Southeast Review, Ragazine, and Thirty Under Thirty from Starcherone Books. Her novella, Women Born with Fur, was published by Jaded Ibis Press in 2014 as part of its Blue Bustard Novellas series. She is currently working on her Master’s in Social Work at Bryn Mawr College, and she lives in West Philly with her husband and five cats.


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