gut Rot

“What do you think of Richard?”


“What do you think of Richard?”

“I think he’s quite mad, but I haven’t met a stage actor who isn’t.”

“Laurie was lovely.”

“He smacked his skull against the concrete and drowned in the Thames.”

“He was wasted.”

“Normal people don’t die like that.”

“Anyway, there’s something off with Richard.”

“He thinks you’re fit.”

“He’s everywhere I go. I can’t study my lines for a minute in my flat without him showing up.”

“He’s your lead man now.”

“But Laurie was never like this. It’s as though Richard doesn’t want to let me out of his sight lest I disappear into thin air.”

“You’re overreacting, Angela. You’re still upset over the way that Laurie died. It was quite tragic.”

I sigh, about to resign my attempts to explain my experience. I couldn’t well tell Reagan that I feel like I’m being squeezed by a bloody boa whenever Richard is near.

And then he walks into the pub. The telly above plays an advert for a pest control company.

“Hello, ladies,” his hollow cheer strikes me alone.

I send Reagan a hard sideways glance.

She dismisses my reaction with a clucking noise.

“Richard! It’s lovely to see you, darling.”

I stand to leave.

“Seems as though Angela feels differently.”

“Don’t be silly,” Reagan says, “she’s off to run her lines.”

“Do you need me, then?”

“No.” I can barely say the word. My lungs feel like bone.


Douglas had a daughter.

Douglas had a daughter.

The mother had been lost a few years after Kesse was born. She had wandered into the dusty fields sleep walking. She had stopped beneath a diamond-plated drill tip that the geologists swore had been taken off the site for maintenance.

Kesse learned to read and think critically and to clean and cook.

And they had a beautiful library in their home. Most of the books were written in a language she was never taught.

Despite the brutality that she had been exposed to as a young child, Kesse found comfort inside their home where the haunted geologist’s equipment could not harm her.

For a long time, she was content to watch the sun and moon from behind bulletproof glass windows.

When she grew restless, Douglas told her it was time to know the real danger.

He told her the story of what Earth was like before the apocalypse. He told her that there was once endless lands of emerald green grass and fresh food that sprouted right out of the ground.

But now, living on the charred remains of a war torn planet, the only survivors were thieves, murders and bitter alchemists.

She would not survive. When Kesse was four, she took a vow to never hurt a soul. She didn’t have the heart to kill, even if it meant her life. She didn’t have the wisdom to outsmart any alchemist who would offer protection in exchange for something called a ‘wife’.

Douglas gave Kesse a cup of tea to drink while she struggled with the reality of this world.


Back in that kitchen.

Back in that kitchen.

Steady hands in the lukewarm water. Leaving the sharps ’til last. I have to work up the courage to touch butter knives.

Every metallic edge burns. But I don’t let go. The heat is another warmth.

What would it feel like to run this BBQ fork over the tender skin of my forearms?

Even through the Pier 1 dish cloth, the sharps speak to me in taunts.

Back now, in my here kitchen, I have stopped breathing except for the shallow breath of survival.

Today, with my hips stiff as they are, it’s more difficult to shake the weight of this remembering.

Irritation funnels through me in the form of judgements.

“I should be farther along. I haven’t let go enough. My heart is closed.”

“QUICK,” I tell myself from another part of my brain, “name three things you’re grateful for.”

Yorkie Girl, sunshine, self-acceptance.

I still feel shaken. A simple meditation brings me closer. I pick up my phone and write: sliver sad, mud alone, itchy fear.

Leaving the chopped herbs on the block, I pull on a wool sweater and head out for a walk.

In the fresh air, it’s easier to find myself.