For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form


Kirstin Valdez Quade


After her fourteenth birthday, Nemecia’s skin turned red and oily and swollen with pustules. It looked tender. She began to laugh at me for my thick eyebrows and crooked teeth, things I hadn’t noticed about myself until then.

One night she came into our bedroom and looked at herself in the mirror for a long time. When she moved away, she crossed to where I sat on the bed and dug her nail into my right cheek. I yelped, jerked my head. “Shh,” she said kindly. With one hand she smoothed my hair, and I felt myself soften under her hands as she worked her nail through my skin. It hurt only a little bit, and what did I, at seven years old, care about beauty? As I sat snug between Nemecia’s knees, my face in her hands, her attention swept over me the way I imagined a wave would, warm and slow and salty.

Night after night I sat between her knees while she opened and reopened the wound. One day she’d make a game of it, tell me that I looked like a pirate; another day she’d say it was her duty to mark me because I had sinned. Daily she and my mother worked against each other, my mother spreading salve on the scab each morning, Nemecia easing it open each night with her nails. “Why don’t you heal, hijita?” my mother wondered as she fed me cloves of raw garlic. Why didn’t I tell her? I don’t know exactly, but I suppose I needed to be drawn into Nemecia’s story.

Full story at Narrative Magazine