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News & Features » March 2019 » “The Woman and the Monster” by Stephanie Katz

“The Woman and the Monster” by Stephanie Katz

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Stephanie Katz faces her monster.

The Woman and the Monster
by Stephanie Katz
0-3 months

One morning, a woman gave birth to a monster. The monster had red skin and howled all day and all night. The woman sobbed when she held the monster, but people the woman didn’t remember said he was beautiful and she was lucky to have him. The monster screamed and bit at her breasts. He scratched her face when she bent to kiss his lumpy skull. When she put him down, he pulled his feet up to his belly, writhing and shrieking.

People came and held the monster and asked the woman happy questions she was supposed to have happy answers to. When the people held the monster, he did not cry. He slept gently and the people cooed. When they handed him back to the woman, he woke up and screamed and flailed his arms.  The people told her not to cry so much because it was making the monster cry. They told her to smile at him more, but her smile looked like a grimace and he screamed. 

The people stopped coming to hold the monster. Chores piled on chores. One night, the woman locked herself in the bathroom without the monster. She looked in the mirror and saw not her own face, but the face of a monster staring back at her. Her eyes were sunken, her skin ashy, her hair wild and greasy. The woman cried, and the monster cried from the other room.

The monster’s skin peeled, and the woman’s hair fell out in chunks. The days and nights became the same, and the woman’s eyes hurt from staying open too long. 

Months passed, and one night the woman realized she hadn’t cried for a whole day. The monster still cried, but he scratched and bit at her less. Sometimes he fell asleep on her, and she breathed him in. She closed her eyes and felt the weight of his small body in her arms. She traced the veins under his pail skin.

One day, the monster looked at the woman and smiled. He pressed his cheek into the woman’s chest and cooed. His legs dangled over her lap when she held him in the quiet dark.

After many days without too much crying, the woman felt brave and looked in the mirror again. She still saw a monster staring back at her, but her eyes weren’t too red, her skin had a hint of color, and her hair was clean and smooth. She went and got her little monster and held him in front of the mirror. The woman flashed her teeth and howled and bit at the monster’s neck. He giggled, and the woman laughed. She kissed his soft cheek and turned him around to face her. He reached out, grabbed her face, and stared deeply into her eyes. His eyes were bright, and her eyes were bright. The monster smiled, and the woman smiled. She lifted him up and they bounded around the house, howling and laughing as monsters together. 

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STEPHANIE KATZ is a librarian and the editor-in-chief and founder of 805 Lit + Art, an award-winning literary journal published by a public library in Florida. Her articles have been published in academic journals, Authors Publish Magazine, and a local newspaper. Her scholarly monograph on creative publishing in libraries is forthcoming with Libraries Unlimited, ABC-CLIO. She lives on a barrier island with her husband and son, who still does not sleep through the night.

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Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Mar 26, 2019

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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