“The Furrowing” by Julie Allyn Johnson

I wanted to speak to her about hunger, to discuss the ravages of an unsated soul, the hemming’s and hawing’s of a wasted life. In funky plaid sombrero and blue velvet knickers, she strode towards me, her overbearing stature a behemoth against my lifelong timidity. But that was okay. I couldn’t fault her that. She had her own agenda, that much was clear. I resolved to stand firm. This was my dog-and-pony show and I wasn’t about to let my apprehensions escalate in the face of her ferocity. I asked about her yearnings, her desires, as I suspected they might, perhaps, mesh with my own. It was worth a try, an attempt at some sort of shared, miraculous camaraderie. With downcast eyes, she stunned me with her murmured response, a sleek admission of incapacity, her preference for subways, sour green apples and thirty-four-degree weather. The rain on North 44 th Street started to let up and I knew I didn’t have much longer to nail her down, to discover the damage these weaknesses had exposed. I pressed her for more. I was especially curious about her penchant for the subterranean. She told me the darkness had always held her close, that an opaque character camouflages an abundance of flaws and misdeeds. Light might yet penetrate but a sheltering subterfuge allows more time, more space to seek out additional venues of refuge. It had served her well as a delay tactic of sorts. It struck me then she’d won out, again. I was beaten, tricked, an object of her continued amusement. She wasn’t about to allow the victory I’d been certain was mine. I faltered, then stepped aside as the storm gathered once again in intensity. She moved past me, shoulders level and proud. My mother seemed quite pleased with herself, with this little staged performance. I stared after her only briefly. There was no point, no reconciliation I might hope for now. That moment had passed, perhaps years ago, the umbilical scissors long since cleaned and sterilized, the tether we shared incinerated in a bloody, soupy mix of hospital waste. Little Treblinka never goes without for long… My cell phone began to chirp, a sputtering of sound. Another alert, some kind of breaking news, an incoming text, a salutation of wearied obligation. I left it in my handbag. Both feet were wet, their wrinkled, sodden flesh chafing against my thrift store faux-leather boots.

Julie Allyn Johnson, a sawyer’s daughter from the American Midwest, prefers black licorice over red, cigarette-size Tootsie Rolls, and Hot Tamales—practically the perfect candy. Her current obsession is tackling the rough and tumble sport of quilting and the accumulation of fabric. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Julie’s poetry can be found in various journals including Star*Line, The Briar Cliff Review, Phantom Kangaroo, Haven Speculative, The Metaworker Literary Magazine, Penumbric Speculative Fiction, Coffin Bell, Typishly and Chestnut Review.

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