I will measure and swiftly sift. I will do so carefully. While I think of my ricrac past like a hem on a faltering dress. That is still too pretty to let go of.
There is no buttery butter so buttery you could melt. Or rabbit sugar flour. No spiked vanilla soliciting a hungry chicken for her precious egg.
But still. I carefully gather desert clay near the saguaro and tap it into small spheres on my typewriter that was given to me by a poet—who asked for it back before I smothered him with trays of marzipan. And an ill-chosen sonnet, while he begged and tossed his liquor-laced almond hair that smelled sweeter than mine. His work piling up in bound books. Before my eyes.
I knead and push. I go from past to future to future again on the page. I go to future too much!
I am so far ahead I am in outer space—all by next week.
I am making something. It’s not precious. I carve up my 1,123-layer brick into the shape of a baby elephant. But it is only half-baked. I cut so much his ear collapses. His trunk becomes misshapen. But he is still in there. Somewhere.
I take him to the glorious party with so much champagne. Where he is promptly ignored by the poet’s friends that he warned me about—one who will catch an illegal chartered plane with no wings at midnight, another who grabs my chin with his damp and dripping palm. Good to meet you!
In the kitchen, in my makeshift apron comprised of sweet fallen ivy that once gently hung on hungry whales, I fold shiny gold boxes for my friends and fill with good luck charms. Talismans. Amulets. Madstones. All with letters I harvest in the field to the sound of a snug snail playing a banjo and singing a sorrowful song.
I can’t afford a kiln so I hover my hands above the keys until the house with butterfly painted walls fills so full up. So full with what is new and strong and still teetering inside me.
I am not sure how to leave this kitchen.
So I sit here. Where it’s warm. And oh-so-sweet. And keep telling myself the whole story. Until I understand why I took your notebook. And worn shoes with fraying laces. And the lucky penny you said I’d never forget. And left you in the rain of the monsoon. For dead.
Anna Mantzaris is a San Francisco-based writer. Her work has appeared in Ambit, The Cortland Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Necessary Fiction, New World Writing Quarterly, Sonora Review, Spry, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2020 Eyelands Book Award and the 2022 Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction. She is currently a fiction chapbook fellow with Galileo Press. Find more at annamantzaris.net.