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Orphan Day is always on Tuesday. It falls that way purposefully, a mayor-designated holiday announced on town posters hung by zealous librarians and the bowling pin setter at Ed’s Bowl-O-Rama. I contemplate eating my own young, hiding them in my gut, a Jonah-eating whale matriarch — except that only works for Biblical characters. Instead, to protect them from hunters, I trophy stuff all my babies, patched-together fabric mannequin children no one will want to adopt. I’m allowed to visit once a week. I leave my face imprinted in mommy mirror smudges, watching as they’re cradled on couches and cushions by other-mothers.

9 Comments

  1. Janelle Greco

    Oooo I love this, Amy. What a short glimpse into an alternate reality that has an Orphan Day. The lines where the narrator contemplates eating her own young really grabbed me just as when they patch them together like mannequins. I’d like to see this piece stretched out even further. What other traditions happen on Orphan Day? Who are the “other-mothers”? Why does eating the young only work for Biblical characters? What lengths might a mother go to to reclaim her children? So many questions to explore and play with here and I feel this could be expanded into so many different avenues, if you wanted to of course. Really great piece.

  2. Kevin Sterne

    Hey Amy, this is so good. So grotesque and haunting. it feels like the perfect introduction for a character in a novel. I agree with everything in the above comment by Jenelle. Would love to see this expanded. There’s a lot of directions to take this. follow a feeling. What story wants to be told here?

  3. K Chiucarello

    I am incredibly thankful that all of our weirdest shit is capping this workshop. I loved this, Amy! The last line is such a cincher “I leave my face imprinted in mommy mirror smudges…” That lead-in lets out all the air in this piece — it’s devastating, slightly horrific, slightly maternal, all around messy. I’m sorry to contradict the above feedback but I think the shortness and tightness of this piece is extends the horror. I’m certainly drawn to the characters, so perhaps making this into a micro series? As always, a pleasure to read your work and I’m happy to have gotten some behind the scenes looks at this workshop.

  4. Bud Smith

    I like the distinction of Tuesday being an unlucky day vs. Tuesday being a lucky day if we look to different parts of the world … “In the Greek world, Tuesday (the day of the week of the Fall of Constantinople) is considered an unlucky day.[5] The same is true in the Spanish-speaking world; it is believed that this is due to the association between Tuesday and Mars, the god of war and therefore related to death.[6] For both Greeks and Spanish-speakers, the 13th of the month is considered unlucky if it falls on Tuesday, instead of Friday. In Judaism, on the other hand, Tuesday is considered a particularly lucky day, because in Bereshit (parashah), known in the Christian tradition as the first chapters of Genesis,[7] the paragraph about this day contains the phrase “it was good” twice.” An orphan can either be lucky or unlucky but we wouldn’t know unless we looked at it on a case by case basis, and judging by the language of this story, this mother and her instincts to eat her young to protect them like Jonah eaten by the whale (in this story the mother is the whale so is the father God? Or the mother is both whale and God and who knows who the father is just like who knows who God is) maybe the kids are lucky to have some distance but also who is to say? This is a very weird story and I love it for its oddness. I could see it being the launching pad for this character and from here we go on forward and take part in Orphan Day, whatever it is, and we learn is Tuesday is a lucky day or an fucked/cursed day, and on and on. Along the way we can do battle with zealous librarians and the bowling pin setter at Ed’s Bowl-O-Rama. Winner take all, I say. I have a feeling all the children will be happy she has arrived and is changing things up. The Old Testament God struck down the city of Nineveh, I have a feeling our narrator might knock down the whole orphanage.

  5. David O'Connor

    That second sentence builds a whole world. Sounds good too. Then it gets so dark, but with an uplifting tone, by the time I got to the final… I’m allowed to visit once a week. I was completely disturbed in a glorious way. I like how simple this little block of prose sits there and does so much. Besides the title not convincing me 100%, I’d play a bit with the Jonah/Bible reference to see if it is needed or needed to expand, as with such a tight good piece, every word should pull its weight. This is excellent writing, thank you. So powerful.

  6. Lisa Moore

    Amy,

    This is weird and vibrant and exactly the sort of story that I love to read. So cool. There is a strange, new world in here. Part of me wants to know more, but leaving it brief and oblique makes it haunting.

    And it’s beautifully-written.

    The last line is actual poetry: “I leave my face imprinted in mommy mirror smudges, watching as they’re cradled on couches and cushions by other-mothers.”

  7. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Amy, What can a simple paragraph do? Wow. One example– yours and Bud’s lengthy riff on Tuesday, just the beginning of what this paragraph-story can do. I flashed images of Goya’s Saturn eating one of his children, simultaneously thinking of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. That’s a lot of power to spurn all this. It is very strange and I would suggest you do more elaboration, each of your images I think would not suffer with expansion. This is a chilling piece.

  8. Cheryl Pappas

    Amy, I’m always in awe by how you conjure a wild world that we can believe in. You have vision and I’m here for it.

    I can see the librarian and the bowling pin-setter rushing about getting ready for the big day. This reads like an update on the Lottery: some ordinary townspeople taking part in something sinister.

    She hides her “babies” in the trophy cabinet instead of her gut (!) so the authorities won’t find them and want them. The only thing that threw me off is “I’m allowed to visit once a week.” If Tuesday is Orphan Day, then wouldn’t her babies be safe on Wednesday? Also, I wonder who is allowing her to visit if she is the one that put them there? Maybe these don’t need to be answered! It just came to me as I was reading it.

    The image of the “mommy mirror smudges” is outstanding and wonderfully disturbing.

  9. Neil Clark

    Really into this, Amy.

    I love the weirdness, and the visceral boldness of a line like – “I contemplate eating my own young, hiding them in my gut, a Jonah-eating whale matriarch — except that only works for Biblical characters.”

    Maybe I’m going against the grain, but I think the brevity works here. The piece is staying with me as after finishing it as I explore the world you’ve created. Great work!

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