Mikki Aronoff has work published in Flash Boulevard, New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, ThimbleLit, The Phare, The Ekphrastic Review, The Fortnightly Review, Milk Candy Review, Tiny Molecules, The Disappointed Housewife, Bending Genres, Gone Lawn, Mslexia, The Galway Review, The Dribble Drabble Review, The Citron Review, Atlas and Alice, trampset, jmww, Switch and elsewhere. Her stories and poems have received Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction nominations.

Alice, To and Fro

            …for it might end…in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then. ~ Lewis Carroll

In the bathroom mirror: unrelenting folds of fat. Wrinkled lips. A scatter of stiff chin hairs. The polish of scalp. The split and jag of her nails, the dry of her eyes. Lower: an overreach of uninvited cells jockeying for space, the slippery slope of her veins. More spills outside the mirror’s frame than is reflected within it. Alice squints, regards again the whole soft shell of her body, a crab of a woman.

Alice grimaces at the burn in her chest, opens the medicine cabinet. She tosses tablets into the cave of her mouth. They scratch at her throat and bring to mind that awful refrain her childhood friend recited the day before over a shared Salad Niçoise – the days are long, but the years are short. Alice sags under the press of her flesh, decides to cash in her chips.

Alice trudges sans luggage into deep woods. Not 500 feet in, a tangle of roots and a misjudged step set her into a slow-motion tumble: feet, knees, elbows, chin, down into mud. 

An ear-splitting squeal from a dormouse flattened by Alice’s landing catapults her into reverse — chin, elbows, knees and feet now plumb. Alice shakes an accusing finger at rocks and shadows on the trail, stumbles and falls again.

Alice groans, picks the roughage of twigs from her teeth. Fumbling for her bifocals, Alice gropes for the tips of her toes, exhales relief. Just where they ought to be. She rubs the itch of her nose and finds her nostrils oddly wider. Her fingers move sideways to her earlobes — curiously longer. It seems parts of her have not yet matured. Alice shivers and bites her lower lip as she ponders their independent spirit, their innate right to thrive. Sunbeams flicker through the forest and a woodsy decay scents the air. Alice recalls the pinecones her Gran kept on the kitchen windowsill, the vanilla cookies Gran baked for her after school. A feeling long forgotten warms her inside and out, and she caresses her budding cartilage. “I’d kiss you if I could,” she whispers. “I’ll just have to nurture you instead.”

Alice struggles upright again, puffs out her chest, brushes dirt and leaves from her clothes, and limps back to her car. She takes her flip phone from the glovebox and makes a date for lunch Tuesday with Linda. Chicken a la King. Fries. Carrot Cake. Enough leftovers for Wednesday.

Amy Marques grew up between languages and places and learned, from an early age, the multiplicity of narratives. She penned children’s books, barely read medical papers, and numerous letters before turning to short fiction and visual poetry. She is a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best of the Net nominee and has work published in journals and anthologies including Streetcake Magazine, MoonPark Review, Bending Genres, Gone Lawn, Ghost Parachute, Chicago Quarterly Review, and Reservoir Road Literary Review. You can read more at https://amybookwhisperer.wordpress.com.