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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Microfiction: 350 words
By Mikki Aronoff

The Skin of Our Teeth

 

“I need you to keep something in confidence.” Sure, Mom. We’re sipping lattes and splitting an éclair at our local bakery. She mimes a lip-zip with her thumb and forefinger. When she finally opens her mouth, a landslide of words and stutters tumbles into my lap. Seems Dad’s sister had electroshock therapy back in the day. I don’t tell my mother they don’t call it that anymore. Aunt Miriam’s been dead forever. Dad’s gone now, too. Is that what freed her to speak? I feel the whoosh of her pent-up exhalation on my face.

“Yeah, so?” I want to say but that would deny the supreme effort Mom’s made to button herself up all these decades. I keep quiet. I’m stymied by the stigma.

“Don’t tell a soul!” she reminds me when we get up to leave. She wipes tears of relief from her cheeks, flushed by years of social rigidity.

I’m a Scorpio. I should be good at keeping secrets. But soon as I drop Mom off, I race over to my brother’s to divulge the news.

“Yeah, so?” he says, and we pinky promise not to tell Mom he knows.

I point out the fresh snickerdoodles I’ve brought, and he turns on his coffeemaker. We sit in the back yard, and he lights up a joint.

“Remember how Miriam never took off that chintzy flowered housecoat? I feel like that sometimes,” I confide. “No bogarting,” I add, reaching for the doobie.

“And how she never left her house? After my own heart,” confesses my brother, a total introvert.

We look at each other, shudder at the genes we’ve inherited, scour dozens of almosts from our thoughts.

“Do you think...” I start to ask, but my brother cuts me off.

“Just another skeleton in our clan.” A low chuckle escapes from his throat as he stares at cloudless blue. “Cookie?”

We lean back in our lawn chairs at the same time, our faces to the sun, watch Aunt Miriam’s zapped brain bobbing in a sea of aqueous ease, her mind humming like a Bentley.

Mikki Aronoff’s
Issue 23 (April 2024)

work appears in 100 word story, Atlas and Alice, Bending Genres, The Citron Review, The Disappointed Housewife, The Dribble Drabble Review, Flash Boulevard, Gone Lawn, New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Midway Journal, Milk Candy Review, Mslexia, The Offing, Tiny Molecules, trampset, and elsewhere. She’s received nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction.

 
 
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