The Tanner Scale is Always Wrong – Second Place

Not long before Olive called a meeting of the Insult Club for the first time on the shaded, snail-calloused back steps of PS 64, she discovered a small lump, a scaling horn-like barnacle, growing on the severe wing of her shoulder. Soon, a second crustaceous bud sprouted on her opposing limb, pushing its way through the sharpened ledge of what she quickly learned (scanning WebMD for her sudden, inexplicable symptoms) was the part of her shoulder called her “acromion.”

Some unexpected “acrimony” as her new wingman?

Sunflower by Gloria Whitney

Right on, she thought. Olive wasn’t afraid.

Since the first day of 5th grade, she’d felt oppressed by a juddery, slow-churned irritation that vibrated out from her knees and surged up her coxis, where the tremor violated out through her spine and into her back as a reckless, crippling knot. Of late, she found it awfully hard to sit still in the warped homeroom chairs listening to Miss Blatter’s lessons about gout-faced men and their centuried accomplishments. She appreciated the men’s importance: their jelly lips and snorkeled groins were once the anatomy for change in science and culture. But where were the girls, their mothers, in the stories of men? What did they do when their dads sailed off? Or wandered away into their cavernous dens?

Stories happened in spite of daughters. In spite of moms, she realized.

Spite, it seemed, was her foremost school lesson.

Suddenly, Olive’s back felt better.

She relaxed as the chips on her shoulders formed.




Mary Shelley:

Mary chose a poet for partner at 17 and, still a teen, wrote Frankenstein two years later. Publishers assumed her husband wrote the ground-breaking novel, because, like so many, they failed to understand girls know monsters best, especially monsters who at first don’t look like monsters at all. Frankenstein—a novel about a man out of control, and the monster who put him in his place—was finally published under her own name. 13 years later.


Claudette Colvin:

16 year old Claudette defied the nation and the state by keeping her seat on the bus, and initiating the landmark civil rights case: Browder vs Gale. Described as “emotional,” “mouthy,” and “feisty”—who wouldn’t be? she was pissed off!—she was passed over so that Rosa Parks could play her part 9 months later. But it was Claudette’s case in court that finally ended bus segregation.



Abandoned by her father as a babe in the mountains because she was not a son, Atalanta was left for dead and raised by bears. Later, hunters found her, took her in, trained her. Soon, she sailed with the Argonauts and helped kill the Caledonian Boar.  Girls always have to prove their mettle is twice (3 times? 4 times?) as strong as their brothers. Even our myths tell us so.




When Olive was six, the racist neighbor next door tripped on the sidewalk while shouting at an earbudded teen riding by on a bike. The neighbor fell hard, hit his head on the splintering concrete and was left, long after his pooled blood dried into the broken path, with a raw scar shaped like an N over his left eyebrow. Her mother called it his “scarlet letter.” Taught her about “Hawthorne,” “racism,” and “irony” in one informative rant. Then advised Olive “to just avoid the jerkwad’s yard.”

Long before comprehension lessons at school, Olive learned that people are stupid and sometimes the world shows them how much.

Olive wasn’t afraid of the growths on her shoulders the way adults feared crepuscular skin tags or unruly moles. Still awash in the early years of post-amniotic wonder, she tended the lumps like snails in her garden, wondering how they might inflict themselves on her flora next. Would the nubs rupture or leak like a soft-boiled egg? Peel back from her secret scabrous fruit?  Would they sprout, become thistle or thorned? What kind of creature was she becoming? Would she soon be taloned? Take flight?

Naturally, Olive preferred nubs on the shoulders to bumps on her chest. The school nurse, her friend Georgia’s teen sister, not to mention the terrifyingly, cheerful Girl Scout leader who called even the troop’s cookie thieves “Dears,” had presented a forest of pamphlets with aggressive Tanner Scale sketches illustrating the maturing female form—the section on “breast buds” highlighted with care—before saying with reassuring dread: Soon, you’ll be a woman. Isn’t that exciting?


At the next recess meeting on the shaded school stoop, Olive pulled her shirt to the side, showed the huddled girls the prongs on her shoulders, let them palm the scabby nubs with their humid, pre-pubescent fingers.

They were a sign, she told them. Maybe an omen.

An insignia, she thought, of leadership.

She kept the last one to herself.

“My acromions are acrimonious,” she said, whittling the sharpening point of each nub, then going on to teach her friends the names on each part of the shoulder: the rounded bursa, the humeral head, the socketed glenoid and labrum, the scapula behind, the clavicle above. The girls nodded, then rubbed each part of their own shoulders in turn, wondering, as they looked out with terror at the jungling antics on the woodchipped playground plot if they were due their own armor soon.

Olive studied the schoolyard, the raging monkey bar play.

“Jackal,” she said, frowning at a flank-steak of a boy kicking woodchips at a scrum of K-kids barnacle-stalked on a bench.

“Boars,” Molly corrected. She was looking at the teachers ignoring the brawl behind them.


Imogen growled the word, a stone skipping air, as she carved the pitted step with a stick.

Olive nodded approval. Her shoulders were on fire.


From that day forward, the Insult Club sat together on the stoop at recess, a chorus of wide-eyed girls of varied backgrounds hunched on the shaded, ant-smeared steps. The snails crawled up their arms as they named what they saw. No one asked them to join the play in the sunlight.

No one noticed the girls at all.





Margaret Knight:

At age 12, after watching another child get impaled at a mill, Margaret  designed a safer loom, which the mill owners put into use at once. She was never given credit. But she went on to design many other inventions: most notably, the flat-bottomed paper bag. You know the one. Plastic or paper? Stacks of them. Still. At your grocer.


Malala Yousafzai:

In 2012 a Pakistani teen had to remind the world that girls are worth more than your ass. She fought for the education of girls. Then she was shot in the head for her trouble. She survived. And after recovering, continued her efforts. Malala is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate for her courage and her ongoing advocacy for the rights of children.


Nancy Drew:

16 year old fictional sleuth who used her brains and charisma to solve local cases. Why can we believe stories about smart girls. But not real ones?




Olive couldn’t recall later, during her deposition, who named the group the Insult Club. Whether the girls came up with the name themselves. Or if a passing kid carelessly lobbed the double slur their way—an insult about insulting that neither undermined nor amplified offense—that the girls adopted at once, the way pilot fish adopt a shark. They didn’t think of their work as insulting though. They’d been taught by their mothers to be “tactful.” By their fathers, to be “polite.” By their teachers to be “correct.”

They’d also been taught not to lie.

The Insult Club had only one expansive rule: Be precise. Give what you see the tag it has earned. The name he/she/it deserves.

When one of the girls hit a name on the head, Olive first awarded the winner an M&M from her pocket, then bent to twist the sweet-eater’s arm—just once, hard—giving her a quick reddening burn that heated the skin to remind them all, she said, that telling the truth was a pleasure that almost always also gives pain.

It was something her father told her, she said, before he left when she was four.  She hadn’t seen him since.

“What do you call him now?” Molly asked.

Olive shrugged.

“You have to know a thing,” Olive reminded her, “before you can name it.”




Favorite insults from Olive’s pocket journal (later called “Exhibit A”).


7th grader, Max Meyerson.

Weapon: pencil. Specialty: poking girls’ bums in the cafeteria crush.

After being poked in the hallway, Imogen slammed a locker shut on Max’s left hand. The resulting scar on M.’s index finger looked like an arrow pointing back at his own black heart.



The playground gazebo where the 8th graders liked to sit out of sight tucking hands into pockets not their own. The Insult Club vowed never to go there. And they never did.



The adult practice of claiming as true what is untrue. Then demanding others agree.





The Insult Club wasn’t a club in any real sense of the world. Outcasts, the girls were driven to the back step at recess, the way pebbles are pushed to the shallows by the currenting force of a stream. They were too slow, too fast, too dreamy, too generous. The Insult Club girls were simply too much, couldn’t keep their ideas in check, or keep up with the untethered come-ons and come-backs that volleyed the field. They found their way to the shade to hide or cool off. Cautious, they stayed in the shadows to survey the terrain more clearly.

When Ava found her way, sweaty and dew-eyed, to the step one afternoon, Olive placed a snail on her arm. They watched together as it started sucking its way towards her elbow.

“Did you ever tell Ree to just bug off?” she said.

Ava looked at her blankly.

“Ree won’t wear glasses—she can’t see—it’s why she stares like that. Acts mean.”

Ava wiped her cheek with the back of her hand. It was oddly soothing to watch the snail move with steady fearlessness up her arm.

Olive shrugged. “Next time she calls you fat, tell her not to worry: she’ll look great in glasses.”

“She’ll punch me.” Ava peeled back the flesh on one finger.

Imogen snorted. “That would suck. But then she’d get in trouble.”

As the girls around her began to laugh, Ava couldn’t stop herself from letting a swampy hiccup of air escape. It was fetid, held in for too long. Not quite a laugh. But close.

Olive smiled. Rubbed her tingling shoulders.

Without looking, she could feel each prong growing.




Menhirs of Alentejo: New Beginnings

Naturally, Olive’s transformation didn’t take place over night. In spring, flowers often seem to bloom with sudden fierceness. But if you’re patient, look closely, the buds first burp out gently, furry pimples testing the air, before swelling resolutely until their skins peel back to reveal caped redolent mouths breathing open, exposing tongues, tonsils, suckling throats. The fiery, perfumed breath.

As Olive walked down the halls of PS 64, she could feel herself blooming. Her whole body trembled, not in fear. Or anticipation. She was electrified, the hairs on her arms standing on end. When she passed gaggles of students huddled at lockers, they’d tentatively sniff the air, the way a rabbit twitches at the smell of a fox. But Olive smelled of mulch and moss, the mild putrid scent of insects that live beneath rocks. The kids stepped back, uncertain, looking around for a wet cat, or a snake in the rafters. They ignored Olive in the camouflage of her neatly pressed cotton skirt, her pink knee socks. The delicate fingers always pushing one loose tress behind her ear.

They didn’t know that under her shirt, her skin had grown goosed and cobbled. And that under her skin, her spine was plating. Her feet were heavy, the toenails sharp.  The heat radiating through her pores wasn’t a fever, but their entire world about to implode.

What set Olive off?

What sets off a flower? Was it the girls in the hall laughing into their scalloped paws? The boys who lurked, eavesdropped? The teachers who smiled in class and smoked in the break room? Her mother who loved her, but could not change the world?

It was purely coincidental that her final change came during a test, a math test she was prepared to take of course—Olive was a good student—and which, she was certain, was going well. Until the final question.

How many steps?

She paused, looked around. The other kids didn’t seem to be miffed by the question. She reread the sheet, looked for the information she must have missed. Flipped the test over. Scanned, reread, reconsidered. Nothing.

Rising, she walked quietly up to Miss Blatter at the front of the room.

“This question,” she whispered, “is impossible,” she said.

Miss Blatter smiled, patted her hand.

“You’ll figure it out,” she assured Olive.  She gestured toward Olive’s desk. “Now go finish.”

Olive half-turned to go, then paused. Tried again.

“Really,” she said. “I’ve looked it over.”

This time Miss Blatter frowned. “Olive,” she said quietly. “Go sit down and finish. Everything you need is there.”

So Olive sat down and stared at the test.

How many steps?

Beyond the window, she could see the stoop where the Insult Club gathered. Five steps, she decided. Unless she counted the foot of the staircase, the floor as it were. Which made six. But what of the top step, that final plateau before you reentered the school? Was that a step? Or a launch pad? Was a step only the horizontal plank on which a foot was placed? Or was it the entire architecture of the stairway’s construction? The vertical riser that supported the tread, which in turn supported another riser and the next tread above? If one considered that all “steps” supported “each step” could a “single” step ever exist?

Olive sat back and closed her eyes. Around her, she could hear the scratching of pencils working out problems, chairs squeaking as children squirmed in place. Labored breaths. Teeth grinding lead pencils. She could hear hearts beating. Sweat rising, condensing, between every moist thigh. The coppered smelt of fear. Lactic boredom. The enzymatic satisfaction of an answer solved before the next problem’s sinews were broached.

How many steps?

How many answers?

When had she begun to (fail to) answer the question, she wondered? The evening she studied? The day she’d listened to the lesson in class? Her first day of fifth grade? Her first day—ever—of school? Were answers always historic, a runway off which, one day, a girl might take flight? Or did they arrive in the future, always after they were needed?

Olive wrote down an answer. Knowing it was wrong.  Yet because wrong, right.

Her shoulders tingled.

And the world around her was fire.





Sybil Ludington:

At the age of 16, she rode faster and twice as far as Paul Revere to warn her neighbors that the British were coming.   Did you learn about her in school?


Mo’ne Davis:

At 13, she was the first girl to pitch a shut out in Little League Baseball World Series history. Watch out: she throws like a girl.


Elizabeth Gurley Flynn:

A labor leader, feminist, and activist, the “East Side Joan of Arc” gave her first speech at the age of 16 and began a career as an agitator for women’s and worker’s rights. She never stopped.


Ruby Bridges

Just 6 years old, she didn’t run, didn’t cry, when she was led through a roiling mass of bigots into William Frantz Elementary.




In the initial immolation, the heat of Olive’s new body radiated out and melted every test, all the desks beneath them, the linoleum tile (even the asbestos tile the new flooring concealed), the laminated artwork collaged on the walls, all the cubbies and lockers and abandoned, half-eaten snacks. Every transcript. Every log. Every rule book.

The blast was swift, yet like Olive, selective. Why wouldn’t it be? She melted plastic, metal, and cloth. But skin and bone? The children and teachers? Naked, missing some hair, they survived. Every one of them. Though, Olive wasn’t above spite: Miss Blatter and Max Meyerson turned up more charred than the rest. The teacher’s tight bun was transformed into ash. And Max Meyerson? His bum, scorched a blistering red, was suspiciously (auspiciously?) marked by arrow shaped streaks that pointed right at his own puckered ass. He couldn’t sit down for a week.

The children and teachers sprawled on the floors where they’d once been sitting, in classrooms that no longer existed. When the temperature died back, they opened their eyes, blinked at each other in the raining light, while Olive, above them, tested her new wings in the air, pulsing hot gusts with each stroke on their sooty, exposed backs.

Like every monster who realizes she’s not a monster at all, but an evolved artifact of the human condition, as Olive flew above them, she was laughing.




Soon, Olive saw the concrete stoop had survived and flew over to find her friends gathered and waiting for her. They no longer sat in the shade. Because the school had been razed, the sunlight bled over their shoulders, and the snails had taken refuge where the steps caved in a new protective lair.

How many steps when steps lead nowhere?

Imogen reached over and touched Olive’s shoulder where her new wing had sprouted a webbed antler surging from its pinnacle.

“Finally,” she said, feeling its warmth radiate from the wing into her hand.

Ava’s legs were crossed. One arm was wrapped over her chest, the other shielding her eyes as she gazed out at the flattened grid of the school, at the drive leading up to a sidewalk that now only framed rubble. But there was a smile hidden behind her ash-covered face.

“Now what?” she asked.

Olive shrugged.

The once subtle preteen movement was cataclysmic: her entire wingspan convulsed.

Imogen rubbed ash from her side, just under her waist. “Look,” she said.

Olive smiled and touched the nub now growing from her friend’s hip.




Of course the town was in uproar. “Readiness and Response Plan #1” was invoked. The School Board Crisis Management Team huddled around hastily assembled cafeteria tables watching Power Point presentations about “insurance mandates,” “city infrastructure grids,” and the influence of the “changing environment on adolescent female biology.” Distraught parents herded truculent children indoors. On the TV, the public panicked and growsed. Fundamentalists preached. Environmentalists lectured. Zoologists gave interviews. The news bloomed and germinated its rhizomatic cycle.

The situation could have been worse. But no kids, or teachers, had perished. Not even one homeroom pet. As the school’s legal team explained to the school board, the PTA, and the police, Olive couldn’t be held responsible: there was no case law, or by-laws, for girls becoming dragons. And while her role in the school’s destruction was “leading” even “coincidental,” her transformation at the end of the day, was simply circumstantial: all the security cameras and smart phones that might have proven otherwise had melted in the blast.

Fortunately, like most cities, there were too many shuttered schools on the tax roll. Soon, one was selected. A Blight Team was sent in to prepare the way and, three weeks later, the mayor was photographed cutting tape at the (Re)Opening Ceremony of PS 42 while students walked through its newly painted doors behind him. In no time at all, the public grew bored of cataloging “Olive sightings” when she flew overhead. The mayor, meanwhile, discovered that his city was lined up for what the local news called “an insurance settlement of exceptional size,” and, in result, the tax roll debt was reduced, rearranged, forgiven. Not only was the city’s credit rating expected to surge in the next quarter, the comptroller noted, but according to both local and nationals newspapers, the mayor had also handled the PS64 Blast with such “steadfast reassurance” that they’d moved onto to the next question: Would he soon run for Congress?

While Olive tested thermal gusts above, it was the question being asked below.

Olive, of course, was still in the thick of it. In the absence of video evidence, there were depositions about her anatomy, her state of mind, her friends, the Insult Club in particular. Family genetics.

Lawyers were called. Biologists consulted. Documents notarized, distributed, filed. Meanwhile, a daily witnessing took place at her doorstep. Mormons baptized her in absentia. Catholics performed an exorcism from the curb. The Universalists sent an invitation to tea.

Olive took it all in stride; after all, she could fly away—above, out—whenever she wanted. She wasn’t trapped. For the first time, she was stratospheric. Free. They could all go to hell. She was already in the wind.

Sure, news outlets speculated that the city would soon be overrun with winged girls melting local Elks lodges and football fields, Weight Watchers franchises and Botox dens. Or that—singular in her transformation—Olive would sign a 7-figure book deal, and launch a life of celebrity in either New York or L.A. Had Olive been a different sort of girl, she might have considered such options. (Her mother, reading the “news,” reflected with curtained enthusiasm that the “7-figure book deal sounded nice.”)

As for Olive? It wasn’t that she lacked ambition. Or that she wasn’t generally pissed off at stupid tests, bullies, lunchbox size packets of 100-calorie foods, thongs, “lady” anything, or the term “tomboy.”

But for Olive, her wings weren’t new or different. They were just part of the girl she always knew she was. Her mother made her dinner and folded her (altered) clothes each night. There were still friends and cotton candy. And even if sleepovers were cancelled for the foreseeable future—and she now spent her time rejecting research proposals en masse—she was still a girl. Would always be.

Olive could have done anything.

But she chose to return to the halls of PS 42 with her friends for the first day of 6th grade.

PS 42 had to take her. It was a public school after all. And maybe, she admitted quietly to herself, she wanted to make them abide her presence now, much as she’d often endured theirs.  It’s important to look past your own windowed reflection once in a while, and see who, beyond the glass, is staring back.

At the new school, the Insult Club continued to meet. At recess, they now sat out in the open—Olive’s new size required more space—and spreading her wings around her friends, she shielded them from the glare of the sun and the other kids’ curious eyes.

“Clankermass,” Imogen warned.

Frankie J. was sidling up to spy on them, but the rattling key chain hooked into his belt loop always gave him away.

“Skern him,” Ava whispered.

Olive turned her head and withered him with a look of exhausted distaste.

Reprimanded, he veered off at once toward the trees.

Olive smiled as the girls leaned against her.

The pilot light of her belly now kept them all warm.




List of Favorite Insults (continued).



The Kindergartners who, in the Library or Cafeteria, accidentally glued their bums to chairs or snacked on paper and paste while their teacher’s backs were turned.



Other kids who tried to insult the Insult Club. But sucked at it.




Then, one day, unexpectedly, Olive’s dad came back.

She didn’t see him until she landed in the back yard, shaking small clouds of smog from her wings, before folding them delicately behind her. She walked to the house, lost in thought about her new perspective—how, from above, her neighborhood at first looked like an elegant puzzle, its form and content shifting from artistic abstraction, to unkempt, distraught rooftops, to (as she descended fast, testing her speed) a charismatically landscaped nostalgia when her feet took on earth again and she remembered the landlocked girl she’d once been—and there he was, rising from a chair in the shadows on the porch.

“Daddy?” she said. She’d seen his image in photographs for so long that his animated face, conflicted by time, was alarming.

In his hand, he held a cupcake. It had wilted in the heat while he waited, the once mountainous cap of icing now sliding a slow tsunami toward the edge.

“I had to see you,” he said. In his hand, he held a newspaper, a picture of Olive in flight on the front page.

In the driveway, her mother pulled up in her car and stepped out. She stood by the driver’s side door, stunned, looking at the two of them on the porch.

“You’ve gotten so big,” he said. He was sizing her up, not just her height, she realized, but her wingspan as well. She wasn’t the girl he remembered.

“How does it feel?” he said.

There were so many things he could mean.

“Your wings,” he clarified. “How do they feel?”

She looked at him looking at her body.

“May I touch them?” he asked.

She didn’t answer and he circled around, until he stood behind her. She could feel the inept heat of him, his heart rattling against its plasticized cage. She didn’t stop him from studying the sturdy webbing of skin, so much like the leather that still tipped her elbows, which had now grown between the enhanced architecture of her shoulder blades. When he reached out his hand, however, the wings shuddered involuntarily, collapsed in sudden recoil against her spine. He blinked. Stuffed the hand in his pocket.

Behind her, the gate creaked open, then shut. There was the rustle of gravel and leaves. Her mother’s feet on their clovered plot of lawn.

“Mom says I have her eyes,” Olive said as he shuffled his feet.

She rustled her wings at him. “Did I get these from you?”

He refocused on her. Took his time answering.

“In my family,” he said, “there are stories of girls who left suddenly. For no reason.” He blinked. “My grandmother would say ‘they just flew off.’ She’d say it the way you might say ‘took off.’ ‘Those girls just flew off.” His voice trailed. “I didn’t understand.”

Her mother was at her side now.

“Dad says I get my wings from him,” Olive said.

Her mother snorted. “He would.”

Olive could feel her mother folding anger like a fan inside her heart, trying to quell the fury it contained: wings of a different order just under the surface. One day, they might sprout too, Olive thought.

She hadn’t seen it until now. How much she took after her mother.

“I imagine many women in his family would like to take off,” she said.

Her mother looked at her. “Those wings are yours. You earned them.”

She stroked Olive’s shoulder.





The next day, PS 42’s new Development Officer invited Olive into his office on her way to recess: he’d love it, he said as she stepped through the door, if Olive would give a speech at Commencement about the significance of the school’s new logo. He stood carefully back from her, a good three steps maintained with care, as he explained he’d designed the logo himself.

“Take credit where credit is due,” he said, showing it to her. The image was of a child with wings, looking off the edge of the paper into the horizon of her burgeoning future.

Olive paused. She was supposed to be pleased, she thought. Supposed to be proud. She stepped closer to look at the sheet, noting his proportional shift away toward the wall.

It was one thing, she thought, to be baptized against her will by the Mormons camped nearby. To rebuff researchers. Even the stares of neighbors who knew her. It was another thing to be diminished. Transformed into a mascot.

There is a gesture adults forget how to synchronize in their rubbery, superseded bodies. A subtle twitch of the shoulder, a dismissive fleck and recoil from the chin up to the brow. The movement’s horizon is infinite. It asks for no response.

What the Development Officer saw was a shrug.

“You’re missing an opportunity,” he said. His voice frowned. He’d started to sweat. He smelled like a spent penny dug up from the dirt. She guessed he’d already sent the logo to the printer.

“It’s time for me to go,” she said, looking out the window at her friends waiting for her on the playground.

He turned toward the clock, the minute hand nearing the end of the period.

He thought he understood.

“I didn’t mean to keep you,” he said. Then: “We’ll talk more later.”

She smiled, and headed off down the hall. Soon, she joined her friends in the grass.

They sat quietly for some time. Like all creatures that travel in packs, the girls often simply sat together to share each other’s warmth.

Ava sighed and touched Olive’s arm.

“You’re going aren’t you?”

Nodding, Olive stroked Ava’s shoulder. Touched Imogen’s hip. And they, in turn, creviced into her body like the flowering leaves around a tender choke. Dragons are not only made of fire.

“There are others,” she assured them, stepping back. “You know it.”

Then, without fanfare, Olive flew off.

The Insult Club watched her go.  For now, it was enough to know she was out there, a growing collective of girls whisking the moonlight. Beating every horizon back.

In no time at all, Olive was clear sky where a winged girl had once been, and the Insult Club turned to go inside. Frankie J. stood at the edge of the playground watching Olive launch her stratospheric flight path, his mouth slack in the soft meal of his face. If pudding could feel awe, Frankie J. was a gelled dessert held together by a set of frayed laces, his cinched nylon belt, and a cap.

Imogen walked over, touched her toes to his, let him feel the heat of her. He couldn’t stand it for long, and when he fled back to the school, he was red from the base of his collar to the backs of his ears, as much from her ovening swelter, as from the blush that had crept up the mostly unseen length of him.

Imogen knew that, sometime soon, she would consume him. She wasn’t sure precisely why. Or in what fashion. Just that she smelled a sweetness in him, like a yolk inside a translucent egg. Or the custard inside a mild, inoffensive pastry.

One day, she knew she’d eat him up.

Dragons have the gift of foresight.

All girls do.

Christina Milletti’s fiction and articles have appeared in many journals and anthologies, such as Harcourt’s Best New American Voices, The Master’s Review Anthology: Best Emerging Writers, Denver Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, Alaska Quarterly, American Letters & Commentary, Studies in the Novel, and Fiction’s Present: Situating Narrative Innovation (among other places). Her first collection of short stories, The Religious & Other Fictions, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press, and she has just completed a new collection of stories, Girling Seasons, with the help of a fellowship from the UB Humanities Institute and a residency at the Marble House Project. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University at Buffalo where she curates the Exhibit X Fiction Series, and she is currently working on a novel about Cuba.